© Othmar Vohringer
News Source: U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance
Across the country, more than 87,000 new hunters have taken to the field thanks to laws that remove barriers to youth hunting.
The new laws and regulations are the direct result of the Families Afield initiative, which was launched to help turn the tide against waning youth hunter recruitment and decreasing license sales - a key source of revenue for state wildlife agencies. The program was spearheaded by the NWTF and its partners, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.
Together, with the support of the National Rifle Association and local sportsmen’s organizations, Families Afield is getting results. As barriers to hunting are struck down in state capitals nationwide, a new generation is discovering America’s time-honored hunting tradition. To date, 25 states have passed laws as a result of Families Afield.
In addition, a new research report from Mile Creek Communications shows that many states that have introduced apprentice license programs have shown sharp increases in youth license sales, from 10 percent to 111 percent.
"We are always looking for ways to open the door and invite new hunters in,” said Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Dave Graham. “Our apprentice license has really allowed us to put out the welcome mat. And the best part of the project is that, just as our early research indicated, young hunters accompanied by a mentor are among the safest of all hunters.”
The apprentice license programs help new hunters learn under the watchful eye and guiding hand of licensed adult mentors. Completion of a hunter education course is still required for a new hunter to become fully licensed.
Mik Mikitik, hunter education coordinator for the Washington Division of Fish & Wildlife, added that the programs have proven to be very popular, and are expected to gain popularity among novice hunters both young and old.
“What really surprised us here in Washington is that approximately 60 percent of the hunters taking advantage of these new opportunities are over 18 years old,” said Mikitik. “So we’re seeing that all people, not just youth, are wanting to try hunting, and hopefully it’s something that they’ll enjoy for a lifetime.”
The new programs have garnered support from not only state wildlife agencies, but also lawmakers such as Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, who expressed his support for the mentoring system.
“This is how I learned to hunt, and how my son learned to hunt, and I think most hunters agree that it is the best way to pass on the tradition,” said Gov. Freudenthal.
Tags: U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation, Young Hunters, Hunter Recruitment, Hunting Tradition