As dawn breaks on another hunting season, the future of hunting looks much brighter than it did nearly a decade ago. Much of that brighter future is because of the extraordinary success of Families Afield.
The innovative program, launched in 2004, has helped introduce 1 million newcomers to hunting. Not surprisingly, many new hunters are also youth hunters.
Families Afield has worked to encourage states to establish an apprentice hunting license and remove age restrictions that prevent sportsmen and women from passing hunting on to the next generation.
The “try before you buy” concept allows newcomers to go afield with an experienced mentor before completing a hunter education course. Cumulative sales of apprentice hunting licenses have surpassed 1 million since the program began.
Currently, 35 states have approved legislation making it easier for newcomers to try hunting with an experienced mentor.
To learn if your state offers an apprentice hunting license, check the interactive map by clicking here.
This fall, using one example, Nebraska offers two mentored youth hunt opportunities, and seeks experienced hunters to apply to be mentors.
The Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Youth Mentored Hunt Program is open to firearm education graduates ages 11 to 15. Youth participate in hands-on activities to learn shooting, hunting techniques, conservation and dog handling, in addition to the hunt itself. For dates and details, click here.
Nebraska’s Mentored Youth Archery Program is open to bowhunter education graduates ages 12 to 17 who have not graduated from high school. Hunters are paired with qualified bowhunter education instructors and qualified mentors for a full archery season. Mentors will teach youth how to scout, hang tree stands, interpret animal sign and care for the harvest. For program locations and to apply, click here.
Volunteer instructors the lifeblood of Nebraska’s Hunter Education Program. Those who seek to become a mentor can apply here.
Families Afield organizers have observed that new hunters create a ripple effect. Having a new hunter in a family often means other family members and friends become more actively involved in hunting.
The program was developed to ensure the future for the tradition of hunting and conservation. Hunters provide the lion’s share of support for conservation through the purchases of hunting licenses and excise taxes paid on sales of firearms and ammunition.
Families Afield was founded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. The National Rifle Association and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation are also coalition partners in the Families Afield program.
—From the NSSF and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Photos courtesy the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
The National Shooting Sports Foundation® is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 8,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.