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States that have reduced barriers to hunting

EDGEFIELD, S.C.— 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.

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“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.

The following states have created additional opportunities for youth and novice hunters (check with your local DNR office for details):

Alabama- Allows newcomers age 16 and older to hunt without hunter education while under supervision of a licensed hunter over 21.

Arkansas- Created a deferred hunter education permit for newcomers age 16 and older, who were born after Dec. 31, 1968, to hunt without hunter education in the immediate presence of an adult hunter 21 or older.

Florida- Anyone 16 years or older and born on or after June 1, 1975 can hunt under the supervision of a licensed hunter, 21 or older, without having to complete the state’s hunter safety certification. This exemption allows novices to purchase a Florida hunting license and hunt during a one-year trial basis. They must take and pass a hunter safety class to be eligible to purchase a hunting license and hunt the following year.

Illinois- Exempts a hunter age 10 or older from the requirement of completing the mandatory hunter education course for the current license year. Novice hunters ages 10 to 17 must hunt with a parent, grandparent or guardian who has a valid Illinois resident hunting license. Those 18 and older may buy an apprentice license and go hunting with any family member or friend who is a validly licensed Illinois resident hunter.

Indiana- Established a three-year apprentice hunting license that allows both resident and non-resident newcomers to take to the field with a licensed adult mentor.

Kansas- Permits a person 16 years of age or older to obtain a one-time hunter education completion deferral before hunting. That deferral will be valid until the end of the current license year for which it was issued. Eligible individuals will be able to purchase an apprentice hunting license and a licensed adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the novice hunter.

Kentucky- The first measure establishes a one-year, non-renewable exemption from hunter education classes when an adult mentor accompanies the novice hunter. The mentor must be a licensed hunter at least 18 years old. The second measure raises the age at which young hunters must take a hunter education course prior to hunting from 10 to 12 years old.

Louisiana- New hunters who purchase a hunter education deferral license can go hunting for 30 days with a licensed hunter who is age 18 or older. The deferral license can be purchased once, after which novice hunters must complete a hunter education course to become fully licensed.

Maine- Created an apprenticeship hunter license program. The program allows anyone 16 years of age or older who does not have a hunting license to purchase an apprentice hunter license. They may then hunt with someone who is at least 18 years old and has a valid hunting license or has completed a qualified hunter safety course. The apprentice license is valid for one year.

Michigan- The apprentice hunting license program allows new hunters to experience hunting with a mentor before requiring the completion of hunter education. To become fully licensed, young hunters must complete a hunter education course. Michigan also lowered age requirements for small game hunters from 12 to 10 years old, and big game hunters from 14 to 12 years old. An adult mentor must accompany the new hunters.

Minnesota- Hunters younger than 12 can hunt with an adult who is certified in hunter education. Because turkey permits are drawn on a lottery basis, the adult is not required to be a licensed hunter.

Mississippi- Allowed licensed adults over the age of 21 to take newcomers age 16 and over hunting for one year before completion of a hunter education course.

Nebraska- To hunt wild turkeys, youth under age 12 must purchase a wild turkey permit and be accompanied by a licensed hunter 19 years of age or older. Previous to this new legislation, no one under the age of 12 was allowed to hunt wild turkeys.

North Dakota- Established a one-time special youth spring wild turkey hunting license. The license is available to youth ages 15 and younger that have never received a spring wild turkey hunting license, and requires an adult to accompany the youth hunter afield.

Ohio- Allows licensed, adult mentors over the age of 21 to introduce novice hunters who purchase apprentice licenses to hunt before completing a hunter education course. New hunters can be mentored for up to three years before being required to obtain hunter education certification. While in the field, the apprentice hunter will be in close proximity to the adult mentor at all times. Before the young hunter can become fully licensed, they must complete a hunter education course.

Oklahoma- Novice hunters in Oklahoma between the ages of 16 and 35 can now hunt all game if they purchase a license with an apprentice designation and are accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 21 years of age. Young hunters under the age of 16 can still hunt small game without taking hunter safety education if a licensed hunter over the age of 21 accompanies them.

Oregon- Under the program, young hunters between the ages of nine and 14 can hunt while in the presence of a supervisory hunter who is at least 21 years of age and who holds the appropriate license, tag and permit. Only one lawful firearm is allowed to be carried.

Pennsylvania- Authorized the Pennsylvania Game Commission to establish a mentored youth hunting program.

South Carolina- All young people under the age of 18 can participate in youth hunting days, as long as a licensed hunter at least 21 years old accompanies them. Previously, no one under the age of 10 could hunt wild turkeys.

South Dakota- Enabled youth ages 10 to 15 to hunt without a license if a licensed adult hunting mentor accompanies them. The mentor must be unarmed and any game taken by the youth counts against the mentor’s tag.

Tennessee- Tennessee’s apprentice license exempts a hunter age 10 or older from the requirement of completing the mandatory hunter education course for the current license year. The license may only be purchased once, and a licensed adult at least 21 years of age must accompany the apprentice hunter.

Utah- Lowered the age that young people are allowed to hunt big game from 14 to 12. A licensed adult at least 21 years of age must accompany the young hunter.

Virginia- Created a two-year apprentice hunting license program that allows newcomers to take to the field with a licensed adult hunting mentor prior to completing a hunter education course.

Washington- The law permits a novice hunter to obtain a one-time, one-year hunter education completion deferral before hunting. A Washington-licensed hunter who has held a Washington hunting license for three years prior and is over 18 years of age must accompany the novice.

Wyoming- Established a one-year apprentice license program allowing youth to go afield with a licensed adult hunting mentor.