February 5, 2023

Wisconsin Families Afield Bill Approved by Senate Committee

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Press Release from the Sportsmen’s Alliance:

On Jan. 5, the Wisconsin Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry Committee approved legislation that would allow parents to decide at which age their kids begin to hunt. The bill also removes a prohibition that prevented both mentors and newcomers from using a firearm or bow on a hunt. Senate Bill 301 represents the latest progress by Families Afield, a national coalition founded by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The coalition’s mission, which is also supported by the National Rifle Association and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, is to lower the barriers that prevent newcomers from trying hunting.

Wisconsin originally became a Families Afield state in 2009 by establishing a mentored hunting program that allowed an experienced mentor to take a newcomer hunting prior to the completion of hunter education. Previously, young people could not begin hunting until age 12, and were required to complete hunter education to be eligible.

However, the legislature left two significant restrictions in place that need to be addressed. While mentored hunting is permissible, the state requires that participants must be at least 10 years of age. Only seven Families Afield states have an age restriction this high, while 34 allow parents to make the decision about when their kids begin to hunt. Second, Wisconsin is one of only four Families Afield states that prohibit both the mentor and the apprentice to possess a firearm or bow. The rest allow the mentor to make that decision. Both of these restrictions are a disincentive to hunting participation. Research continues to prove year after year that mentored hunters are the safest hunters in the woods.

Senate Bill 301, sponsored by Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, would remove both the 10-year-old restriction and the one-gun requirement. The changes, which brings Wisconsin in line with neighboring Michigan and Minnesota, were approved by the committee by a vote of 3-2. SB 301 is supported in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association and the Wisconsin Chapters of Safari Club International.