Pennsylvania taking steps to find new hunters
By Bob Frye
TRIBUNE-REVIEW OUTDOORS EDITOR
Sunday, June 26, 2005
America is not doing a very good job of replacing its old hunters
with new ones. Pennsylvania, in particular, is doing even worse.
Those facts were revealed in a report commissioned by the National
Shooting Sports Foundation, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and National
Wild Turkey Federation. Just released, it determined that America, on
average, is recruiting only 69 new hunters for every 100 lost to age.
Pennsylvania — listed as one of the 20 most restrictive states in
terms of how difficult it is for would-be hunters to try the sport —
isn’t even meeting that mark. It’s recruiting just 62 new hunters for
every 100 lost.
There are people working to turn things around, however.
A national initiative — called Families Afield — has been launched
to remove obstacles to getting people involved in hunting and recruit
new hunters. In 34 states, including Pennsylvania, that will mean
working to remove regulations that prohibit children from hunting
until they’re 12 years old and have passed a hunter safety course.
“There are so many activities available to our youth today, by the
time they can legally hunt, they’re interested in other things and
we’ve lost them,” Sportsmen’s Alliance president Bud Pidgeon said.
Ohio — which is recruiting 76 new hunters for every 100 lost — is
the first state to introduce Families Afield legislation. Stephen
Buehrer, a state representative in the Ohio General Assembly,
sponsored a bill June 15 that would create an apprentice hunting
license. It would allow a person, regardless of age and without having
to first pass a safety course, to go hunting, provided he is with a
licensed adult mentor who would stay in close proximity at all times.
Here in Pennsylvania, a group known as the Yough Mentored Hunt
Committee is working to change the law to allow children younger than
12 to hunt with a licensed mentor without having to first take a
hunter safety course.
The group is recommending that youngsters be allowed to hunt deer,
turkeys, groundhogs, squirrels, ducks and geese. It has hired
lobbyists John and Monica Kline to work on its behalf in the
Committee chairman Ron Fretts of Westmoreland County thinks it will
take as much as $80,000 to finance a Families Afield campaign in
Pennsylvania. So far, the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Wild
Turkey Federation has contributed $10,000 of that.
The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is doing the
committee’s bulk mailing and offering other in-kind services. Other
sportsmen’s groups are being solicited for financial support and
mailing lists of members.
In the meantime, Vern Ross, executive director of the Pennsylvania
Game Commission, is arranging for committee members to meet with
commissioners in October. Committee representatives will also be given
time to talk to wildlife conservation officers and volunteer youth
hunter education instructors this fall.
Sometime soon, Fretts also hopes to invite a representative of the
Missouri Department of Conservation to Pennsylvania to speak about
that state’s mentored youth hunter program. In place for four years,
it’s introduced 92,000 children to hunting without any accidents. The
hope is to build enough support to get a bill similar to Ohio’s
introduced in Pennsylvania by the first of the year, said Fretts.
“I think it’s going along pretty good. I think by fall we’ll have
all our cards on the table,” Fretts said.