In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin is temporarily allowing children to earn their hunting licenses without in-person training.

The change approved by the Department of Natural Resources allows those under 18 to complete an online hunter education class for the rest of 2020, an option already available to those over 18.

While the DNR prefers in-person training, Jon King, the DNR's hunter education administrator, said the decision to offer an online option was made to protect the roughly 4,000 volunteer instructors, about half of whom are in high-risk age groups.

King said many of the schools and other public facilities that traditionally hosted in-person classes have been closed, and the DNR has limited attendance.

State law requires anyone born after 1972 to attend hunter education before receiving a license. Prior to the temporary waiver, those under 18 were required to complete in-person field training.

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King said about 75% of the 22,000 new hunters certified each year are under 18.

Volunteer instructors are still offering in-person training with limited attendance and social distancing for those who want it.

"We're grateful that they're out there teaching," King said.

In June, a Kansas company sued the DNR over suspension of in-person classes. Hunter Nation Inc. dropped the suit nine days later after the DNR resumed in-person instruction.

The current waiver allows kids to do online training through Dec. 31. King said the agency would review the health concerns at that time before deciding whether to extend it.

Students will be required to pay a $25 vendor fee for the online class plus a $10 state fee.

© 2020 The Wisconsin State Journal

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