AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is celebrating 50 years of hunter education in Texas and officially recognized Austin Zurek of Midlothian as the 1.5 millionth student during Thursday’s Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission meeting.
Zurek completed a classroom course taught by Brian Moss, an outdoor education teacher in the Midlothian Independent School District. Hunter education classes are conducted throughout Texas by more than 800 outdoor education and agricultural science teachers at the middle and high school levels. To highlight this milestone, both student and instructor received a commemorative .22-caliber “Golden Boy” rifle donated by Henry Repeating Arms, a company that annually recognizes the accomplishments of all state hunter education programs.
“Hunter education is a proud tradition for Texas,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “It has become the proverbial rite of passage towards safe, responsible, and knowledgeable hunting and target shooting practices. We are so pleased to honor Austin and Brian and highlight this significant milestone for this important program.”
The first course in Texas was held on Feb. 28, 1972, and since then, more than 1.5 million students have completed Texas Hunter Education throughout the state. The course was initially voluntary, but on June 11, 1987, with the signing of SB 504 by Governor Clements, a statute on Hunter Education in Texas was set. The TPW Commission subsequently passed rules for a mandatory Hunter Education program on June 1, 1988 and established a grandfather date of Sept. 2, 1971, meaning anyone born on or after that date, is required to pass Hunter Education to legally hunt in Texas.
“This is a special occasion and if you look over the 50-year history of the program, you will see that we honored the 100,000th, 500,000th and millionth student in the same way,” said Steve Hall, TPWD Hunter Education Coordinator. “It is thrilling to know that in a state with 1.2 million licensed hunters, most have completed a basic course, which, overall, has greatly reduced the hunting accident rate (see Hunting Accident Reports), significantly increased compliance rates to game laws and enhanced the image of hunters and hunting.”
As more Texans continue to take to the field and begin their own hunting traditions, TPWD Hunter Education continues to be the first stop for the next generation of safe, legal, and ethical hunters. Today, along with basic Hunter Education courses, the program provides advanced learning opportunities like Hunting 101s and Bowhunter Education to bolster hunter’s skills. To learn more about Texas Hunter Education, and how to find a course, along with other resources, visit the Hunter Education page on the TPWD website.
Hunters must have proof of Hunter Education certification on their person while in the field. Hunters have access to their Texas proof of Hunter Education in the free Outdoor Annual mobile app for iOS and Android.