Frequently Asked Questions about California Hunter Education

Who needs hunter education?

In most states, hunters cannot hunt legally unless they have had some type of formal education in the proper handling of firearms. Today, California requires hunter education training for all persons who have not formerly held a California hunting license; who do not have a hunter education certificate of completion; or who do not hold a current hunting license, or a hunting license issued in either of the two previous hunting years, from another state or province.

How do I replace a lost certificate?

It depends; when was the class taken?

Prior to 1989

Prior to 1989, Hunter Education Instructors maintained student records; therefore, the Department does not have reliable records for this period. You may try contacting the original instructor, club, or organization where the course was taught to obtain a duplicate. If you are unable to obtain a duplicate certificate through these means, you will need to repeat the course.

From 1989 to December 31, 2015

From 1989 to December 31, 2015, the Department maintained a database of student records. Contact CDFW license sales office or the Hunter Education Program office at (916) 653-1235.

  • If your information is in the student database, your Online License Sales profile will be updated so you can purchase a Hunter Education Certificate (Duplicate).
  • If your information is not in the student database, you will need to repeat the course.

From January 1, 2016 to moving forward

Purchase a “Hunter Education Certificate (Duplicate)” at one of the following:
Online License Sales and Service, License Agent, CDFW license sales office.

Can I take a hunter education class online?

Yes and no. Online classes are offered in California, but to obtain a valid hunter education certificate, you will ALSO need to attend a 4-hour home study / online follow-up class with a certified hunter education instructor. The online course will not get you a certificate. The benefit of taking an online class is having the ability to study at your own pace, and that you only have to take a 4-hour follow-up classroom session (versus a 10+ hour class). See more about Online Classes.

How old do you have to be to take a hunter education class?

There is not a minimum age requirement to take the course, but young children may find the course demanding. A Hunter Education Instructor may be able help you decide whether your child is old enough.

May I purchase a hunting license without taking a class?

CDFW offers a comprehensive equivalency testing program at each regional office. You may request information on this method of testing from the offices listed above. There is a non-refundable, administrative fee required to take the examination. If you fail the examination, you must take a hunter education class to become certified. Warning! Not all states accept the equivalency certificate as proof of hunter education. All states will accept the certificate of completion that is awarded upon completion of a hunter education class.

What will I learn in the course? How long will it take?

The Hunter Education course consists of a minimum of ten hours of classroom, homework, and field instruction in the following areas: firearms safety and handling, sportsmanship and ethics, wildlife management and conservation, archery, black powder, wildlife identification, game care, first aid, and survival. After a student has successfully completed the course of instruction and passed the final examination, they are awarded a Certificate of Completion. Parents are encouraged to participate with their children in the course and its related activities. There is not a minimum age requirement to take the course, but young children may find the course demanding.

A fee may not be charged for an instructor’s service; however, fees may be used to cover the purchase of training aids such as slides, flip charts, targets, and other training aids.

The Hunter Education Instructor makes the final decision in determining whether a student is qualified to receive a Certificate of Completion. A student who is unsafe, or fails to demonstrate good sportsmanship will not be issued a Certificate of Completion.

The Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety

  1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  2. Watch that Muzzle! Be able to control the direction of the muzzle at all times.
  3. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
  4. Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
  5. Unload guns when not in use.
  6. Never point a gun at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  7. Never climb a fence or tree or jump a ditch with a loaded gun.
  8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
  9. Store guns and ammunition separately, beyond the reach of children and careless adults.
  10. Avoid alcoholic beverages and mind altering drugs before or during shooting.

I passed a Hunter Education course in Indiana and recently settled here in California. Does CA accept out-of-state Hunter Education certificates?

Yes, California accepts proof of Hunter Education issued from any state or province. Present your certificate of successful completion to a license vendor or at a CDFW License Sales Office and you can purchase a hunting license.

I am a 54-year-old Peace Officer who also served in the military. Would my age or either of these occupations exempt me from having to take the Hunter Education class?

No, there are no exemptions. The reason is that hunter education encompasses a whole lot more than firearm safety. It is important that all hunters learn sportsmanship, conservation, about different methods (archery, muzzle-loading, etc.) of hunting, and basic hunting regulations.

Hunter Education Logo

The agency receives federal funds. Under federal law, discrimination is prohibited on the basis of race, color, age, sex, national origin, disability, etc. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity or facility of this agency, please contact CDFW’s CRO Officer at (916) 902-5577 or, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(opens in new tab), or the U.S. Department of the Interior(opens in new tab), or contact their office as follows:

   Chief, Public Civil Rights Division
   Department of the Interior
   1849 C Street NW
   Washington, DC 20240