This is the first of a two-part series about the
West Virginia apprentice hunting license and
hunter recruitment. See the Outdoors page of
May 26 for the second part.
Regular readers of the Outdoors
page saw the (April 7) article about
the new apprentice
license that is being
offered by the West
But, in case you
missed it, in a nutshell
license will allow a
novice hunter to purchase
hunting license without
hunter education course, which has
been a license prerequisite for many,
many years. The novice hunter can
purchase up to three of those licenses
during a five-year period.
That means that these new guys
can be out there for three years without
having first learned the basics of
safety, gun handling, ethics, wildlife
management, etc, that you and your
kids learned when you took your
required class. How does that make
Personally I am pretty ticked off.
The idea behind this license, at least
from the State of West Virginia’s
point of view, is that if you make it
easier to obtain a license maybe
more people will buy them and
increase the revenues for the state.
They call it hunter recruitment, but
what it amounts to is trying to pay
I worked for state government long
enough to understand budget issues.
The DNR obtains the bulk of its funding
through hunting and fishing
license sales. There is often very little
general revenue that goes to DNR
programs. We all know that things
are more expensive today than they
were 30 years ago, and there are
fewer people buying hunting and
fishing licenses today, despite what
the recent federal survey said to the
So, faced with declining revenues
and rising costs, the DNR is casting
about for ways to recruit more outdoorsmen,
excuse me outdoors people,
to purchase the licenses that pay
the bills. They tried the trick of putting
ladies on the cover of the hunting
regulations, hoping that would
induce a mass influx of outdoor
women, but that did not work.
That was pretty harmless. This
apprentice license, on the other
hand, is sacrificing a long-held mandate
that hunter education training
be completed before the hunter can
buy a license. For the sake of money,
for the sake of paying the bills, the
DNR is throwing away a foundation
principle of our hunting tradition. A
requirement that not only keeps
hunters and the general public safe,
but produces informed and ethical
hunters who will carry our cherished
tradition into the future in a responsible
DNR Director Frank Jezioro was
quoted as saying that hunter education
can be a “hurdle” for the novice
hunter. Ya’ think? Well, director,
some things require a higher standard,
and being in the woods with a
firearm, shooting at living creatures
is one of those things. Sorry, but if a
person considers the standard
hunter education class to be a hurdle,
then that person is not qualified
We teach our young hunters that
privilege comes with responsibility.
Until now the commitment to attend
and pass a hunter education class
was one of the responsibilities that
came with the great privilege of
This apprentice license is granting
a privilege that has responsibility
deferred to a later date. In my family
it does not work that way. Show me
the responsibility, and then you get
Hunter education works. In Mineral
County we have an active education
program with a diverse group of
volunteers supported by the Natural
Resource Police, and well attended
by the public. The last fatal hunting
accident with a firearm in Mineral
County was in the late 1980s. There
were only two non-fatal firearms
accidents while hunting during that
same time period, both of them self
Those statistics are a direct result
of a good hunter education program.
Other counties with higher accident
rates often do not have an active program
in place. Further, hunter education
gives credibility to our tradition
and a sense of competence and confidence
about hunting that is projected
to the general public.
I have always wanted to fly an airplane,
but never had the time or
money for flight school. How would
you feel knowing that I was up in the
sky over your head in an airplane for
three years without training?
I do not want to share the woods
with anyone who thinks that hunter
education is a hurdle. I am tired of
society’s tendency to make things
easier for the lowest common
denominator. The WVDNR should
find another way to pay the bills, not
at the expense of the safety and
integrity of sport hunting.
And Mr. Jezioro, if you read my
next column I will tell you how to
increase hunter recruitment, safely
Dave Long is a retired West Virginia natural
resources police officer and a frequent contributor
to the Outdoors page.
This is the first of a two-part series about the
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