On Monday, August 10, Governor Chris Christie (R) signed Senate Bill 573 into law making New Jersey the 39th state to establish an apprentice hunting program. S. 573 creates an apprentice hunting license as well as an apprentice bow and arrow license for hunters who are at least 14 years of age. This gives apprentice hunters the ability to go afield and hunt, as long as they are accompanied by someone at least 21 years of age who possesses a corresponding firearm or bow and arrow hunting license. S. 573 passed the New Jersey Senate with a 31-1 vote and the Assembly with 76-4 vote. This bill takes effect immediately.
Lengthy hunter education requirements often discourage potential hunters from going afield because they are unwilling to dedicate the necessary time to complete the course in order to pursue an activity that they are simply trying out. The apprentice license program allows them to experience hunting while under the supervision of a mentor before taking the course. Eventually, the goal is for these apprentices to complete a hunter education course so they can hunt on their own, which has largely been the case in the states with similar programs. Since 2006, nearly 1.5 million apprentice hunting licenses have been sold in participating states and have proven the value and safety of mentoring newcomers in the field.