NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum | Free NRA Hunter Ed Classes Raise $150,000 for State Wildlife Agencies

Gun News

by Karen Mehall Phillips, Director of Communications, NRA HLF –
Friday, May 29, 2020

The NRA knows how to measure success. Nearly a year since announcing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) now allows states to use the NRA’s free Online Hunter Education Course as Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act match dollars, the NRA is pleased to follow up that good news with the fact the course has raised more than $150,000 for state wildlife agencies through matching federal P-R grants to date. This is an impressive and welcome update since the USFWS announced its new policy 11 months ago, particularly as America works to do more with less amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is truly a win-win for everyone,” said Joseph P. DeBergalis Jr., executive director of NRA General Operations, who acknowledged that the NRA course is one of the most important things the association has ever done for hunters and hunting. “With no financial investment of their own, states can now access match money and new hunters will receive top-notch free education and certification.”

As covered on this website, the much celebrated P-R Act, also called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, is what established a funding mechanism for wildlife conservation, habitat enhancement and related activities through imposing an excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition. Sponsored by (and later led to a similar tax on archery equipment and handguns). The act was prompted by knowledge that populations of many wildlife species, particularly game species, had declined due to poor or no management.

Years later, P-R funds continue to be collected by the USFWS and are then appropriated to state fish and wildlife agencies based on a state’s size and number of license holders. The P-R Act stipulates that the funds only can be used by a given state’s wildlife agency specifically for wildlife conservation and hunting management.

The big winners in tapping a combined total of $151,880 in P-R funds are Florida and Oklahoma. First up, as the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website shared in November, the Sunshine State moved quickly to adopt the free NRA online hunter education course and, by then, had already received $70,000 in federal matching funds for its wildlife conservation efforts based on the number of Floridians who took the online course. Funds add up quickly when the going rate for such a course on the open market averages from $14 to $30 per person.

two hunters in woods

The Sunshine State was the first to take advantage of the new USFWS policy in support of the NRA’s free online hunter education course, which paid welcome dividends. (Photo by Tim Donovan, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.)

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is committed to providing a variety of educational formats and opportunities to satisfy the needs of those interested in learning how to be safe, knowledgeable, responsible and involved hunters,” said Bill Cline, FWC’s section leader for Hunter Safety and Public Shooting Ranges. “We appreciate NRA’s support of our program and their investment in producing a high-quality course that students can take for free.”

Also quick to act on the USFWS policy and take advantage of the new revenue source was Oklahoma—to the tune of $81,880.

“Thanks to our partnership with the NRA and NRA-ILA, thousands of Oklahomans have taken the NRA free on-line hunter education course,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation (ODWC). “Our transition from our own on-line course to the NRA course was smooth and flawless. In addition to great content—delivered at no cost—the ODWC has already received $81,880 in federal matching funds due to the NRA’s donation of the course.”

“We always believed a free, quality online hunter education course would reduce the barriers of entry for first time hunters while helping state agencies recover P-R dollars,” said Peter Churchbourne, a director with the NRA Hunters Leadership Forum. “Our hope is more states follow Oklahoma and Florida’s lead and expand their hunter education and wildlife conservation programs for all to enjoy.”

Once state wildlife agencies evaluate the dollars and “sense” of it all, what state wouldn’t want to take advantage of the USFWS’ new policy and the free NRA Online Hunter Education Course—the most comprehensive online hunter education course nationwide—as a brand new funding opportunity? Thank you, USFWS, for underscoring the NRA’s $3 million investment in hunting’s future in creating the most comprehensive, free online hunter education program nationwide. To check out the program firsthand, visit

For information on getting the NRA course approved for use in your state, email or call 800-492-4868. For an added bonus, the NRA course goes far to support the R3 (recruit, retain and reactivate) movement to engage new and lapsed hunters while boosting hunter funding for state wildlife agencies that rely on hunters’ dollars to advance vital wildlife conservation goals.

About the NRA
When the NRA was chartered in 1871, a key objective was to promote hunter safety and to defend hunting as a shooting sport and necessary method of fostering the conservation of our renewable wildlife resources. Today the NRA is the largest organization of hunters with 3.5-million-plus hunters in its 5.2 million membership ranks. As America’s hunter safety and education leader, it worked to launch the first hunter safety course in conjunction with the state of New York in 1949. NRA recognizes that with our collective hunting rights come responsibility and offers the programs and services that ensure the next generation of hunters has the tools it needs to carry the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation into the future. The NRA’s free online hunter education course is a vital step in supporting its mission.

John Seerey-Lester's "Colter's Hell" painting

About the Artist and Painting
It is with great sadness that the NRA shares the news of the passing of renown wildlife artist and conservationist John Seerey-Lester on May 19. The recipient of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum’s 2020 NRA Distinguished Hunters Leadership Award, Seerey-Lester created this painting “Colter’s Hell,” which was inspired by mountain man John Colter, veteran of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1803-1806. To read the NRA HLF’s tribute to Seerey-Lester and learn more about his remarkable achievements as we embrace his legacy, please click click here.

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