CHEYENNE – With hunting seasons just around the corner, many prospective hunters are scrambling to find hunter safety classes in their local areas.
For hunters not able to find a class before hunting season, the Hunter Mentor Program may be an option. When the Hunter Mentor Program was begun in 2008, the assumption of many in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was that the very young hunters would be the most likely to take advantage of the change in the law.
“To a large extent that has been the case,” said WGFD hunter education coordinator Jim Dawson. “There has certainly been a number of youth that have taken advantage of the hunter mentor program, but a number of adults are also using the program as well.”
Wyoming law requires anyone born after 1965 to have completed an authorized hunter education course before using a firearm to hunt wildlife in Wyoming. The Hunter Mentor Program allows a one time, one-year exemption from the hunter education requirement as long as that person is with someone 18 years of age or older who has completed a hunter education course. In addition, the mentor must also possess a valid Wyoming hunting license and a hunter education card while in the field with the mentee. The mentor can only supervise one hunter at a time while in the field and must be in direct supervision (sight and voice contact) at all times.
To date, more than 4,300 individuals have used the program with ages of mentees ranging from four to 80. The single largest age group continues to be 12-year-olds with 614 youth that have signed up since the program began. The mild surprise come from the 18-30 adult age group that has had 1,255 participants. To date, nearly 2,000 of the mentored hunters have gone on to enroll in a hunter safety class.
The special authorization is valid for one calendar year. After the year has expired, any person participating in the program must comply with the hunter safety statute by passing a hunter safety class before going hunting without a mentor.
Hunter education coordinator Jim Dawson said with bird and small game seasons just around the corner, there are numerous hunting opportunities available. “This is a great way for youth to get started in hunting,” Dawson said. “It gives those who may not have had had a chance to go hunting or take a course, the opportunity to still go hunting this year.”
Dawson said that anyone who plans to hunt in Wyoming can participate, but youth must be at least 12- years old to hunt big game.
“Hunters should be aware that the special hunter mentor authorization is only valid for one year,” Dawson said. “After that, a hunter safety course is required to hunt in future years.” Dawson said it does put the burden on the accompanying mentor, regardless of age, to have completed a hunter education course.
Information on the Hunter Mentor Program and upcoming hunter education courses is available on the Game and Fish website wgfd.wyo.gov.