Mailing Address:
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife Program
Master Hunter Section
600 Capitol Way North
Olympia, WA  98501-1091

Physical Address:
WDFW – Wildlife Program
Natural Resources Building
Fifth Floor
1111 Washington Street SE
Olympia, WA 9850

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the Master Hunter Permit Program?

The original Program started in 1992 as a voluntary, user-pay program designed to provide formal training and certification for hunters willing to accept a challenge. The goal since day one has been to promote high ethical standards and to instill in interested hunters the highest level of stewardship and positive conduct afield. A secondary goal is to assist the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in various wildlife management programs. Whether participating in damage hunts or working with landowners to lessen crop damage, Master Hunters have a valuable role to play in wildlife management in our state.

The Program should NOT be seen exclusively as a personal benefit or special hunting opportunity for individual hunters. While there are definitely benefits available to those who successfully complete the Program, we do not want hunting opportunity alone to be the motivation for prospective Master Hunter permit candidates. If additional hunting opportunity is all you want, we ask that you not apply.

The Master Hunter Permit Program is a cooperative program coordinated by the WDFW. Other organizations help make it possible.


What are the requirements for the Master Hunter Permit Program?

The Master Hunter Permit Program is a user-pay program, and the application fee is designed to offset our cost of materials and some of the staff time required. A portion of program costs are subsidized. Requirements include:

  • Submit application and fee. Beginning October 16, 2009, the cost of a Master Hunter Permit application will be $50.00.
  • Review materials included in the Master Hunter study packet.
  • Attain an 80% score on a comprehensive written 100 question test.
  • Demonstrate shooting skills (with specific standards for shotgun shooting shot, rifle, archery, muzzleloader, shotguns shooting slugs, crossbow, and handgun disciplines) on a shooting proficiency test.
  • Contribute a minimum of 20 hours of voluntary service in an approved conservation work project.
  • Complete the C.O.R.T. program conducted by WDFW Enforcement Officers and coordinated by the Eyes In The Woods Association.
  • Sign and agree to uphold the Master Hunter Code of Ethics.
  • Undergo and pass a WDFW background check. Currently there is no charge.
  • Initial certification is for a five-year period. Recertification after the initial five years requires a minimum of 40 hours of additional conservation work. For information on re-certification, please see the Re-Certification Requirements page.

How do I apply to the program?

The Master Hunter Permit Program accepts applications January 1st through February 15th of each year.
Current Application


What‘s involved with the written exam?

The written exam is based on the study materials, the WDFW Hunter Education Student Manual, and current hunting pamphlets. The test will consist of 100 questions, including:

  • Multiple choice questions.
  • True – False questions.
  • Fill-in-the-blank questions.
  • Matching questions.

The minimum passing score requires 80 correct answers. The test must be completed within the 70 minute timed period.

The examination to become a Master Hunter is difficult. Here are some tips to help you prepare: Advice for Master Hunter Applicants Preparing to Test [PDF]


Where and when may I schedule the exam?

Advance scheduling is required for all Master Hunter exams. The written exam is not available online. Timed tests are often administered at either the Olympia headquarters or a regional WDFW office. Many certified Hunter Education or Master Hunters have agreed to proctor examinations.


What are the shooting standards?

Master Hunters are required to qualify with only one of the following legal hunting implements: archery, crossbow, muzzleloader, shotgun shooting shot, shotgun shooting slugs, rifle, or handgun. Applicants should qualify with the type of legal hunting implement they intend to use during Master Hunter seasons. Shotguns shooting slugs, and crossbow have been added to the list of hunting implements with which Master Hunters may qualify, along with associated qualification standards. It is expected that Master Hunters will be proficient with any legal hunting implement prior to its use during any Master Hunter season. Master Hunters may qualify with additional hunting implements at any time simply by following the instructions for qualification and sending the completed Shooting Proficiency Certification Form to WDFW.

Shooters qualifying with shotguns shooting shot must shoot clay targets at an official skeet or trap range. Shooters must break a minimum of 20 clay targets out of 25 in a standard round of either skeet or trap.

Please note that hand-throwers, informal shooting areas, etc., do not qualify for Master Hunter scores in skeet or trap shooting.

Minimum qualifying scores, positions and distances for Rifle, Muzzleloader, Shotgun shooting slugs, Handgun, Archery and Crossbow are as follows:

  • Rifle shooters must shoot a minimum qualifying score of 60 points for 10 shots off-hand at 50 yards, and 80 points for 10 shots from a rest at 100 yards, on a B3 target (20 shots total).
  • Muzzleloader shooters must shoot a minimum qualifying score of 60 points for 10 shots off-hand at 50 yards, and 80 points for 10 shots from a rest at 75 yards, on a B3 target (20 shots total).
  • Shooters using shotguns shooting slugs must shoot a minimum qualifying score of 30 points for 5 shots off-hand at 50 yards, and 35 points for 5 shots from a rest at 100 yards, on a B3 target (10 shots total).
  • Handgun shooters must shoot a minimum qualifying score of 60 points for 10 shots off-hand at 25 yards, and 80 points for 10 shots from a rest at 50 yards, on a B3 target (20 shots total).
  • Archery shooters must shoot a minimum qualifying score of 60 points for 10 shots at 30 yards, and 70 points for 10 shots at 20 yards, and 80 points for 10 shots at 10 yards, on a B3 target (30 shots total).
  • Crossbow shooters must shoot a minimum qualifying score of 30 points for 5 shots at 40 yards, and 35 points for 5 shots at 30 yards, and 40 points for 5 shots at 20 yards, on a B3 target (15 shots total).

Scoring:

  1. Shots striking outside the six (6) ring on the B-3 target have no point value.
  2. All shots striking within the scoring ring of six (6) or higher have a point value. Thus, a shot striking within the 7 ring earns a score of 7 points. A shot striking the 9 ring earns a score of 9 points. If a shot breaks the ring line of a higher point value ring, only the higher point value is awarded. For example, if one shot strikes between the 8 and 9 ring, that shot earns only 9 points (not 9 + 8). Each shot can only earn 0, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 points.
  3. The cumulative value of all shots fired at each position determines the point score. Add the point value of all shots to determine your point score. Shots with zero point value must be counted as zero within the 5 or 10 shot string.
  4. All shots must be consecutive. Shooters may not shoot more than the specified number of shots in a string and select their best individual shots.
  5. Shooters who do not attain the minimum required score must shoot the additional specified number of consecutive shots to earn a qualifying score. For example, if you score less than the required number of points with 5 or 10 consecutive shots you cannot simply shoot another shot (6th or 11th shot) to boost your score to/above the minimum requirement. Nor may you substitute a higher shot score for a lower one.
  6. All hunting equipment used to qualify must meet legal requirements for general hunting seasons. For rifles and handguns the minimum caliber is .24. Only 10 and 12 ga shotguns shooting slugs are legal for elk. Refer to the Regulations for legal requirements for archery and crossbow.

Interested in seeing the kind of target you must use for rifles, handguns and muzzleloading firearms? Click here for the Shooting Proficiency Target.

The shooting proficiency standards are not particularly demanding -- but they do require Master Hunters to demonstrate above-average proficiency within their chosen discipline.

Shooting skills are obviously an important part of hunting. The Master Hunter’s shooting skills should be well above-average.


What is the conservation work?

Conservation work is not the same as community service. The focus here is to provide a specific benefit to wildlife or habitat—or to contribute to landowner-sportsman relations. Qualifying work may take place with federal or state agencies, statewide or local sports clubs and organizations, or include custom-designed activities. A list of qualifying projects is available here. Examples of qualifying projects include:

  • Help address big game damage.
  • Working with WDFW or other agencies on landowner, habitat, wildlife or research projects.
  • Assist with teaching Hunter Education classes.

Master Hunter permit applicants are required to contribute a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer service. Recertifying Master Hunters are required to contribute a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service. Interested in learning more about contacts and possible projects? Click here for Conservation Projects.

Certified Master Hunters may now receive five (5) hours of volunteer conservation time credit for attending a Master Hunter Information and Outreach public meeting at least once every five (5) years---maximum credit of five (5) hours for each renewal period.

The conservation ethic must be at the forefront of every Master Hunter’s mind. Contributing to the future—giving something back—is a key requirement for Master Hunter certification.

One hundred years ago wildlife throughout North America was in serious jeopardy. The sportsmen-and-women of the past century have invested time, talent and money to pass conservation laws, protect habitat and rebuild wildlife populations. The Master Hunter Permit Program asks you to carry on that necessary tradition.


What is C.O.R.T. training?

Eyes In The Woods -- a nonprofit conservation organization -- has developed a certified witness program to help protect our natural resources. The C.O.R.T. program is a wonderful example of cooperation among organizations and individuals who want to weed the bad actors out of the hunting fraternity. C.O.R.T. training is now a required part of the Master Hunter Permit Program:

  • New applicants are required to complete C.O.R.T. training prior to initial certification.
  • Current Master Hunters who wish to renew their certification cards must complete C.O.R.T. training before their renewal date. Training must only be taken once.
  • Over time, all active Master Hunters will become certified witnesses via the C.O.R.T. program.
  • Send WDFW a copy of your Certificate of Training as proof of attendance. You will receive 3 hours of conservation work credit.
  • Interested in learning more about Eyes In The Woods or C.O.R.T.?

The current Hunting Seasons & Rules pamphlet contains a list of C.O.R.T. training classes. You can also go online to www.eyesinthewoods.org to find the class schedules. Use the Eyes in the Woods "Calendar Function."

Tired of criminals poaching our fish and wildlife resources? So are many other concerned hunters -- giving rise to the C.O.R.T. program Join Eyes In The Woods and become part of the network of trained citizens who are actively trying to reduce abuses afield.


Why is there a background check?

Four words: Program quality and accountability. Individuals who have violated and been convicted of fish or wildlife laws in Washington within the last ten years are prohibited from applying for the Master Hunter Permit Program. Individuals who commit and are convicted of such violations as Master Hunters will be suspended or removed from the program.

Unfortunately, there have been problems with some Master Hunters. Such problems cause fellow hunters and landowners to question the value of the Master Hunter Permit Program and the caliber of individuals carrying the Master Hunter certification permit. Quality assurance will remain the emphasis for individuals enrolled in the Master Hunter Permit Program.

Past Master Hunters have been involved in violations ranging from trespass to exceeding the bag limit. Imagine what other hunters and landowners think when they learn of such problems in the Master Hunter community!

There is a zero tolerance approach to convictions within the Master Hunter Permit Program. It’s up to all Master Hunters to uphold the highest ethical standards.

Initial Master Hunter permit applicants must submit to a criminal background check. The WDWF shall deny entry into the Master Hunter Permit Program to those applicants who have:

  • Paid the required fine or been convicted within the last ten (10) years of a Chapter 77.15 RCW offense;
  • Paid the required fine or been convicted within the last ten (10) years of criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement, while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by the WDFW;
  • Prior felonies prohibiting the possession of firearms, unless firearm possession is reinstated; or
  • A current hunting or fishing license revocation or a current suspension of hunting or fishing license privileges in Washington or in another state.

Effective October 16, 2009, certified Master Hunters renewing their permits must authorize the WDFW to conduct a criminal background check each time they renew. The criminal background check will go back five (5) years from the Master Hunter’s renewal anniversary date or back to the effective date of 2009 amendments to WAC 232-12-073-Master Hunter Permit Program (October 16, 2009), whichever period of time is shorter.

The criminal background check requirement will apply to any certified Master Hunter with a renewal anniversary date of October 16, 2009, or later. The signed Master Hunter Permit Renewal Criminal Background Check Authorization form must accompany the $25.00 non-refundable renewal fee and Proof of Service form to verify completion of required volunteer conservation project work. Checks and money orders should be written to: WDFW Master Hunter.

Effective July 26, 2009, accountability standards and criteria to determine suspensions were established by the State Legislature for certified Master Hunters. These criteria will be applied during criminal background checks and during the period of validity for Master Hunter permits.

  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is found to have committed an infraction under Chapter 77.15 RCW or WDFW rules, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for two years.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony under Chapter 77.15 RCW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement, while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of a felony prohibiting the possession of firearms, unless firearm possession is reinstated, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter has a hunting or fishing license revoked or has hunting or fishing license privileges suspended in Washington or in another state, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter submits fraudulent information to WDFW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter is cited, or charged by complaint, for an offense under Chapter 77.15 RCW; or for criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW, WDFW may immediately suspend his/her Master Hunter permit until the offense has been adjudicated.
  • If a Master Hunter has his/her permit suspended for less than life, and the person wants to become a Master Hunter again, they must repeat the entire Master Hunter permit application process once the suspension period is over.

How long do I have to complete all the certification steps?

New applicants have until November 15th of the year applied to complete all of the certification requirements.


Why is the permit certification only 5 years?

The Master Hunter Permit Program has offered only a five-year certification card from the very beginning of the program. Just as hunting areas or hunting regulations change, so do individual hunters change over time. The five-year certification within the Master Hunter Permit Program helps insure that individual hunters remain current and committed to the ideals of the Master Hunter Permit Program. By periodically demonstrating that commitment and meeting recertification requirements, individual Master Hunters reaffirm the value of the program to them.

As a reminder to all, the Master Hunter certification permit is required to be carried afield when hunting in a unit or area open only to Master Hunters.


How are Master Hunter Permit Program Hunts and Seasons Determined?

Master Hunter season recommendations are formulated by the Wildlife Program in cooperation with the Enforcement Program. Master Hunter Hunt Guidelines have been developed by the Department and the Master Hunter Advisory Group (MHAG) to aid in determining seasons for Master Hunters. Commission Policy C-6005 stipulates that: “The MHAG will not be involved in determining when or where Master Hunters will be utilized. This responsibility rests with the Department.”

The primary purpose of Master Hunter Permit Program (MHPP) seasons is to address game depredation issues that require special skills, that pose safety issues, or that are subject to high levels of public scrutiny. All hunting season recommendations are posted on the Department website to allow for formal public comment during February of each year. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is briefed by the Department in March on hunting season recommendations. Public comment on the recommendations is accepted before and at the March meeting. Formal Fish and Wildlife Commission action approving hunting seasons occurs at the April Commission meeting.


Do Master Hunters Receive Special Privileges or Trophy-type Hunts?

Master Hunters can participate in general season hunts and apply for permit controlled seasons that are available to all hunters. In addition, Master Hunters can participate in general season Master Hunter hunts and can apply for Master Hunter permit controlled seasons. In some cases Master Hunters may harvest more than one elk or deer each year, but never more than two. Past Master Hunter seasons have included deer, elk, moose, black bear, and geese. There is speculation that Master Hunter seasons for wild turkey may also occur in the future. When opportunities exist, Master Hunters may participate in the “Hot Spot” and/or “Ranked List” permit controlled damage seasons for various game species throughout the state.

Due to the skill sets of Master Hunters, they are more successful in gaining access to private property to harvest depredating big game animals. Master Hunters have also helped improve landowner-sportsman relations in Washington.

During the original Advanced Hunter Education (AHE) program in the early and mid 1990s, some quality bull elk hunts were offered to stimulate the number of hunters seeking to join the ranks of AHE and improve their knowledge and abilities to be safe, responsible, legal, and ethical hunters. Those seasons were eventually discontinued over time as the focus of the program has matured. Master Hunter Hunt Guidelines have been developed by the Department in conjunction with the Master Hunter Advisory Group (MHAG) to aid in determining seasons for Master Hunters. These guidelines identify the need for incentives to maintain the appropriate numbers of Master Hunters to address priority volunteer needs and game depredation issues throughout the state.

The new Master Hunter Permit Program (MHPP) and MHAG were created by the Director and Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2008, and additional authority provided by the State Legislature in 2009. The motto of the MHPP is “Giving Back”, and the number of certified Master Hunters is near the level currently desired by the Department.