Families Afield legislation has been introduced in Michigan that would allow new youth to take to the field under the guidance of an experienced mentor.
Senate Bill 207, introduced by Senator Joe Hune (R- Hamburg Township), would eliminate the state’s minimum hunting age and create a mentored youth hunting program for those under the age of 10. The new mentored youth hunting program, to be administered by the state’s Natural Resources Commission, would allow these youth to hunt under the supervision of an experienced adult mentor.
An identical bill, House Bill 4371, sponsored by Representative Peter Pettalia (R- Presque Isle) has been introduced on the House side.
Under current state law, youth under the age of 10 are prohibited from hunting, even if under the supervision of an adult mentor.
The bills aim to increase youth involvement in hunting by allowing young hunters to safely experience outdoor hunting traditions under the supervision of an experienced mentor.
“This bill is a major step forward for youth hunting recruitment and retention in the state of Michigan. Michigan is in the minority of states that arbitrarily limit when youth may hunt,” said Rob Sexton, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance vice president for government affairs. “Senate Bill 207 and House Bill 4371 allow parents to decide when their children are old enough to hunt and allow them to learn the fundamentals of hunter safety and wildlife conservation from an experienced adult mentor.”
“Michigan currently has some of the most stringent regulations on youth hunting in the nation, which are causing fewer young people to enjoy Michigan’s great outdoor tradition of hunting,” said Senator Hune. “The Mentored Youth Hunting Program promoted by this legislation will allow thousands of Michigan youngsters to learn how to hunt properly with an adult mentor. It’s also a great way to further promote safe hunting practices while further also improving Michigan’s last-in-the-nation hunter recruitment rate.”
The bills also create a new license, specifically designed for mentored youth, that would include a resident small game license, a combination deer license, a turkey hunting license, an all species fishing license, and a resident fur harvester license. This license is designed to be an inexpensive way for youth to try many different types of hunting.
If passed, they would be Michigan’s second Families Afield bill. In 2006, Michigan passed Families Afield legislation that created an apprentice hunting license for those 10 and older, while lowering the state’s minimum hunting age requirements for both big and small game.
Additionally, the statewide sportsmen’s group Michigan United Conservation Clubs has been instrumental in developing and advocating Senate Bill 207 and House Bill 4371.
“Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) would like to thank both Sen. Hune and Representative Pettalia their willingness to develop a positive solution to improve youth hunting safety and ethics,” said MUCC Executive Director Erin McDonough. “The ‘Hunter Heritage’ bill is long awaited by Michigan families who cherish our state’s great outdoor traditions. These bills will set Michigan in the right direction by curing our state’s last-in-the-nation hunter replacement rate, while rightfully allowing parents, not the government to decide when their kids are ready to enjoy the hunting experience.”
The Families Afield initiative was established by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation in 2004 in order to bring a new generation of sportsmen to the field. Recently, the National Rifle Association and the National Assembly of Sportsmen Caucuses have joined Families Afield with the common goal of reducing barriers to hunting. Since the program’s inception, Families Afield legislation has been passed in 30 states with more than 418,000 new hunters taking to the field as a result.