Don’t change in- person testing requirements for hunter education
A plan to replace the hunter education field testing requirement with a mentored hunt weakens Wisconsin’s commitment to ensuring the safety of hunters of all ages.
Under current law, the Department of Natural Resources must establish a hunter education program that provides instruction in the responsibilities of hunters, how to recognize threatened and endangered species, and principles of wildlife management and conservation.
Traditionally this has been done with scheduled hunter education courses taught by trained and certifi ed instructors. People also have the option of taking the course online followed by in-person field testing.
Assembly Bill 670, which is co-sponsored by Rep. James Edming, and its companion Senate Bill 611, which has Sen. Jerry Petrowski, among its co-sponsors would eliminate the need for the in-person field testing requirement by allowing participation in a mentored hunt with a licensed adult in its place. Like so many proposals being pushed at the state level, this one did not come from Wisconsin residents but was part of a package of hunting changes being pushed by an out of state group wishing to change hunting rules here.
While mentored hunts have a significant value in instilling hunter ethics and traditions, they should reinforce and build on the lessons taught in the hunter education program. They cannot and should not replace a third-party field test with a certified instructor to ensure that future hunters are as safe as possible. The proposal does not include any sort of criteria for the adult leading the mentored hunt.
The proposed law change is intended to make it easier for prospective hunters to get their hunter safety certification and build off the suspension of in-person testing that was imposed under COVID-19 restrictions. With the overall number of hunters declining and the average age of hunters increasing, it is understandable and admirable to want to eliminate barriers to getting future hunters into fields and forests.
Efforts to increase hunting among younger generations should be encouraged whenever possible, not only to ensure continuation of hunter traditions, but also for the proper management of wildlife resources. At the same time, the state must not back away from its generations-long commitment to ensuring safe hunting practices are in place and avoidable tragedies are prevented.
Eliminating an important skill and safety check for the expediency of speeding up the process of getting young hunters into the field is not the answer.
The legislature should reject tossing out the field testing requirement for hunter education and look for other solutions to getting young people off of video games and into the forests.