Richmond, Virginia – Virginians interested in learning how to hunt, and Virginia hunters eager to share their sport with friends and family, now have a program that will make it easier for people new to hunting to give the sport a “test drive.” The General Assembly has passed and Governor Tim Kaine has signed into law the companion bills that establish an apprentice hunting license. This new license will benefit people, regardless of age, who have not hunted before, but are interested in learning about hunting.
The license would be issued in lieu of the current state resident or nonresident basic hunting license. Individuals who have previously held a hunting license will not be eligible to purchase the apprentice license. The fee for the license will be $10 for residents and $20 for nonresidents; the one-time, nonrenewable license will be valid for two years from the date of purchase, thus affording the apprentice hunter two full years of opportunity to go afield with a mentor hunter to learn about the sport before having to complete the requirement for hunter education.
An important safety feature of the new license is that the apprentice hunter must be accompanied and directly supervised by a hunter possessing a valid Virginia hunting license who is an adult over age 18 (the mentor hunter). “Directly supervised” is defined in the new legislation as “when a person over 18 maintains a close visual and verbal contact with, provides adequate direction to, and can immediately assume control of the firearm from the apprentice hunter.” This “direct supervision” requirement is in place because the apprentice hunter will not have had to meet the hunter education requirement as a condition of purchasing the apprentice license.
While the apprentice license can be purchased by a new hunter without having to successfully complete the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ hunter education course, apprentice hunters are reminded that they will still have to comply with the hunter education requirement before they can legally purchase a state resident or nonresident basic hunting license. Completion of that requirement can be done at any time so that once the apprentice hunter has finished their hunting “test drive” and decided that hunting is something they will continue to participate in, they will be able to provide the necessary proof of passing the course in order to purchase the basic resident or nonresident hunting license.
Since the apprentice license serves only in lieu of a basic hunting license, apprentice hunters will still need to purchase the special licenses to hunt deer, bear and turkeys or to use muzzleloader firearms, archery equipment and crossbows or to trap.
Senator Kenneth W. Stolle introduced the Senate version of the bill and Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter introduced the House version. The bills moved through the legislative process of the General Assembly with unanimous approval.
Said Bob Duncan, Director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “The apprentice hunting license will be a great tool in our efforts to recruit new hunters and we’re really pleased that folks will have a chance to try the sport and become more involved in our hunting heritage. Hunting is a critical wildlife management tool and we need hunters to help us effectively manage our wildlife resources. And we must not forget that we have programs, such as Hunters for the Hungry, which rely on hunters to provide hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat to food banks, shelters, and other feeding programs for needy Virginians.”
Game Department Board Chairman Jimmy Hazel commented, “You used to learn to hunt from your father or grandfather, but as Virginia has become more urban and suburban, the tradition has been slipping away. Many young people, men and women, have missed the opportunity to learn to hunt. This program will allow hunters to pass that heritage on, not only to their own children and grandchildren, but also to their adult friends, their neighbors, and others who want to experience hunting.”
A number of national organizations, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Rifle Association and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, expressed support for the apprentice hunting license as a positive step in the recruitment of new hunters.
The legislation establishing the apprentice hunting license has an effective date of July 1, 2008 and the Department will have the new license available for purchase as of that date. Virginia hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.dgif.virginia.gov; purchased by telephone Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except holidays by calling toll free 1-866-721-6911; or purchased in person by visiting any of the more than 500 license agents located around the Commonwealth, typically anywhere that hunting and fishing equipment is sold.