Two states try to ease hunting-age laws

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two bills that will make it easier for youngsters to become involved in hunting advanced today in state legislatures. The bills are part of the Families Afield campaign, established by a partnership of sportsmen's organizations to aid in the recruitment of new hunters.

Ohio HB 296, a bill that creates an apprentice hunting license, was today approved 89 to 3 by the House of Representatives. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Buehrer, R-Delta, introduced the legislation to allow licensed, mentor hunters to take apprentice hunters into the field prior to the completion of hunter education certification.

"The progress of this bill is important for all sportsmen," said Tony Celebrezze, director of state services for the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA). "The more hunters in the field, young or old, the better the future for hunting and conservation in Ohio."

Families Afield legislation also advanced in Wisconsin today. Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, the chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, amended AB 586 to create an apprentice hunter program for those 8 years of age and older. In the original bill, the apprentice program was only available to those 10 years of age or older. The committee approved the bill, 12 to 2. A floor vote is expected as early as Thursday.

Both bills are part of the Families Afield program. The USSA, along with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, introduced Families Afield in an effort to stem the tide of hunters lost to other interests and increase hunter recruitment throughout the country.

The USSA protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the USSA and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website, www.ussportsmen.org.