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Cooperation Helps Youth Hunters in Pennsylvania

Like many grandfathers in Pennsylvania, Ron Fretts wasn't able to take his grandsons hunting because, until recently, it was illegal.

For that reason, Fretts, a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation's Board of Directors, decided to do something about it. And, what started as a family affair ended up changing youth hunting legislation in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell recently signed House Bill 1690, which authorizes the Pennsylvania Game Commission to establish a mentored youth hunting program.

"I have a number of grandsons who were under the legal age to hunt that I'd love to take to the field," Fretts said. "Before this legislation was passed, my grandsons could go along, but they couldn't shoot. It was like taking a kid to a little league game and telling him he couldn't play."

Fretts gathered 12 other concerned citizens from sportsmen's organizations across the state and formed the Mentored Youth Hunting Committee in 2004. The committee gained support from the NWTF, an organization that has led the charge against youth hunting restrictions across the nation. Joining the NWTF on the quest for the approval of a mentored youth hunting program were the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The three organizations brought to the table tangible research evidence regarding youth hunting through the Families Afield initiative. Drawing on the Families Afield concept, which aims to remove barriers for youth hunting across the nation, the organizations quickly joined forces to move the legislation through the system.

And the legislation gained tremendous support from state legislators. The Pennsylvania Senate voted 50-0 to approve the program and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 195-1 to start the youth mentored hunting program.

"The purpose of this program is to encourage new and younger hunters to enter the realm of hunting," said Gregory Isabella, member of the Board of Game Commissioners in Pennsylvania. "The quality time that can be shared between a youth and a mentor is immeasurable. There simply is no better way to introduce a young person to safe, ethical and responsible aspects of hunting than with the close supervision of an adult mentor that this program creates."

A report written by Silvertip Productions, the USSA 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 NSSF 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 barriers to youth hunting across the nation.

The Pennsylvania Mentored Youth Hunting committee members represent 9 different conservation and hunting organizations. Organizations represented are:

Pennsylvania State Chapter of the NWTF
Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs
United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania
Central County Sportsmen
Pennsylvania Game Commission
National Rifle Association
Quality Deer Management Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Big Brothers, Big Sisters
For more information about the NWTF, call (800) THE-NWTF.

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