By Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager
Illinois HB 3623, sponsored by Illinois Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-chair Representative Jerry Costello, looks to expand current apprentice licensing. This legislation amends the current law and would allow individuals to apply for an apprentice hunting license more than once. If passed, the bill would remove the “one-time” stipulation, allowing novice hunters the opportunity to take advantage of a mentor hunt multiple times until they feel comfortable taking the next step.
In an effort to increase hunter participation, many states now offer different youth seasons or programs to encourage potential hunters to go afield. The apprentice hunting license is one of the most common programs that many states have implemented in recent years.
The apprentice hunting license is a tool that provides both youth and adult novice hunters the opportunity to hunt under the supervision of a licensed hunter before they have completed their hunter education course. The program allows participants to have limited hunting privileges, granting them the opportunity to experience hunting first hand and learn valuable skills before deciding to commit to a hunting education class. Because hunting opportunities are often limited for a new hunter, it is important to note that apprentice hunters are able to apply for the license more than once. If an apprentice hunter is able to learn and grow with guidance, they are more likely to take the next steps required to start hunting independently.
“It often takes a person a few years of hunting with a mentor before they feel comfortable investing the time to take a hunting safety class and to become a hunter themselves,” said Rep. Costello. “We should be removing barriers to recruiting new hunters, especially young hunters, which eventually translates into more funding for conservation. This bill does that.”
Recruiting new hunters is essential to maintaining our outdoor heritage. As such, it is important to explore and advance programs like apprentice hunting licenses in order to reduce the barriers to participation and attract new members to the sportsmen’s community.
This bill has passed the Illinois State House 95-0 and is currently on its way to the Senate.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?