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Patches and safety cards are given to graduates of Wisconsin hunter education classes. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)

Prospective hunters of all ages may earn their Wisconsin hunter education certificate through an entirely online process due to a temporary change announced Thursday by the Department of Natural Resources.

The modification, made out of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, means for the first time in state history even young hunters can gain the required credentials without demonstrating firearm safety and passing an in-person examination.

Prior to the change, all hunters under the age of 18 were required to at least attend a 5- to 7-hour “field day” of instruction and testing supervised by certified hunter education instructors.

The alteration was driven by a desire to prevent COVID-19 exposure among students and instructors as well as limited availability of public facilities to conduct classes, capacity limits in buildings