Indiana Apprentice License Effective July 1

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Indiana DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. calls the recently approved "apprentice license" an opportunity for novice hunters of any age to try hunting before having to make large investments in time or equipment.

"This gives people a chance to test the waters and see if hunting is something they will like," Carter said. "Plus, it gives the DNR another important recruiting tool to continue growing a strong constituent base in the conservation movement."

The apprentice license was passed last month by the Indiana legislature and takes effect July 1.

The new law creates an apprentice license that allows an individual to hunt with an adult mentor without first having to pass the state-mandated hunter education course. An individual can purchase up to three apprentice licenses in a lifetime. If age requirements apply, the individual must then become hunter-education certified to continue hunting.

"We're excited," said Glen Salmon, director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. "With the apprentice hunting license, we'll have a chance to safely open up new hunting opportunities for Hoosiers, especially our youngsters."

Rep. Bob Bischoff, Lawrenceburg, authored the legislation and called it a breakthrough for would-be hunters of all ages. It affords parents the flexibility to decide when their children are mature enough to hunt, and it benefits potential first-time adult hunters.

"It is difficult to encourage an adult to take the time to pass the hunter-education course if they have never experienced the joy of a hunt," Bischoff said. "However, if they are allowed to try the sport under an apprentice license, they would likely pursue a full license later on." The bill passed the House, 89-1, the Senate, 40-6, and was signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels on Feb. 27.

The apprentice license initiative had strong support from conservation groups, including the DNR Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, which gave it a unanimous endorsement.

"What a great team win," Salmon said. "We'll have a lot of thank-you cards to write."

John Goss, president of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, said: "Apprentice hunting will provide an incentive for experienced hunters to take novice hunters out into the field for a genuine outdoor hunting experience that will hopefully inspire a lifetime of participation in our Hoosier hunting heritage."

Jack Corpuz, president of the Central Indiana chapter of Pheasants Forever, said: "I think it will spark a lot of new interest, especially in a lot of the kids who up to this point have been unable to get to hunter ed classes. That's the target audience we're after."

Dick Mercier, president of the Indiana Sportsmen's Roundtable, said: "Some people seem to think this is a way to get around, to circumvent the hunter ed program. That's not what we had in mind at all. It's a tool to get people more interested in eventually taking hunter ed. That's what this will do, and hopefully and ultimately (it will) bring more people into hunting."

Other states that have enacted similar apprentice licenses have had positive results. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data from Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Ohio reveal that apprentice license programs brought nearly 34,000 new hunters to the field in just two years.