Illinois Department of Natural Resources

CONTACT: Jeff Hopkins, 217-782-8408

Sign up for fall safety and education classes

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. — Illinois hunters and trappers are better educated and safer than ever before, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

During the past 25 years, more than 500,000 hunters and trappers have participated in the mandatory Illinois hunter safety and trapper education courses. The courses teach safety and help students develop respect for wildlife and the environment.

Hunters and trappers also are safer because conservation organizations stress safety and responsibility to their members, who pass those attitudes to others. Legal requirements, such as wearing blaze hunter orange during certain seasons, also have a big impact.

“Our first and last concerns – and all thoughts in the middle – focus on safety, responsibility, ethics and knowledge,” says Jeff Hopkins, safety education administrator at Illinois DNR.

A better definition of success
Success is more than harvesting an animal, according to Hopkins. That distinction is important to relay to young hunters and trappers.

“True success involves being safe, making good decisions, enjoying the friendship of those with you, and just being outdoors,” Hopkins says.

“Safety is a product of knowledge, experience and attitude,” says Hopkins. “Our mission is to deliver these products -- to make safety a primary focus in people’s minds before anything else.”

Statistically, hunting is safer than driving a passenger car, bicycling or water skiing. In 2003, 311,700 licensed Illinois hunters and trappers spent more than 5.6 million days afield. Fifteen hunters were injured; five were due to falls from tree stands. The one fatality was firearms related. “One injury is too much,” says Hopkins. “But hunting and shooting are safe activities when pursued properly.”

Mandatory education
Anyone born after January 1, 1980, must pass an Illinois hunter safety course, and all first-time trappers under 18 must pass mandatory trapper education course before they can buy their respective licenses. Adults or guardians must accompany children under the age of 10. Education instruction and course materials are provided free of charge.

The Illinois hunter safety course consists of a minimum of 10 hours of instruction to cover hunter responsibility, wildlife conservation and identification, firearms and ammunition, field safety, wildlife management, First Aid, archery and muzzleloading skills.

The Illinois trapper education course includes of a minimum of eight hours of instruction. It focuses on applicable laws but also covers equipment, trap and pelt preparation, wildlife management and methods of capturing animals humanely.

Both courses involve classroom and field instruction, and stress state regulations and respect for public and private property. Participants are assessed on mental attitude, physical level and must pass a final exam before receiving certification. Certified volunteer instructors and local conservation police officers teach courses according to national guidelines and state standards.

“Mere attendance and written test will not guarantee passing a course,” Hopkins emphasizes. “Instructors measure mental and physical acuity, attitude and the ability to demonstrate and recognize safe procedures before certifying students.”

Volunteer instructors
Each year, trained volunteers offer about 470 hunter safety and 20 trapper education courses around the state. More than 22,000 people graduate from these courses annually. These programs would not be possible without volunteer instructors who generously contribute their time and knowledge to up-and-coming generations.

Two instructors recently won state and national distinction for their outreach and education efforts.

Ron Boesser, of Mattoon, recently was named an Illinois DNR Volunteer of the Year for more than 19 years of combined efforts as a certified education instructor for hunting, trapping and boating safety. He has invested his own money in classroom equipment and gear; he recruits and trains new instructors.

Irv Schirmer, of Marengo, won the Fur Takers of America’s prestigious American Heritage Award. The national honor is given annually to an outstanding individual for promoting trapping as an important wildlife conservation activity. Schirmer was credited for his exemplary work as a trapper education instructor.

“Some of the most dedicated people you will meet are volunteer hunter and trapper instructors,” says Hopkins. “These folks know that the future of these activities rests with youth. Our young folks are charged with practicing these activities properly, as well as showing Illinois citizens that hunters and trappers care about wildlife and are good stewards of wildlife and natural resources.”

To take a course or be an instructor
To sign up for a fall or winter safety education course, you can contact the Illinois DNR at 217-557-9206, 800-832-2599 or go online at

Visit the Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois website

For more information about trapping, visit the Illinois DNR’s new website, “Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois,” at, or contact the Illinois DNR at 217-782-6384.