Hunter Skills Weekends

Virginia Hunter Skills Weekends (VHSW) were created in 2009 when members of the hunter education community found  they were frequently asked by graduating students where they could go or to whom they could talk to start learning more about the basics. A core group of instructors approached the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to see if they could provide support for such an effort.  Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center near Appomattox, VA, was already hosting training events for the instructors, so they were asked to come on-board and provide the facilities.  The partner organizations hope to continue offering these semi-annual events every May and August as long as there is interest from the public.

A new partnership between VHEA, VDGIF, and Airfield 4-H Center in Wakefield, VA has opened a door for an additional event beginning in August 2017.
NOTE: The Airfield event scheduled for August 11-13 has been cancelled.

VHSW are hands-on, engaging events open to ages 11-90+.  Participants have the opportunity to learn new skills by working in small groups of no more than 16 individuals, and receive top-notch instruction from some of the state’s finest volunteer hunter education instructors. The format provides three 4-hour sessions in topics from A-Z including archery, basic shotgun, rifle and pistol, bow hunting, bow fishing, game processing, muzzleloading, recovery of wounded game, skeet shooting, small game and turkey hunting skills, upland hunting techniques and wild game cooking.  Topics vary from event to event in an effort to keep the curriculum “fresh”, and instructors strive to continually improve the students’ classroom and outdoor experiences. Event organizers provide an opportunity at the close of each event for feedback and requests.  Vernie Kennedy, VHEA’s VHSW Coordinator, uses the feedback to plan future events and consider new course topics.  It is not uncommon to see three generations of one family checking in to spend a weekend away from home together.  Many participants come every time the event is offered and bring with them new attendees.  

Optional evening events may include a waterfowl workshop on how to make or paint a decoy, learning and practicing to safely use a tree stand, demonstrating how to skin a deer, making s’mores around a campfire or a class on where to find places to hunt.  A live-fire air rifle range may be set-up in the outdoor pavilion or a LaserShot game may provide indoor fun.

Here’s what participants have to say about the program:

“There is so much hands-on learning. That’s the best part. Courses structured with lots of practice are the best!”

“I have a son that wants to learn to hunt, but I don’t have the knowledge or skills to pass to him.  This is a great program to help give him the knowledge and skills to get started.”

“This was exactly what I was hoping for as an adult that did not have the luxury of growing up around hunting.”

”The program provides a great opportunity to experience new disciplines at a very low cost and aid in the decision process to purchase your own equipment.”

“As a newcomer to the hunting culture, I have to compliment all of the instructors on their professionalism and enthusiastic approach to teaching all levels.  As the ‘first line of defense’ in engaging a novice, they do an amazing job of increasing interest level and desire to continue learning more.”  

Completion of a Hunter Education course is preferred but not required; children under 18 must attend with a parent and must be enrolled in the same classes as the parent.


Click on the picture below to go to the Information Page for the Holiday Lake event

September 29 – October 1, 2017


Skeet classes are always popular. Students enjoy learning  the game of skeet,  getting familiar with the firearms provided by the partner organizations,  and the instructors have fun, too!

Basic Archery and IBEP (International Bowhunter Education Program) classes provide an introduction to archery and hunting with archery tackle.



Students learn about proper shooting form in an archery class

Students of all ages were introduced to ammunition reloading basics

Father and sons get familiar with ammunition reloading equipment