During recent years, the Families Afield program has swept across the country, with state after state passing measures aimed at reducing and removing unnecessary barriers that impede the next generation of sportsmen and women from joining our ranks. The Families Afield program promotes the creation of apprentice, or mentored, hunting licenses that allow newcomers to try hunting under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor before completing hunter education courses.
Two more bills, aimed at boosting hunter recruitment and retention, have been passed out of legislative committees in New Jersey and West Virginia.
In New Jersey, Senate Bill 1083, sponsored by Senator Bob Smith (D- Piscataway), would allow youth ages 10 and older and adults to hunt under an apprentice hunting license. The bill passed out of the state’s Senate Committee on Environment and Energy and was then referred to the Senate Committee on Budget and Appropriations. The same bill was introduced late in last year’s legislative session and passed out of two committees before the session ended. New Jersey sportsmen should reach out to their Senators to express their support of this important measure.
In West Virginia, Senate Bill 478, sponsored by Senator John Unger (D- Berkeley), would also create an apprentice hunting license to allow new hunters to take to the field under the guidance of an adult mentor before taking hunter education. Current law in West Virginia allows youth under the age of 15 to try hunting before taking hunter education if they are accompanied by licensed adult. This bill would expand this mentorship concept to allow all ages to safely experience our outdoor traditions while accompanied by a mentor.
Senate Bill 478 passed out of West Virginia’s Senate Committee on Natural Resources and was then referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
“Apprentice hunting licenses are a hallmark of Families Afield and have a proven track record nationwide of introducing the next generation of American hunters in a safe and exciting manner,” said Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance director of state services. “Sportsmen in New Jersey and West Virginia need to speak up and let your elected officials know that these bills are critical to the future of our hunting heritage.”
The Families Afield initiative was established by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation to bring a new generation of sportsmen to the field. Along with the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the coalition has worked to pass measures in 32 states with more than 600,000 apprentice or mentored hunting licenses sold since the program’s inception.
Take Action! Sportsmen in New Jersey and West Virginia should contact their state senators and ask them to support apprentice hunting legislation. To find your senators contact information, visit www.ussportsmen.org/LAC.