Wisconsin Senate Sends Families Afield Bill to Governor

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Take Action! Wisconsin sportsmen should contact Gov. Walker and ask him to sign Assembly Bill 455. Let the governor know that Wisconsin parents should have the right to decide when and how their sons and daughters begin to hunt. Wisconsin members can contact the governor by calling his office at (608) 266-1212 or email by clicking on the following link. https://walker.wi.gov/contact/contact-form

The Wisconsin Senate has approved legislation that will greatly improve ability of hunters to pass along the tradition to the next generation. In 2009, Wisconsin became one of the first states to allow a newcomer to try hunting under the control of an experienced mentor. This concept, known as “try before you buy” has been the focal point of a coalition founded in 2005 to tear down barriers to hunting.

The coalition, called Families Afield, has successfully promoted mentored hunting legislation in 40 states over the last 12 years. However, in 2009 Wisconsin legislators passed a highly restrictive mentored hunting law that established a minimum age of 10, and prohibited mentors from carrying a firearm or bow along with the apprentice. Both restrictive measures severely hamper recruitment efforts in the state.

By comparison, nearly half of Pennsylvania’s mentored hunters are under age 10, and only three other states besides Wisconsin prevent a parent from deciding if their son or daughter was mature enough to also carry a firearm. The safety record in all mentored hunting states has been incredible, demonstrating that the restrictions in Wisconsin are completely unneeded. 

As a result, the Families Afield partners, led by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, have worked since 2009 to eliminate those unneeded restrictions.  On Nov. 7, in a late-night session, the Wisconsin Senate passed Assembly Bill 455, sponsored by Assemblyman Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond), which eliminates both restrictions, by a bipartisan vote of 21-12. The bill will now head to Gov. Scott Walker who is expected to sign the legislation. The Wisconsin Assembly passed AB 455 on Nov. 2 by a vote of 57-32. 

“Assembly Bill 455 trusts parents to make the right decisions about when their kids begin to hunt, and whether they are ready to carry a firearm or bow,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “This bill brings Wisconsin up to date with neighboring states where parents have been making these decisions with safe results for many years. We are grateful for the support of our partners to finish the job in Wisconsin after eight long years.”

In addition to the Sportsmen’s Alliance, AB 455 is supported by Families Afield partners: National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Locally, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin chapters of Safari Club International and the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association also pushed legislators to pass the long-sought changes. 

“We salute the Wisconsin legislature, and specifically Assemblymen Rob Stafsholt, Joel Kleefisch and Sen. Terry Moulton for championing this cause, which will result in more mentors in the field, and many more young people joining them,” Heusinkveld said.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.