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It has never been easier for mentors to recruit

WEST CHESTER — Derek Stoner congratulated everyone in the room who had served at least once as a mentor in the Pennsylvania Game Commission Mentored Youth Hunting Program that allows youth younger than 12 years of age to hunt squirrels, rabbits, doves, woodchucks, coyotes, deer and turkeys under the immediate supervision of a licensed adult hunter.

Mentored youth younger than age 7 are not issued a big-game harvest tags with their Mentored Youth permit, but may take a deer or turkey when an adult mentor transfers their tag. Also, the mentor and mentored youth may possess just one sporting arm between them, which must be carried by the mentor at all times when moving.

While the success of the program continues to grow, Stoner, who is coordinator of PGC Hunter Outreach, told his audience at this year’s Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association conference that youngsters between the ages of 12-17 who had never participated in the program and adults who have never had a hunting license need to be recruited and mentored.

While the program for adults has been in effect, the program for youth is new this year, with Rep. Neal Goodman of Mahanoy City being a chief architect of the program.

Mentored adults must hunt within eyesight of their mentors and may only hunt squirrels, ruffed grouse, rabbits, pheasants with the required pheasant permit, bobwhite quail, hares, porcupines, woodchucks, crows, coyotes, antlerless deer and turkeys. Mentored adults receive a spring gobbler tag with their permits, but in order to take a fall turkey their mentor must transfer their fall turkey tag and to take an antlerless deer their mentor must transfer a antlerless license or Deer Management Assistance Program permit.

Stoner said the mentored programs are considered important recruitment tools, but are not intended as a substitute for getting a hunting license. As such, mentored hunters ages 12 or older may participate in a mentored program for a maximum of three consecutive license years.

After that, or following any year they lapse from the program, mentored hunters are required to obtain a license to continue hunting. Youngsters who participated in the mentored youth program for at least three years before turning 12 would be required to get a license at 12, rather than continuing as a mentored hunter.

“We are building a network of mentors and mentoring programs across the state of Pennsylvania, to serve a wider range of participants and continue Pennsylvania’s tradition as a hunting powerhouse, and it’s important those eligible for mentoring are informed of their opportunities to receive training, mentorship and better education to maximize their experience outdoors,” Stoner said. “More importantly, knowledge and expertise gathered from decades spent afield by potential mentors is valuable to new folks who may benefit from their guidance as individuals.

“I highly encourage potential mentors to consider helping out with one or more of the programs available. Their perspective on the future of hunting will be renewed by serving as a mentor and supporter of new participants.”

Here is a brief outline of the mentor programs sponsored by the Game Commission:

¯ Digital Mentor Program — A partnership with Powderhook — a company leading the way in the field of connecting new participants to hunting, fishing, and the shooting sports enables the PGC to reach a wide audience of people interested in engaging with outdoors activities. The Powderhook app includes useful features like detailed maps, upcoming events in the sportsman community, a calendar of training opportunities and a mentor platform that helps experienced outdoorsmen connect with those who have questions on how to get started. To sign up as a mentor visit the agency’s Digital Mentor page at www.powderhook.com/mentorship/pennsylvania-game-commission.

¯ HuntWildPA — This is a relatively new PGC blog that connects readers to content that focuses on hunting, wildlife and conservation topics of interest. Feature articles about hunting, mentoring hunters and outdoors activities like target shooting and land management are posted and can be found at www.huntwildpa.com.

¯ Hunter Mentor Training — This comprehensive curriculum designed by the International Hunter Education Association and supported by Pheasants Forever, provides certification to those who serve as in-the-field mentors. By taking traditional hunter education out of the classroom and into the field, the hands-on training helps new participants gain confidence quickly and assimilate more readily into the hunting lifestyle.

¯ Field to Fork — In 2018, Pennsylvania offered two sessions of the Field to Fork mentored deer hunting program that is coordinated by the Quality Deer Management Association. Plans are to offer a first-ever mentored deer hunt at a national wildlife refuge, serving an urban audience at the John Heinz refuge in Philadelphia. Information about Field to Fork is available on the QDMA website at www.qdma.com/recruit/field-to-fork.

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Doyle Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

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