Mark your calendars for 2016 Banquet
When: April 2, 2016, doors open at 4:00 pm, dinner is served at 6:00 pm.
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula, MT
Open letter to SCI members and friends of SCI
The Western Montana Chapter of Safari Club International is financially supporting SB395. Today, I asking you to consider supporting this bill, with calls to your State Senator and representative in Helena. Several conservation organizations that have political sway at the legislature have stated opposition to this bill, as heard at the 3/17/2015 hearing. Please take a minute to review the links below:
As I have stated before, we, as hunters, are dinosaurs. Recruitment of youth hunters, as well as new adult hunters to our sport is not replacing our ranks as fast as we are aging out and/or passing on. As a population of specialized recreationists and wildlife conservationists, our future is not as bright as we would like to think. Youth hunter recruitment in Montana is shockingly lower than in Idaho and Wyoming, based on the last surveys I reviewed, and only getting worse.
The US Sportsmen’s Alliance, National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation have conducted a study (year 2000) of hunter recruitment/ replacement (see table). This table lists total population, total hunters and the associated percentages of hunters for two different categories (ages 6-15 and ages 16+). When you look at the percentage of hunters in the 6-15 group, Montana is #2 in the country (13.64%). Montana also ranks #1 in the percentage of the population that are hunters over age 16 (24.46%). This is certainly an example of the rich hunting heritage and culture in Montana.
As a percentage of the general population, more people hunt in Montana than all of the other 49 States. This looks very encouraging until you look at the ratio of the 6-15 age group compared to the 16+ age group. When you compare the ratio of these two, you get a Hunter Replacement Ratio of 0.56, which places Montana at #36 in the nation. Although Montana is #1 in hunters as a percentage of the State’s population, we are not replacing them with young hunters at a rate fast enough to keep pace - not by a long shot. In fact, we are rapidly losing ground. Currently, only seven states have a replacement ratio greater than 1. Any ratio less than one results in a reduction in the percentage of hunters compared to the general population. We need to address this in Montana, or else hunters as a group will continue to shrink in Montana.
Am I just being selfish because I have young kids? Even though my youngest son will turn 11 this fall, I know that he will be with me in the woods regardless of this bill’s fate. By the age of 8 years old, all of my kids had already been exposed to the physical effort, disappointments and excitement that is hunting. They have been with me on many trips and outings since, both successful and not successful, and had a taste for what they were to experience when they reached 12 years of age, old enough to hunt in MT. This bill is not about just my kids, it is the right thing to do for hunting in Montana. My kids currently hunt, and will continue to because that is who we are, as much a part of our identity and heritage as our hair and eye color. Their cousins and friends that live in neighboring Idaho make them insanely jealous with stories of actually hunting with their dads, taking deer, and not just tagging along. Their Uncle has offered to host them in Idaho to hunt deer until they are able to hunt in Montana.
My son Gunnar, at age 12, has many friends that in the last couple of years have gone from being interested in hunting, to being interested in football, soccer, baseball, video games, and whatever else is out there vying for the attention of our youth. Most are not even aware of the opportunities to hunt in neighboring Idaho at age 10. While most of these youth had an interest in hunting when they were younger, many now will never be hunters because their interest in hunting dwindled during a critical time in their lives.
SB 395 is about expanding the hunting opportunity to those that may not otherwise chose hunting over other pursuits due to age or opportunity. SB395 lowers the barrier to entry for those over the age of 12, and allows our youth to gain experience and exposure to something we all hold dear between the ages of 10 and 12. Being able to introduce a co-worker or friend to hunting for a season or two, will help them know if hunting is for them. I can personally attest to the fact that involving young hunters in hunting at this critical stage of their lives (10-12 years), where parental and family bonds will have the most effect on their development, will help forge a connection to hunting as a critical part of their future lives.
We are fortunate to include the leadership at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) in the support of this bill. We are extremely solid in our support base, with the top hunter/conservation groups in the state standing united.
This bill has substantially more side-boards than any prior attempt to bring apprentice hunting to Montana. They are as follows:
- Only allows two apprentice licenses to be held before Hunter Safety certification is required
- The fee for Apprentice License are earmarked to expand and enhance Hunters Education Program in MT
- No elk may be hunted under an apprentice hunting license
- The minimum age for participation is 10 years old
- The Bill extends early youth deer from 2 to 4 days of hunting
- The bill stipulates a maximum of 2 apprentice hunting licenses in lifetime- must become fully licensed by 3rd season
- The bill does NOT include the ability to apply for special draws with limited quotas
- The bill does NOT allow bowhunting for youth under age 12
- The bill does NOT allow bowhunting without completing a Bowhunter Education course
A few more facts to consider:
- 35 states including all contiguous states to Montana currently allow for similar apprentice hunting opportunities at age 10.
- The data is conclusive with regard to safety. 35 states is a lot of data to look at with regard to program success and safety! The apprentice hunters in these 35 States boast a safety record nearly 5 times greater than the rest of the hunters in the field.
- SB395 is good for the Hunter Safety program. In each State this has been implemented in, the Hunter Safety program participation and program has seen significant increases.
I realize that stating that it has worked well in other places often elicits response of “ they aren’t Montana…”. To that, I say this: Montana kids are no less safe, smart or capable than the youth in any other state. The youth in these other 35 states are the safest demographic in the field. The statistics are there, the math shows it. Montana youth have even MORE of a hunting heritage to embrace than the kids in any of these states, yet we are losing them. The statistics are there, the math shows it. I am optimistic that Montana will join these other States, as the legislature and conservation groups support this bill. Please consider what is good for the future of hunting in Montana.
I do realize that politics can be strange and difficult. I believe that having clear values leads to taking principled positions. Please, support hunting. Support the continuation of our hunting heritage. Support this bill.
Currently, the following organizations have voiced support for the bill: Safari Club International (SCI), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation, MOGA, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, NRA, and the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
Currently, opposition to this bill has been from the Montana Sportsman’s Alliance (MSA), Montana Bowhunters Association (MBA), Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF), and Ravalli County F&W.
If you have reservations, I would love to discuss them with you.