By Aaron Hepler
Pennsylvania is a state known for deep hunting traditions, a high hunter population, and, unfortunately, no Sunday hunting. After years of following this seemingly set-in-stone rule, Pennsylvania recently scored an awesome win - three Sundays per year to legally hunt. Similar to this fight is another fight - for growth in the ranks of hunters and fishermen in Pennsylvania.
I grew up in a family that hunted and fished their hearts out. We didn’t own video games or cell phones and didn’t have cable TV. But we sure had fun! Between my dad, my uncle, my grandfather, and some good family friends, I formed foundational hunting and fishing experiences. Today with broken families, lack of interest, and low numbers of mentors, we are missing out on recruitment and retention in the ranks of hunters and anglers.
“A land facing ceaseless development. A people overly reliant upon technology and motorized equipment. A quality of life – particularly the sporting life – that seems increasingly in jeopardy.” This quote from the BHA mission statement is becoming a reality today.
Pennsylvania has an abundance of opportunities to become a hunting mentor. Special licenses are available for kids as early as a parent sees fit through 16 years old to hunt squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, coyotes, turkeys, doves, and deer. This license (minus dove hunting) is also available to adult mentees. These licenses may be purchased for three years before an individual is required to take a hunter education and safety course.
"Let’s get on the same page. Take time to mentor adults, who in turn will make more mentors. Use every opportunity we can to take a kid hunting and fishing. We want our sport to keep thriving."
Permits purchased for youth under 7 years of age do not include big game tags, however; one antlered, one antlerless, a fall turkey, and a spring turkey tag may be transferred to a youth at the time of harvest with their mentor’s tag.
PA has multiple youth seasons that provide a low-stakes way to introduce youth into hunting (not all are available for mentored youth license holders). Opportunities to hunt squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, spring turkey, deer, and bears are all available.
Unfortunately, these seasons sometimes receive flak from elder sportsmen. General statements come in the form of “didn’t have that when we were kids and I still hunt,” “youth are going to get spoiled”, “I pay for a license, they shouldn’t have an advantage that I don’t have.” As politely as I can say it, if you are one of those people, consider rethinking your position. Hunting numbers are dwindling and the sport is suffering. The world needs the passion for the outdoors that we presently have the privilege to enjoy.
Let’s get on the same page. Take time to mentor adults, who in turn will make more mentors. Use every opportunity we can to take a kid hunting and fishing. We want our sport to keep thriving.
Despite the naysayers, PA is an incredible state to hunt. With ample amounts of public land, awesome opportunities to involve youth, and new adult hunters, Pennsylvania is killin’ it!
For more information on PGC’s mentored hunting programs and how they work, Click Here.
Also check out PA BHA’s Take Two Mentoring Program and Mentor/Mentee Match Up Here.