House Bill 382, sponsored by State Representative Robin Hamilton (D-92), would establish an apprentice hunting certificate that allows citizens of all ages to try their hand at hunting before completing a hunter education course. Any apprentice hunter is required to be supervised in the field by a mentor who is at least 21 years-old, a licensed resident hunter and a graduate of a hunter education program. Experience in more than two dozen other states shows that this apprentice hunting program is exceptionally safe and will bring many new hunters into the field.
Hunter recruitment is critical to the long-term preservation of our hunting heritage. Hunter numbers are declining and the radical anti-hunting organizations like the Humane Society of the United States will take advantage if given the opportunity. While Montana is the nation’s leader in hunter participation, it is currently in the bottom third of all states with regard to hunter recruitment. For every 100 hunters who permanently quit hunting, only 56 new hunters replace them. This slide must be reversed and HB 382 will help tremendously in this effort.
Research shows that any regulation that stands in the way of citizens trying hunting for the first time will deter participation. This includes the current requirement that all prospective hunters complete hunter education. An apprentice hunting program allows citizens a “try it before they buy it” opportunity. Ultimately, they will become “hooked on hunting” and want to complete a hunter education course in order to hunt on their own. In the end, more citizens will complete hunter education and fully join the hunter ranks as a result.
HB 382 will be heard in the House Fish and Game Committee at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, February 3 in room 152. It is critically important that you contact the members of the Committee to express your support of the bill. If possible, please plan to attend the hearing to show your support in person. Members of the House Fish and Game Committee are listed below. They can be contacted by phone at (406) 444-4800.
It is time for Montana to address its daunting hunter recruitment problem and for parents, instead of the state, to appropriately determine when their children are mature and responsible enough to begin hunting.
House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee:
State Representative Kendall Van Dyk (D-49) (Chairman)
State Representative Gordon Hendrick (R-14) (Vice Chair)
State Representative Dave McAlpin (D-94) (Vice Chair)
State Representative Joel Boniek (R-61)
State Representative Frosty Boss Ribs (D-15)
State Representative Jill Cohenour (D-78)
State Representative Mike Milburn (R-19)
State Representative Mike Miller (R-84)
State Representative Jesse O'Hara (R-18)
State Representative Ken Peterson (R-46)
State Representative Mike Phillips (D-66)
State Representative JP Pomnichowski (D-63)
State Representative Cary Smith (R-55)
State Representative Ted Washburn (R-69)
State Representative Jeffrey Welborn (R-72)