Sunday, May 24, 2015

PA Mentored Youth Hunting Program Might Be Working

By Bob Frye

HARRISBURG — It's the logical question.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers a mentored youth hunting program, which lets kids younger than 12 try hunting without first having to get a license. Created in 2005, it's intended to get kids interested in the outdoors before the demands of youth sports and other activities take them away.

Is it working to create hunters?

The answer is: perhaps. Coren Jagnow, of the commission's research and education division, looked at the buying histories of the nearly 99,000 junior hunters — kids ages 12-16 — who had a junior license or junior combo license going into deer season last fall.

One of the things she looked at was whether children who had a mentored permit at least once bought more licenses between the ages of 12 and 16 than those who didn't.

“The answer is absolutely yes, they do,” Jagnow told commissioners at their Monday work group meeting.

The older a junior hunter was, and the more consistent he or she was in buying a license each year, the more likely they were to have come from a mentored background, she added.

She offered one caution with that, though. That results suggest “correlation, but not necessarily causation,” she said.

In other words, it's unclear whether mentored youth hunting alone turned young hunters into sportsmen or if they more likely joined the ranks because they came from a background where their adult mentors made a point of introducing them to hunting, she said.

Commissioner Tim Layton of Windber said the result is the same.
“We're developing hunters to the long-term,” he said.

They are more avid than the average youngster, at least.

Jagnow looked at what kind of licenses the 99,000 junior hunters bought: regular junior licenses, which gave them the right to hunt, or junior combo licenses, which carried extra privileges, allowing to take part in archery, muzzleloader and furtaking seasons.

She discovered that while youngsters with a mentored background accounted for only 45 percent of the overall junior hunter pool, they represented more than half of combo licenses sales.

That benefits juniors by providing extra opportunities, and the commission financially, she said. A regular junior hunting license sells for $6.70, a combo license for $9.70.

Program additions

More mentored hunting is likely on the way.

When they hold their quarterly meeting in June, Game Commissioners will consider adding mourning doves and cottontail rabbits to the list of species that mentored youth can hunt. If preliminary approval is given, final approval could come in September. Hunting would start in the fall of 2016.

To hunt doves, mentored youth would have to buy a migratory bird license for $3.70. Commissioners considered waiving that, but said they want to collect information on the number of youngsters hunting and how many birds they're taking, just as they do with adults.

The mentored rabbit hunt, meanwhile, will come with some restrictions.

The intent is not to have kids “jumping on brush piles” or even to have adult mentors posting a child in one spot and walking around to flush rabbits to them, said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County. Adults and mentored youth will have to remain stationary and target rabbits run by them by dogs or by other people.

The commission developed those guidelines in cooperation with beagle clubs, said commission deputy director Rich Palmer.

“I think this will be a positive thing,” Palmer said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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