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Adult mentored hunting program looms on horizon

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 10:39 p.m.

HARRISBURG — It's possible, even likely, that Pennsylvania Game Commissioners will offer an adult mentored hunting program starting next fall.

But exactly what form it will take has not been determined.

State lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation permitting the commission to expand its popular and successful mentored youth program. It now has the authority to let adults try hunting, under the guidance of a mentor, for a limited time without first having to pass a hunter education safety course or buy a license.

It's up to the commission to determine how the program will work.

However, that prompted a lot of debate when commissioners held their work group meeting in Harrisburg.

By statute, the commission has the authority to let adults try hunting for up to three years before they have to buy a license. Commissioners, though, aren't required to give would-be hunters that long to decide if they like the sport.

And some made it clear they don't want to.

“I think they should get one year to try hunting, and then if they like it, fine, they should go take a hunter safety course and buy a license,” said commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County.

Commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County agrees, saying that letting children younger than 12 have multiple years to experiment with hunting is one thing. Adults should be treated differently.

“To give them three full years … I don't buy that,” Delaney said.

Others on the board say they aren't worried, however.

“I don't want to put a lot of restrictions on this. I'd rather we be more inclusive and put trust in the mentors,” Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle said he'd like the program to offer adults the chance to hunt for two years, anyway. That would eliminate the chance of bad weather limiting their opportunities, specifically if they were interested in just one kind of hunting, such as spring gobbler hunting, and would give them more time to sample the full range of hunting opportunities.

Some research on adult mentoring programs elsewhere suggests the longer people have to try the sport before committing, the more likely they are to eventually become license buyers, added commission executive director Carl Roe.

Either way, he said he'd like the board to settle on some guidelines by its next meeting in January. Final approval of those guidelines could come in April. That would give the agency time to get the word out about the program and implement it in time for the 2014-15 hunting year, he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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