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North Dakota: Youth Hunting Debate Continues With Newly Amended Bill

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Senate Natural Resources Committee recently recommended the Senate strike a provision from HB 1227 that reduced the minimum age for youth deer hunters from 14 to 12. The Senate, on a narrow vote, passed the committee amendments.  However, on Wednesday, April 1, the North Dakota House amended another youth mentor hunting bill to contain this important language that was voided from HB 1227.  Senate Bill 2165, sponsored by State Senator Aaron Krauter (D-31), was amended and passed the House on a vote of 80 to 6.

This significant piece of legislation would strengthen the future of North Dakota’s hunting heritage by fostering hunter recruitment and retention through the elimination of certain barriers.  It creates an online hunter education program for hunters over the age of 18.  The bill also would reduce the minimum age for participation in the youth deer season from 14 to 12.  Because the age reduction is for the youth season only, adult mentors will not be engaged in hunting and will be giving their full attention to the youth, creating a safe and effective mentoring situation. 

Currently, North Dakota has one of the country’s most restrictive minimum ages at 14 (New York is the only other state that requires a deer hunter to be 14).  It is important to consider that roughly 30 states allow parents to make responsible choices for their children who wish to hunt, and either do not have a minimum age, or their age limitation is not viewed as a barrier to youth recruitment.  Those 30 states have a safety record that is as good as, if not slightly better than, the states with restrictive ages.  The bill would also create a one-year apprentice program for older hunters in a “try before you buy” approach that would give them a one-year exemption from hunter safety training requirements.  These apprentice hunters would have to be accompanied by an adult hunter.  The amended version of SB 2165 takes small, but important, steps toward reducing barriers to successful hunter recruitment.  The bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence. 

Please contact your State Senator and respectfully urge them to support the House-amended SB 2165, and ensure North Dakota strengthens its hunter retention efforts.  Contact information can be found here.

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