State passing hunting torch to next generation
Wisconsinís annual deer hunt is a treasured ritual shared by families and friends.
Hunters young and old have fond memories of hitting the woods before dawn on a crisp autumn morning.
During the 1990s, about one quarter of Wisconsinís adult population participated in hunting each year.
But the number of hunters is declining, making it more difficult to control the deer population.
The state Department of Natural Resources predicts a large decline in the number of deer hunters in the next 10 to 20 years as baby boomers move out of the ranks of hunters.
Conservation groups and the DNR have several initiatives to encourage youths and adults alike to try hunting for the first time.
Learn to Hunt courses give inexperienced hunters safe and rewarding first-time hunting experiences. At Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center near Wisconsin Rapids, about 200 youth and beginner adults are paired up one-on-one with mentors. They receive both classroom and field instruction prior to an actual hunt.
Applications for both the youth and adult Learn to Hunt one-day workshops will be available next spring on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.wi.gov.
Special hunting seasons for kids are held each year. The youth deer hunt was Oct. 11-12. Hunters ages 12-15 who have completed hunter education programs and possess gun deer hunting licenses participate.
Under the Mentored Hunter Program, 10- and 11-year-olds will be able to hunt for the first time this year outside of a Learn to Hunt course. The Mentored Hunter Law passed the Legislature earlier this year and went into effect Sept. 1.
The law allows a child as young as 10 to obtain a hunting license and hunt with a mentor without first completing a hunter education course.
Participants in the Mentored Hunter Program must be at least 10, possess all appropriate licenses, stamps, permits and tags, and follow all other hunting laws.
The youngster must hunt when within armís reach of a mentor. A mentor can serve as a mentor to only one hunter at a time, and the mentor and the hunter must share one gun or bow.
Hunters in the Mentored Hunter Program qualify for reduced license fees. Most, such as small game, turkey, deer, bear and archery, cost $7, while turkey and pheasant stamps are $4.50.
The idea is to give youngsters a taste of hunting side-by-side with an adult and an opportunity to hold and shoot the gun. If the child enjoys the sport and wants to continue to hunt in future seasons, he or she would take the 10-hour hunter education course.
Hunter education courses are typically held one or two nights per week for six or seven weeks. These courses are offered around the state for youths and adults alike. Check the DNR Web site for courses.
Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, represents the stateís 15th Senate District, which includes most of Rock County and the Whitewater area. She can be reached at 1-800-334-1468, (608) 266-2253, by e-mail at sen.robson@legis.Wisconsin.gov; or by regular mail at P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707-7882.