State lawmakers are considering a proposal which would create a new type of license aimed at recruiting more hunters and trappers to experience the outdoor pursuits. Presently anybody born after January 1, 1975 must take a hunter education course to qualify to buy a hunting license in West Virginia.
The proposed Apprentice Hunter/Trapper license would allow that requirement to be waived for three to five years if somebody wants to give hunting a try.
"We want to give people an opportunity who may want to try hunting, but don't want all the expense or the time to take a hunter safety class and then find out it's really not for them," said DNR Director Frank Jezioro. "They could buy this license without the hunter safety card for three years out of a five-year period. After that they would have to take the class and buy a regular license."
The bill was brought to lawmakers by the National Rifle Association who has successfully introduced the legislation in other states. The idea is to pair up an inexperienced hunter with a licensed veteran hunter to learn how to hunt or trap safely and effectively. The hope is the experience will be positive and the new hunter will become a lifelong hunter.
"Maybe a guy who's 25 has never been hunting and his buddies encourage him to go," said Jezioro. "With this license he could go as long as he hunts with a licensed adult hunter for three years before he would have to take the hunter safety course and buy a regular hunting license."
The cost of the Apprentice Hunting/Trapping license would be $19.
The measure is also aimed at accommodating youthful hunters from out-of-state who may visit family in West Virginia during one of the hunting seasons and may want to give it a try. Under present law, all out-of-state hunters, regardless of age, must buy a regular hunting license. However, unless the youngster has taken an approved hunter education course, they cannot buy a West Virginia license and therefore cannot hunt. Youth hunters who live in West Virginia can hunt with a licensed adult until the age of 15 before they must have the hunter education course and buy the regular hunting license.
Jezioro says while it's a bill put forward by the NRA, his agency supports the idea. He says it may also serve as a way to clear up a loophole created inadvertently years ago. Presently a youth hunter can hunt for any game in the state with the supervision of an adult, except antlerless deer. Regulations require all hunters killing a doe to buy the Class "N" stamp, but one must have a regular hunting license to buy the "N" stamp. Therefore without the hunter safety course the youth cannot buy the license and consequently cannot purchase the antlerless hunting permit. Jezioro says it's still up in the air as to whether the bill will address the oversight.
Members of the House Natural Resources Committee tabled the bill this week. A similar version has also been introduced in the state Senate.
by Chris Lawrence