When Minnesota’s firearms deer hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 5, many people who would like to hunt won’t.
No one invited them.
“A lot of men, women and children will be sitting on a couch instead of a stand because no one has offered to take them hunting,” said Jenifer Wical, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) customer relations manager. “This year, we’re encouraging hunters to invite a buddy to camp because it is not always about the buck, it’s about friends, family and making memories that last a lifetime.”
Years ago, it was more difficult to introduce someone new to hunting because of certain firearms safety requirements. Today, firearms safety is still required for those born after Dec. 31, 1979, but Minnesota offers a two-year exemption when certain safety precautions are followed. As a result, it’s easier to introduce someone new to hunting, even on the spur of the moment.
“Many deer camps are changing,” said Wical. “Older hunters are dropping out. Younger hunters aren’t filling the void. That means there’s an opportunity to pass the hunting tradition onto someone new, someone who has been sitting on the sidelines but would have been a player if only they had been asked.”
People who want to hunt but have not completed a firearms safety course can use the Apprentice Hunter Validation Program. Under this program, adults and youth age 12 or older purchase a $3.50 validation and the appropriate hunting license. Together, these purchases enable the person to hunt when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter who is within unaided sight and speaking distance at all times.
Since this program began in 2007, roughly 14,000 people have purchased the apprentice hunter validation, according to Wical. Nearly 40 percent of these people went on to complete firearms safety courses and 30 percent are still hunting today. Those statistics, she said, suggest that many people “buddied-up to hunt” and are still doing it, which is good for both hunting and social traditions.
The apprentice hunter validation is available anywhere DNR licenses are sold, which includes by phone at 888-665-4236 or online.