(Portland) – The Families Afield Program led to an astounding jump in the number of new hunters in 2006. The spotless safety record of the freshmen underscores the fact that mentored youth are the safest in the field.
Families Afield is a campaign established by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to urge states to eliminate unnecessary hunting age restrictions and ease hunter education mandates for first-time hunters.
During the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Portland, Oregon, the USSA and its partners announced that half of the twelve states that have approved Families Afield legislation and regulations have already measured the program’s performance and report a significant climb in new hunters. Data available from Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Ohio reveals that apprentice hunting license programs brought nearly 34,000 new hunters to the field without a single hunting-related shooting incident.
“The Families Afield program is proving to be safe and effective at boosting sportsmen’s numbers, as we were confident it would,” said USSA President Bud Pidgeon. “Research conducted before apprentice programs were implemented showed that supervised young hunters are the safest in the field, and the new data backs the claim. The most important factor affecting youth hunting safety is the presence of a responsible, attentive adult hunter.”
Children are not the only ones utilizing the apprentice license programs. The licenses are available for first-time hunters of all ages, which means mentors can also take other adults for their inaugural hunting experiences.
Chad Baus, 34, was among the nearly 9,000 apprentice hunters in Ohio. The young man from Archbold, Ohio took his first deer during the 2006 season.
“I recently developed an interest in hunting, but without having tried it, I wasn’t motivated to invest my time in a hunter education course to get a hunting license,” said Baus. “The apprentice hunting program allowed me to try deer hunting and I loved it. From now on, there won’t be a year when I won’t be in the field.”
The apprentice hunting experience was the motivation Baus needed. He has already scheduled to take his hunter education course, and he is planning to introduce his boys and wife to the sport through the apprentice license program.
“It’s a great experience and I want to pass it on,” said Baus.
Lawmakers in California, Nebraska, Maine, Wisconsin and Oregon are considering legislation to enact apprentice license programs and lower hunting age restrictions.
“We hope that the popularity of apprentice programs and the impressive safety statistics will help convince legislators in these states to support efforts that will make it easier for newcomers to enjoy hunting,” said Pidgeon.
Sportsmen who want to support the enactment of Families Afield laws and regulations in their states can use the Legislative Action Center on the USSA website, www.ussportsmen.org. The resource allows visitors to find and send messages to their lawmakers regarding Families Afield and other legislative issues.
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organization that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website, www.ussportsmen.org.
Tags: ussportsmen.org, Families Afield, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North American Wildlife, Natural Resources, Portland, Oregon, National Shooting Sports Foundation, NSSF, National Wild Turkey Federation, NWTF