New Year Under Way For Mentored Youth Hunting Program
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe encourages experienced hunters, who have historically helped pass along the state's rich hunting heritage, to consider introducing youths to hunting through the Mentored Youth Hunting Program (MYHP).
"Since 2006, Pennsylvania's hunters have been taking advantage of a remarkable opportunity to introduce those under the age of 12 to hunting through the Mentored Youth Hunting Program," Roe said. "Hunting is deeply woven into the cultural fabric that is Pennsylvania, and it is important that we recruit new hunters to carry on this tradition."
Roe noted that the logic behind the Mentored Youth Hunting Program is simple and clear: create expanded youth hunting opportunities without compromising safety afield.
"This program paves the way for youngsters to nurture their interest in hunting early and allows them to take a more active role in actual hunting while afield with mentoring adults," Roe said. "The program accommodates hands-on use of sporting arms and can promote a better understanding and interest in hunting and wildlife conservation that will help to assure hunting's future, as well as reinforce the principles of hunting safely through the close supervision provided by dedicated mentors."
Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual at least 21 years of age, who will serve as a guide to a youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearms or hunter safety and wildlife identification. A mentored youth is identified as an unlicensed individual less than 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.
The regulations require that the mentor-to-mentored youth ratio be one-to-one, and that the pair possesses only one sporting arm when hunting. While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor. When the pair reaches a stationary hunting location, the mentor may turn over possession of the sporting arm to the youth and must keep the youth within arm's length at all times.
New this year is the requirement that all mentored youth obtain a permit through the Game Commission's new Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS), which costs $2.70. Of that fee, one dollar goes to the Game Commission, one dollar goes to the issuing agent who processes the permit application, and 70 cents goes to the company managing PALS.
"When we first started the MYHP, we didn't require a permit because there was no method available to issue a permit without creating an enormous obstacle for participants," Roe said. "With the full roll-out of our electronic license sale system this year, we can provide a method for adult mentors to enable youth obtain a permit without too many difficulties.
"By implementing the permit for the MYHP, we will be able to start gathering data about the level of participation in this program, which can be used to assist in better planning and scheduling our basic Hunter-Trapper Education courses. This database of MYHP participants will let us know how many young hunters are approaching 11 years of age, and where they live, so that we can make sure the number of courses we are offering will meet the expected demand."
Currently, the agency has used its annual Game-Take Survey to estimate the level of participation in the MYHP. According to the agency's annual Game- Take Surveys, participation in the MYHP has increased in terms of adult mentors and youths. In 2006, the first year of the program, 43,780 youths were mentored by 32,913 adults. That year, the mentored youths harvested 52,788 squirrels and 36,351 woodchucks. In 2007, the number of mentored youth grew to 58,883, and there were 51,141 adult mentors. That year, mentored youths harvested 61,160 squirrels, 52,114 groundhogs, 5,199 antlered deer and 3,496 spring gobblers.
The species identified as legal game for the upcoming license year are woodchucks (groundhogs), squirrels, spring gobbler, coyotes and antlered deer. Those youths participating in the MYHP are required to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which is one antler of three or more inches in length or one antler with at least two points. Antlerless deer are not legal game for participating MYHP youth.
The program also requires that both the mentor and the youth must abide by any fluorescent orange regulations, and that the mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or spring gobbler taken. As part of the MYHP permit, youth will be provided the necessary harvest tags for antlered deer and spring gobbler.
The youth must submit a harvest report card, which is available as inserts in the 2009-10 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, within five days for any antlered deer or spring gobbler he or she takes. Harvest report cards also are available in the "Forms & Programs" section of the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).
For more information on the program, visit the Game Commission at (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Mentored Youth FAQs" in "Quick Clicks" box in the upper right corner of the homepage. Information also is included on page 13 of the 2009- 10 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.
To continue hunting once a youth reaches the age of 12, they will need to pass a basic huntertrapper education course and purchase either a junior hunting license or a junior combination license. For a listing of HTE courses, visit the Game Commission at (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on the "Hunter Education Classes" link in the center of the homepage.