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Wisconsin Youth Hunting Bill Clears Senate Panel

Legislation permitting parents to decide when young people will begin to hunt is one step closer to becoming law in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Senate Natural Resources and Transportation Committee approved Assembly Bill 586 by a 4-1 margin after hearing from witnesses including hunting activists, hunter education volunteers and parents. The committee vote clears the way for the bill to go to the full Senate.

AB 586 creates an apprentice hunting license program, which would permit parents to introduce young people to hunting under restricted circumstances before the completion of a hunter education course. The new law would require youth to be 8 years old and within arms length of an adult mentor at all times. Current law requires hunters to be 12 years old before taking to the woods.

Testifying on behalf of the new law were several National Wild Turkey Federation members, including national board member Bill Torhorst, regional field supervisor Charley Burke, local chapter president Dean Hamilton and chapter member Gary Jackson.

“Hunting is a tradition passed from parent to child, and when you restrict the age at which a young person can enter the woods, you interfere with that tradition,” Torhorst said. “This law gives families another opportunity to strengthen their ties, while at the same time removing barriers for youth hunting.”

Wisconsin has the third largest hunting economy in the nation with more than $1 billion spent a year on projects benefiting wildlife.

“Parents, not legislators, should be the ones to determine when their child is old enough to hunt,” Burke said. “By starting them hunting a younger age, we could also ensure the future of hunting in Wisconsin stays strong. In turn, that would help continue to fund wildlife projects in the state. It’s a win-win situation.”

A report written by Silvertip Productions, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and Southwick Associates Inc., shows youth hunters are the safest hunters in the woods when accompanied by an adult. The report was funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the NWTF. The NWTF has led the charge in promoting youth hunting opportunities and has teamed up with the USSA and NSSF to remove youth hunting barriers across the nation.

The research compelled the three organizations to launch Families Afield, a program designed to work with hunters and elected officials about the impact of high age restrictions.

In Wisconsin, the NWTF, NSSF and USSA are working with the Wisconsin State Chapter of the NWTF, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Chapters of Safari Club and the National Rifle Association.

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