Report shows that young hunters are safe hunters

The following report from the National Wild Turkey Federation gives good support to the need for Rep. Steve Buehrer's HB296, Apprentice Hunting License bill.

A new report shows that young hunters supervised by an adult mentor have one of the lowest injury rates of all hunters. "The most important factor affecting youth hunting safety is the presence of a responsible, attentive adult hunter, which is often a parent," said Jim Wentz of Silvertip Productions. "The research shows that supervised young hunters are the safest even in states that don't restrict hunting based on age."

The Youth Hunting report, which features new research, was compiled and analyzed by Silvertip Productions and the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance. The report was funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has a goal of advancing the hunting and shooting sports. The National Wild Turkey Federation has led the charge in promoting youth hunting opportunities and has teamed up with the USSA and NSSF to do just that.

"Introducing our children to hunting is important for several reasons," said Rob Keck, NWTF CEO. "First, hunting allows families to spend time outdoors and share quality time together. Second, research shows those who start hunting early in life are more likely to hunt as adults. With those positive outcomes and the proven safety record of young hunters, why would we prevent young people from hunting?"

According to the research, 33 states restrict youth participation in hunting. These restrictions include minimum ages for young people under 13 and rigid hunter education requirements before most participation is permitted.

"By making the opportunity to hunt so difficult, we're taking potential hunters out of the game and by the time they can legally hunt, they're interested in other activities," said Doug Painter, NSSF president.

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The data also shows that youngsters are less likely to take up hunting in states that have the most restrictive requirements for youth participation. However, states that removed barriers to youth hunting have a much higher youth recruitment rate.

"This research proves what we have been saying for years," said Bud Pidgeon, president and CEO of USSA. "States with strict age limits produce fewer young hunters and that means fewer adult hunters for the future. If we don't start replenishing hunters now, we could let our heritage slip away. Then, who will shoulder the responsibility of conservation in the future?"

The time to recruit young hunters is now so we can take advantage of the large number of mentors available to introduce youth to hunting. The report shows that more than 45 percent of U.S. hunters are between the ages of 35 and 54, an age group likely to have children old enough to mentor. However, there are considerably fewer hunters between the ages of 25 and 34, meaning in the future, there will be fewer people to pass on our hunting heritage.

States that have opened the door to young hunters are finding it's a positive and safe experience. The Missouri Department of Conservation initiated a special youth turkey hunt in spring 2001 and then started a youth firearms deer hunt in the fall of the same year. These special seasons allow youth age 6 to 15 to purchase a permit where they can hunt with an adult who has passed a hunter safety course.

"There's been a lot of public support for the youth hunts," said Bill Heatherly, wildlife programs supervisor for Missouri Department of Conservation. "And there have been no hunting incidents during either of Missouri's youth hunting seasons since their inception."

Even though the number of turkey-hunting-related shooting incidents is extremely low, the NWTF is taking every possible measure to help reduce the number of incidents through education and awareness. The NWTF unveiled a draft of a Turkey Hunting Safety and Success education curriculum at a recent International Hunter Education Association meeting, which was composed of hunter safety instructors and coordinators. The curriculum is expected to be available this fall.

"This curriculum will be a great tool for hunter education instructors as well as those who teach youth events such as JAKES, Trailblazers, Step Outside and more," said Keck. "Using the latest technology, this curriculum will be a fun and hands-on way to teach people to become better and safer turkey hunters."

For more information about the Youth Hunting Report, contact Jonathan Harling of the NWTF at (800) THE-NWTF.

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