HB 296 seeks to improve hunting opportunities in Ohio
By Larry S. Moore
Ohio hunters are fortunate. We do not have some restrictions that other states have requiring young hunters to be aged 12 or older before being allowed to hunt. Ohio has special early youth hunting seasons including, waterfowl, upland game, deer and turkey seasons. This provides opportunities for parents to take their youngsters hunting with the emphasis on the young hunter (Click here for Ohio youth hunting opportunites). As a result of this Ohio has seen an increase in the number of youth licenses sold and a slight increase in adult resident license sales (Click here for ODNR's press release). Fortunately Ohio law leaves the decision when a young person is mature enough to hunt where it belongs - with the parents. However, the Ohio Hunter Education course is still required before going afield. While there are several alternatives to complete the Ohio Hunter Education course, the class may present a barrier for some.
Getting that barrier removed for all Ohio hunters is the focus of HB 296, Apprentice Hunting License bill, which was recently introduced by Rep. Steve Buehrer (R-Delta). Buehrer is no stranger to wildlife conservation and sportsmen issues. He fought hard to protect sportsmen dollars and the Division of Wildlife budget earlier this year. He won recognition by the US Sportsmen Alliance as a 2005 Patriot Award winner for his contributions.
HB 296 will remove these barriers by introducing an apprentice hunting/trapping license concept. The apprentice hunting license lets the apprentice hunt or trap without first completing the hunter or trapper education course. The apprentice must be accompanied by a licensed adult age 21 or older. A mentor is limited to accompanying not more than two apprentice hunters/trappers at the same time. A new hunter is limited to purchasing a maximum of 3 apprentice hunting licenses.
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Hunters, trappers, shooters and sportsmen should always be concerned about safety. Hunter education has played an important role in making hunting a safe sport. But it is not a program alone that makes hunting safe. It is the safety awareness of all hunters that has transformed hunter education from the classroom into field safety. The adult mentor is closest to the apprentice hunter and has a vested interest in safety in the field.
This bill enhances the opportunity to introduce hunting and trapping to new participants. It broadens the opportunity to share our outdoor heritage. Hunter education will be placed into the same context as driver’s education and private pilot licenses.
I believe hunting will continue to be safe under this bill since it is the people, not just a hunter education class that put safety into action in the field. Actually, the students that will be attending hunter education class after some field experience may actually be better prepared to participate in the class.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, US Sportsmen Alliance and National Wild Turkey Federation are supporting this type of legislation nationally. They teamed to create a study named Families Afield which is an excellent look at the status of hunting across America today.
I urge sportsmen across Ohio to get behind this legislation by contacting their legislator and asking for support for HB 296. It is vitally important that we work to remove all barriers to getting young people and new hunters/trappers into the outdoors. It helps us to share our outdoor heritage. Sharing that heritage translates into conservation dollars for the future and educated voters protecting our Second Amendment rights at the ballot box.
NOTE: Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award. He is also a 17-year veteran Ohio volunteer hunter education instructor. Additionally he served on the team that wrote the latest Ohio hunter education manual. Moore also serves on the Ohio Division of Wildlife District 5 Hunter Education academy instructor team where he teaches new volunteers how to be good hunter education instructors.