Honest Abe takes aim at the Illinois State Fair Conservation World BB Range.

May 1, 2024

Volunteers are the Heartbeat of Safety Education Programs

Photos courtesy of the author.

Each year and throughout Illinois’ 102 counties, youth seek one of the many Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) safety educational programs offered in their area. Volunteers, the heartbeat of the IDNR Safety Education section, host those programs. Without the intelligent, honorable, dedicated, kind and very giving volunteers it would not be possible to service the many students looking for the safety certification that allows them to be a recreational user of Illinois’ natural resources.

A woman sits and rests her elbows on a table while aiming a BB gun at a target in a canopy tent. A man stands to her right and assists with the process.
Illinois State Fair BB range with the Pike County Pittsfield Princess.

Hunters born on or after January 1, 1980, and trappers born on or after January 1, 1998, are required by Illinois state law to complete an approved Illinois course to receive their hunt/trap license.

In-person Courses

The traditional model of instruction, an in-person 10-hour hunt course has been offered in Illinois since at least 1976. The traditional model of trapper education, an 8-hour in-person course, has been offered in Illinois since at least 1985. The traditional and preferred model of instruction is designed for students in fifth and sixth grade.

These traditional, in-person courses offered by IDNR are free.

On-line Curriculum

On-line curricula are available for students to take from these approved hunter education and trapper education on-line providers:

Hunter Ed
Illinois Learn to Hunt
Illinois Basic Trapper Education Course

Each online hunter safety program has an associated fee.

In-person Field Day After On-line Course

Students completing the on-line course before reaching their 18th birthday must also complete an in-person field day to receive their Illinois Safety certificate. The field day is an extension of the traditional course, giving participants the opportunity, through application, to demonstrate an understanding of the online material.

A map of Illinois with five different regions separated and color coded in to lime green, magenta, light blue, orange, and navy.
Safety Education map.

Volunteer Services Coordinators

Volunteers are at the heart of delivering courses offered through the traditional model of instruction. Within the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement’s Safety Education Section are Volunteer Services Coordinators (VSC), located in the IDNR administrative regions.

  • Region 1 VCS, Brett Taylor, Brett.Taylor@illinois.gov. Region 1 has 25 counties and extends west through Boone, DeKalb and LaSalle counties to Iowa, bordering Wisconsin to the north, and extending as far south as Fulton, Henderson, McDonough and Tazewell counties.
  • Region 2 VSC, Hunter Nikolai, Hunter.Nikolai@illinois.gov. Region 2 contains the northeastern most counties of Illinois, bordering Indiana, Wisconsin and Lake Michigan. The nine counties in Region 2 include Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.
  • Region 3 VSC, Robert Draper, Robert.Draper@illinois.gov. Region 3 contains 19 counties that stretch from the Indiana border to the Iowa border through the middle of the state, extending to the north as far as Ford, Iroquois and Livingston counties and south through Crawford, Effingham and Jasper counties.
  • Region 4 VSC, Robert Draper, Robert.Draper@illinois.gov. Region 4 has 21 counties that stretch north through Logan, Mason, Schuyler and Hancock counties and extends its southern presence through Bond, Fayette and Madison counties.
  • Region 5 VSC, Joni Patterson, Joni.Patterson@illinois.gov. Region 5 covers the southernmost portion of Illinois and includes 28 counties. The region borders Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.
Two man stand hear a projector screen at the front of the room. They demonstrate how to use a hunting safety strap for a tree stand. In the foreground are two young men sitting at a white table watching the men at the front of the room.
Macoupin County instructors Mike King and Gary Wiser; the Volunteer Instructors are the heartbeat of Illinois Safety Education.

The best place to find a program, traditional or online, is through the Safety Education website. The website will provide access to the traditional class schedule, the online course providers, and contact information for the local volunteer coordinators. New programs are added to the website weekly.

Become a Volunteer Instructor

On the Safety Education website, interested people can find information on how to join the team of volunteer safety instructors. The site also contains the required application form.

Volunteer instructors are the heartbeat of IDNR Safety Education section. By participating in a local program as a student or a volunteer, you, too, can support the IDNR Safety Education Section. Jump on the website and contact your local volunteer coordinator to find a program for you in your area.

Cody Gray is the education administrator for boater, hunter, snowmobiler and trapper safety education courses within the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Safety Education Section.

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