On February 10, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved an NRA-backed program that encourages youth participation in hunting, trapping and fishing. Although this program contains unnecessary and vague language requiring mentored hunters to “stay at arm’s length” of an adult mentor, Michigan’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program is a significant step in the right direction. As has been proven in other states, mentored hunting programs are an essential tool for recruiting the next generation of hunters.
Last year, Senate Bill 207, sponsored by state Senator Joseph Hune (R-22), and House Bill 4371, sponsored by state Representative Peter Pettalia (R-106), authorized the establishment of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program allowing parents to determine when their children are safe and responsible enough to hunt. Governor Rick Snyder signed the Hunter Heritage Act into law on July 20, 2011. This Act is responsible for allowing young hunters to enter the field at an earlier age under the guidance and supervision of an adult mentor.
Licenses for the Mentored Youth Hunting Program will go on sale on Thursday, March 1, and are available for purchase here. The $7.50 “package” deal covers a wide variety of outdoor fun for one low price. Mentored youth will receive two deer tags, an all-species fishing license, furbearer trapping permits and authorization to hunt turkey and small game.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the regulations for the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are as follows:
- No limit on the number of youth a mentor can have with him or her in the field, deferring to the discretion of the mentor.
- A limit of two hunting devices -- bow, crossbow or firearm -- per mentor.
- The youth in possession of a hunting device and engaged in the act of hunting must be within arm's length of the mentor.
- The mentor shall ensure that the hunting device is sized appropriately to fit the physical abilities of the youth to ensure safe and responsible handling.
- The mentor will be held responsible for the youth's actions.
- The issued deer tags under the Mentored Youth Hunting license can be used for either sex (antlered or antlerless), are not subject to antler point restriction regulations in certain parts of the state and can only be used on private land, consistent with current state law.
Programs like these empower parents to make decisions that are appropriate for their children and provide a unique opportunity for youngsters to learn proper hunting safety and ethics earlier. As a result of this early education, mentored hunters in other states have become one of the safest recreational groups in the United States.
We thank Governor Snyder for signing youth hunting legislation into law and Senator Hune and Representative Pettalia for sponsoring these two bills. Also, thanks to all of the NRA members who contacted their state legislators in support of SB 207 and HB 4371last year!