Youth are the future of our hunting tradition. Without constant recruitment nobody will carry on the torch into the future. This is particularly true of predator hunters, a group that is constantly under attack. Anti-hunters don’t particularly like deer or pheasant hunters, but because predator hunters don’t eat their take, for the most part, and promote the renewable resource of fur, the group is always under attack.

There’s also the silent enemy. An increasingly urbanized society, single-parent homes, electronic diversions galore, a flood of extracurricular activities and career demands are but a few of the reasons children don’t get into hunting. Don’t let these obstacles crush our hunting heritage. It’s up to you to make new hunters and you can do it with the help of a mentor program. If you want help putting your child or another’s on the path to becoming a predator hunter then consider options in your state for a mentored, early start.

State after state is starting new programs to give young hunters an early beginning into the hunting world. Most are called mentored or apprentice hunting programs, and many are initiated under the flagship program Families Afield. Two groups that teamed together to create Families Afield are the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The latest state to jump into the initiative is Iowa that just passed a law creating an apprentice-hunting license for adults.

“It’s exciting to see the continued growth and acceptance of Families Afield across the country,” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance President and CEO, Nick Pinizzotto. “Apprentice hunting recruits new hunters in safe and exciting manner, and we couldn’t be more proud of the program.” 

Programs vary, but most allow a new hunter to go into the field with an adult, licensed hunter, without taking a hunter safety first. My home state of Wyoming follows this outline and then new hunters have a year to complete a certified hunter safety course.

Check out programs in your state. And next time your child, grandchild or curious neighborhood kid watches you take a coyote to the skinning shed, consider enrolling them in the program. Become a mentor. States are making it easier every year and it’s a direct route to making a new hunter, and preserving a sport we certainly don’t want to go away.