The Wisconsin Legislature is currently considering two companion bills, Assembly Bill (AB) 455 and Senate Bill (SB) 362, which would remove restrictions on Wisconsin’s popular mentored hunting program.
AB 455 is co-sponsored by Wisconsin Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Joel Kleefisch. SB 362 was introduced by Wisconsin Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Terry Moulton. Both bills are currently awaiting committee votes in their respective chambers.
Currently, Wisconsin’s mentored hunting program allows first time hunters who are at least 10-years old to purchase an apprentice hunting license without completing a hunter education course. The apprentice license allows them to hunt with a mentor, who must be at least 18-years old and have completed either a hunter education course or basic training with the U.S. Armed Forces. While hunting, the apprentice must stay within arm’s reach of the mentor. The apprentice and mentor can only bring one firearm, bow, or crossbow between them.
AB 455 and SB 362 aim to build upon the success of Wisconsin’s program by removing the restriction that apprentice hunters must be at least 10-years old, thereby increasing opportunities for kids to enjoy spending time in afield with family and friends. The bills also allow for the mentor, in addition to the apprentice, to have a firearm, bow, or crossbow, which would further encourage experienced hunters to serve as mentors and introduce new hunters to our outdoor heritage.
The state’s apprentice hunting program is a proven success, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issuing over 26,000 apprentice hunting licenses in 2016. Apprentice hunting allows outdoor mentors to instill safety, ethics, and a passion for wildlife conservation and hunting with new hunters, without requiring the first-time apprentice hunter to spend significant time in a hunter education course before they have had a chance to hunt for the first time.
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?