Oregon Offers New Youth Hunting Program

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Youths age 9-13 can now hunt under the close supervision of an adult without first passing a hunter education class.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission today adopted administrative rules for Oregon’s first Mentored Youth Hunter Program, after the state legislature passed a bill earlier this year creating the program.

"Oregon's hunters now have a fantastic opportunity to introduce kids to hunting," said Marla Rae, Commission Chair. "This is a great way for parents, grandparents and others to introduce their kids and grandchildren to hunting in a safe, responsible way."

The close supervision of an experienced hunter is probably the best way to introduce a young person to safe and ethical hunting. The program is based on the recommendations of ODFW's Hunter Recruitment Advisory Committee and the experience of other states. Programs that eliminate or reduce age restrictions have been approved in 12 other states and are pending in five others.

Research demonstrates that early exposure is critical to people taking up hunting or other forms of outdoor recreation. But children and their families are very busy today, and taking a hunter education class is a significant time commitment of 18-20 hours that some may perceive as a barrier to hunting. The Mentored Youth Hunter Program offers a "try before you buy" approach to hunting.

The program does not remove the hunter education requirement; it defers it. Under the program, youth without hunter education certification are only allowed to hunt under the close supervision of an adult and on the adult’s tags. Hunter education is required if a youth wishes to purchase their own hunting license or tag or is 14 or older.

Several safety precautions are built into the program:

  • * Youth and supervisor must review, and youth must sign, safe hunting information prior to hunting. Youth must keep a signed copy of the safe hunting section on their person during the hunt.
  • * The supervising hunter is also accountable for all the actions of the youth hunter. It is the supervisor's responsibility to follow all hunting regulations and ensure that each mentored youth is trained in firearm and hunter safety before engaging in hunting or related activities.
  • * A supervising hunter can only hunt with one youth at a time.
  • * Only one legal hunting weapon between the supervisor and youth is allowed while hunting.
  • * The supervisor must remain in immediate control of the youth, meaning the two must stay in close proximity at all times while the youth is in possession of a legal hunting weapon.
  • * It is strongly recommended that the supervising hunter and mentored youth wear blaze orange during hunting or related activities.

Other states that have similar programs have seen an increase in youth participation without a single hunting-related shooting incident.

"Hunting is a significant and key part of Oregon's culture and heritage," said ODFW Director Roy Elicker. "It is important that we recruit new hunters to carry on this tradition and this program will help the hunting community do that."

To take part in the program, youth and supervising hunter should complete a registration form available on ODFW's web site or in the game bird and big game hunting regulations to be published later this year. The form includes a section where youth and supervisor review safe hunting information. Part of the form should be returned to ODFW, Information and Education, 3406 Cherry Ave. NE, Salem, OR 97302. Completing and mailing in the form allows youth to receive a mentored hunt preference point for use in a future controlled hunt application.

More details about how the program works are available by contacting ODFW's Information and Education Division at (503) 947-6002 or visiting ODFW's web site http://www.dfw.state.or.us and clicking on the "Mentor Youth Hunter Program" link under Hot Topics.