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So you want to be a bowhunter: How (and where) to get bowhunter-certified in time for archery hunts

Although many archery-only hunts start Aug. 30, it’s not too late to consider bowhunting for both small and big game this season. Although many hunters associate archery hunting with the early hunts, some archery hunts stretch into late December, so there’s plenty of time to get started.

There are many benefits to learning bowhunting skills and incorporating them into your hunts. Not only is it a different experience, you have more hunting opportunities, and you can achieve another level of marksmanship and tracking skills.

There’s no reason you can’t join the experienced archery hunters cloaked in camouflage, creeping through the woods with bow in hand as they stalk deer or elk.

All you need to do is successfully complete an archery certification course.

Getting certified

Just like with hunting with a firearm, aspiring bowhunters are required to successfully complete Bowhunter Ed in order to obtain an Idaho archery permit. Idaho Fish and Game offers a few avenues for those looking to go through bowhunter education.

  • Instructor-led courses – There are usually a handful of instructor-led bowhunter education courses being offered statewide during August and September. Hunter/bowhunter education courses are typically combined into a two-week crash course and include one field day. Check out Fish and Game’s Hunter Education webpage to see what’s currently available.
  • Online courses – For those looking to learn about bowhunter safety and skills on their own schedule, the online portal is a great option. The course typically takes about 4-6 hours to complete and offers hunters a chance to go back and review sections for more clarity. Go to Fish and Game’s online hunter safety course webpage to get started today.

Purchasing your archery permit

To buy an archery permit, all bowhunters ages 9 and older must possess a valid hunting license and show proof they have completed an approved bowhunter education course, or show evidence of having been licensed for an archery-only hunt in Idaho or another state, or complete an affidavit to that effect.

Once you complete bowhunter education – either in-person or online – you will be given a valid bowhunter certificate number. Just like your hunter education number, your bowhunter number will be required to purchase an Idaho archery permit.

Stop by any Idaho Fish and Game office or license vendor to purchase your archery permit and update your hunting license. (Note: The archery permit is already included in the Sportsman’s Package.)

Getting dialed in

Once you’ve done the necessary homework, passed the test and received your archery permit, you’re (nearly) ready. And nearly isn’t to be taken lightly.

Bowhunting requires an immense amount of practice, not just accuracy with a bow but knowing where to hunt, how to track game, avoid detection by animals and potentially how to blood trail an animal once it’s been shot. Bowhunting is a whole different animal compared to rifle hunting, so if making the jump across the aisle from traditional rifle hunting to archery, be prepared and be open-minded to how different (and challenging) the sport can be.

The most important step? Practice.

Getting dialed in before the season starts is a must. Archery seasons often provide several windows of opportunity both before and, sometimes, after the general any-weapon or rifle hunt.

If you don’t feel prepared enough to hit the mountain for the early-season opener, that’s okay. Check the 2022 Big Game Seasons & Rules booklet to see when (and if) any later season big game archery hunts are open in your neck of the woods. Then, once you feel proficient, dive headfirst into this new opportunity.

For a full step-by-step guide on how and where to dial in your bow this summer, check out this story.