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Montana allows youths to go hunting before doing hunter ed

Montana is allowing youths to try hunting before completing hunter education.
Montana is allowing youths to try hunting before completing hunter education.

HUNTING -- Starting today, youth hunters can buy a pass that allows them to hunt before they complete the state's hunter education standard that's been in effect for half a century.

Montana's Fish & Wildlife Commission approved a new rule last week that clears the way for the state's "apprentice hunter" law to take effect.

The law, enacted earlier this year by the state Legislature, allows youth 10-17 years of age to obtain a certification to purchase some Montana hunting licenses before completing a hunter education course. Apprentice hunters, however, are required to be accompanied by an adult mentor.

The $5 Apprentice Certification will be available beginning today, Aug. 10 only at FWP offices.

The new rule approved Thursday defines certain mentor responsibilities and establishes the process for designating and identifying a mentor.

Under the law, apprentice-hunter certification is for two license years only. After two years, the apprentice hunter must complete a hunter safety and education course. Also, to participate in the Apprentice Hunter Program, an apprentice hunter must:

  • be between the ages of 10-17 years old;
  • obtain a $5 certification from an FWP office; certification forms are available online;
  • have all appropriate licenses in their possession at all times while in the field.

For a prospective mentor to participate, he or she must be:

  • 21 years old or older;
  • related to the apprentice by blood, adoption, or marriage; or be the apprentice's legal guardian, or appointed by the apprentice's legal guardian;
  • have completed hunter education–if born after Jan. 1, 1985;
  • have a current Montana hunting license;
  • agree to supervise and remain within sight of and direct voice contact with the apprentice hunter at all times while in the field;
  • only accompany one apprentice at a time;
  • confirm that the apprentice is psychologically and physically prepared to hunt.

Mentors are also required to complete and sign a form, along with the apprentice, and if applicable, the apprentice's parent or legal guardian.

Mentor forms are free and are also available via FWP's website.

An apprentice hunter is not eligible to obtain a special bow and arrow license without first completing a bowhunter education course; a resident hound training license for chasing mountain lion; a bighorn sheep license; an elk license if under 15 years of age. Nor can an apprentice hunter participate in any of Montana's limited-quota hunting license or permit drawings.

Violation of the terms by an apprentice hunter or mentor could result in the loss of hunting privileges for up to one full license season.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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