Two Families Afield bills are poised to be signed into law in the coming days in Utah and Wyoming. The measures, which are part of the Families Afield campaign, aim to reduce barriers to getting the next generation of American hunters into the field.
In Utah, Senate Bill 165 cleared the House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 62-9. Sponsored by Senator Ralph Okerlund (R-Monroe) and supported by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the bill establishes a trial hunting permit in the state to allow new hunters to take to the field under the supervision of a licensed mentor prior to completing a hunter education course. Also known as apprentice hunting, this “try-before-you-buy” concept is a key component of the Families Afield program and has been shown to produce significant results in recruiting new hunters to the sport.
“These new and expanded programs have the potential to open many doors for new hunters and future conservationists in these states,” said Chris Dolnack, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “These are great opportunities and we thank the Utah and Wyoming legislatures for supporting these important programs. They will have a tremendous impact on the future of hunting.”
In Wyoming, a measure to expand and improve the state’s existing apprentice hunting program, known as the hunter education deferral program, passed the House of Representatives 53-3. Senate File 38, sponsored by Senator Leland Christensen (R-Alta), will allow multi-year participation in the program and will also permit parents to supervise more than one of their children at a time. Multi-year apprentice programs provide new hunters additional opportunities to experience hunting in a safe and exciting manner before taking hunter education and becoming a fully licensed hunter.
“Since 2006, apprentice hunting has reeled in over one million new hunters, each contributing dollars to wildlife conservation through license purchases and supporting the thriving outdoor economy in this country,” said Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) vice president of government affairs. “The future of hunting depends on our ability to recruit new hunters to the sport. Families Afield continues to be the premier hunter recruitment and retention program available today and we’re extremely proud of its accomplishments.”
Families Afield was founded in 2005 by NSSF, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the USSA. Along with the National Rifle Association and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Families Afield bills have been passed in 35 states resulting in the sale of more than one million apprentice licenses.