RICHMOND, VA – Wouldn’t it be great to take home that new pickup truck or big-screen TV and try it out for two years before you plunked down your hard-earned cash to own it? That’s the idea behind the ‘try before you buy’ Apprentice Hunting License legislation that just passed in the Virginia Assembly.
Virginia, like most states, has experienced a downward trend in the number of hunters. The Apprentice Hunting License legislation creates a mechanism to allow newcomers to experience the outdoors and participate in the traditions of hunting prior to taking the 10-hour Hunter Education Course. Parents, family members and adult mentors could expose any new hunters to the great outdoors on a trial run basis. The hope is that they will enjoy and embrace the tradition and become actively involved. The next step would be to take the Education course and join the ranks as a fully licensed hunter.
Virginia will become the thirteenth state to enact an apprentice license program. Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus co-chair, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter introduced the apprentice hunting license bill HB1175 in the House of Delegates which passed the House on Monday with a vote of 98-0. The Senate bill, SB617, was introduced by Senator Kenneth Stolle and passed the State Senate unanimously on January 24th. The two legislative bodies will work out any differences between the bills before sending it to the Governor.
The apprentice license legislation is the key issue for the Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus this session and has seen unanimous support by caucus members. The Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus was formed in 2004 and is comprised of legislators that defend, protect and promote hunting and fishing. The current Co-Chairs of the caucus are Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, Delegate James Shuler, Senator Creigh Deeds and Senator Emmett Hanger. The caucus has been very successful since its inception, working towards the passage of the ‘No Net Loss’ legislation last session and the creation Virginia’s Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) program in 2005.
The Caucus meets every Thursday during the legislative session to discuss issues and to hear from sportsmen-friendly organizations across the state. Formal presentations this session have been made by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), Ducks Unlimited (DU), the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and Trout Unlimited (TU). Aaron Hobbs, Director of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) provided the first briefing of the year on January 10th. Hobbs discussed outcomes of the 4th Annual NASC Sportsman-Legislator Summit and informed caucus members of issues such as Marine Protected Areas, which they may be faced with in the future.
Delegate Lingamfelter said, “The Apprentice Hunting License Bill is a valuable recruitment tool to introduce people to the outdoors – not only youngsters but adults as well. My hope is that families and young people who take advantage of this opportunity will come to enjoy natural resources of Virginia much as the 857,000 resident sportsmen and those 278,000 visitors who travel here from other states now do. We can never forget how valuable sportsmen are to our state’s economy.”
Once the bill is signed into law by Governor Kaine, the law would allow the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) to offer apprentice licenses to Virginia residents for $10 without completing a Hunter Education Class. The license is valid for two years and apprentice hunters under the program can only go afield when accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 18 years of age.
David Dodson, DGIF’s Hunter Education coordinator said, “The apprentice hunting license should bring more people into the sport of hunting. In the past, it has been necessary for anyone 12 years of age or older to complete a 10-hour Hunter Education course prior to purchasing a hunting license. While Hunter Education has been an important factor in reducing the number of hunting-related shooting incidents, many potential hunters were hesitant to commit 10 hours toward an activity they were not sure they would enjoy. The apprentice license would allow them the opportunity to safely experience hunting under the close supervision of an adult hunter. Hopefully, they would then want to take the Hunter Education course, purchase a regular hunting license, and continue to enjoy this Virginia tradition throughout their lifetime.”
About the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC)
The National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, a program of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), serves as the umbrella organization for affiliated state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses. Since its inception in 2004 there are now 34 state sportsmen’s caucuses. NASC is the leader in providing information to protect and promote sportsmen’s issues within state’s legislatures. The NASC assists legislators in the formation of new sportsmen’s caucuses and provides the venue for focused interaction and idea exchange among state caucus leaders, and the outdoors community. For additional information, visit the NASC website at www.statesportsmenslink.org or call 202-543-6907.
About the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF)
CSF is the most respected and trusted hunting and fishing organization in the political arena. With support from every major hunting and fishing organization, CSF is the leader in promoting sportsmen’s issues with elected officials. CSF works directly with the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus in the U.S. Congress, as well as affiliated state sportsmen’s caucuses in state legislatures around the country. www.sportsmenslink.org>www.sportsmenslink.org.