To help increase the numbers of hunters, and prolong the future of the hunting tradition, a new approach was needed. Forcing potential hunters to go through a two- or three-day class can be unappealing, especially if you’re unsure if you’ll enjoy the sport, or if you’re a fidgety eight-year-old. So, Families Afield was created to meet potential hunters halfway through apprentice hunting licenses.
The apprentice hunting license allows new hunters to go afield with an experienced mentor before taking a hunter education course. This eliminates what some potential hunters might see as a barrier—the course. The class can be lengthy and that time commitment might dissuade uncertain hunters. Instead, Families Afield wants new hunters to get out in the field! Try before they buy! The participation of new hunters through the apprentice program has been enlightening. Since its start in 2004, the hunter apprentice license reached nationwide cumulative sales surpassing one million!
“I don’t know that sitting in a classroom for two or three days would have sparked the same interest [in my son] as getting out in the woods and getting to experience deer hunting,” said Greg Wasilewski, father of a youth apprentice hunter, Seth. To which Seth added, “I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be a hunter, so my dad told me we can get this apprentice hunting license and we can see if you like it.” After shooting his first deer Seth couldn’t wait to go hunting again.
Families Afield exists thanks to the collaborative efforts of multiple major organizations: the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). NWTF brought in grassroots support from their 500,000 members, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance took on lobbying efforts to support legislation for the apprentice hunter license as well as pushing to remove age barriers, and the NSSF helped to fund the program. Along with additional support from the National Rifle Association and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, more than 35 states have passed Families Afield legislation, and that number is expected to increase.
A parent of two youth apprentice hunters, Andrew Wecker, said, “If you have a parent out with a child, something good is going to happen from that. For this family hunting has been a good thing.”
Hunting is a family affair and tradition, and when Families Afield celebrated their one millionth hunter apprentice license sold, it was an euphoric celebration. With a mass of new hunters—mostly youth but some adults—attempting a hunt for the first time, there’s no doubt that the hunting family grew.
If you want to be a part of this rejuvenating and reviving movement, please visit FamiliesAfield.org.