The 2017 North Dakota legislative session is coming to a close, but not before two important pro-sportsmen’s bills were recently signed into law.
House Bill 1204 – Introduced and supported by members of the North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, including Co-Chairs Representative Todd Porter and Senator Erin Oban, this bill lowers the age requirement to obtain an apprentice hunting license from 16-years of age to 12-years of age. Additionally, it will allow those whose 11th birthday occurs in the same year as a youth deer hunting season to participate in that year’s youth deer season.
Representative Porter commented after the signing of the bill, “With the competition for time our children have, it is imperative they have opportunities to participate in hunting activities at a younger age. These programs offer the opportunity for parents to share a hunting season with little competition, and provide one on one supervision of the young hunter.”
Apprentice hunting licenses offer 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. These programs allow apprentice hunters to receive hands-on experience and provide additional encouragement to complete a formal hunter education course.
House Bill 1419 – Sponsored by members of the North Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, including Co-Chairs Representative Corey Mock and Senator Erin Oban, this bill appropriates $250,000 from the game and fish fund for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to establish and administer a shooting sports grant program for schools and youth organizations. Beginning July 1, 2017, the Director of the Game and Fish Department will be able to make grants available to schools, clubs, and organized youth groups to promote and facilitate shooting sports.
Research by the National Shooting Sports Foundation indicates that the earlier someone is initiated into shooting sports, the more likely they are to continue shooting in the years to come. Programs like North Dakota’s new grant program offer youth an opportunity to participate in the shooting sports in a safe and mentored environment, which should result in an enjoyable shooting experience and lead to active participation later in life.
North Dakota’s hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters contributed over $28 million in 2015 to state conservation efforts through the American System of Conservation Funding. Shooting sport programs and apprentice hunting licenses are key parts of recruiting, retention, and reactivation efforts, helping bring in new sportsmen and women to maintain and increase funding available to conserve North Dakota’s fish and wildlife resources, as well as protect our outdoor heritage for future generations.
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?