- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Wisconsin legislators have introduced a bill that seeks to eliminate barriers for people who wish to give hunting a try.

It’s all part of a nationwide Families Afield campaign sponsored by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Assembly Bill 677 would aid in the recruitment of new hunters in hopes of stopping a downward trend in the sport throughout much of the United States.

The concept of AB 677 is the establishment of an apprentice hunting license allowing qualified adult hunters to introduce others to the sport before completing a hunter education course. The apprentice hunter would have to be within arm’s reach of the adult mentor while in the field and would be required to attend hunter education courses and become fully licensed should he elect to pursue hunting on his own.

Current Wisconsin law prevents parents from taking their kids shooting before age 12. The bill would repeal this restriction.

“Our bill will give parents more choices in this matter and allow our youth the opportunity to be introduced to hunting before they become interested in other things,” said state legislator Scott Suder.

In another matter concerning the National Shooting Sports Foundation — a group whose aims I generally support because it stands for hunting and target shooting and an American’s right to own firearms — the NSSF did something recently that still boggles my mind.

Under its Hunting Heritage Partnership that has plenty of money to help increase hunter participation, Alaska received $15,296, ostensibly to help state hunting programs.

Come again? Alaska?

Folks, that’s the huntingest place on the Planet Earth. Why would Alaska need money to help hunters? During the hunting months, you can walk down any street in Fairbanks, Juneau or Anchorage and no one raises an eyebrow when a hunter walks by with a full set of caribou antlers on his back and a cased rifle slung over his shoulder. I saw it dozens of times, even outside Anchorage International Airport.

No one cared. No one said a disparaging word.

Incidentally, other big hunting states received money, too. Montana got $55,000, Nebraska $45,000 and Virginia $42,400. Maryland got nothing, and that’s a state that could use help convincing all the milquetoasts who live there that hunters aren’t a bunch of bloodthirsty Bambi slayers.

Wasting disease meetings — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will conduct public meetings to provide an overview of the department’s response to a report in September of the first confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a white-tailed deer in West Virginia. The deer was found in Hampshire County, 10 miles from the Virginia state line, which prompted Virginia to activate part of its CWD Response Plan.

Increased CWD surveillance, especially in northwest Virginia, is one of the plan’s aims.

The meetings will provide background information about CWD and provide a summary of the department’s CWD surveillance activities. In particular, staff will be describing how hunters and the public can assist in this effort.

One such meeting will be held at 7 tonight, at 130 East Main Street in Purcellville, Loudoun County, to be followed by one tomorrow in Winchester, in the Frederick County Board of Supervisor’s meeting room, 107 North Kent Street. also at 7 p.m.

Crossbow hunting under way — Maryland hunters are reminded that deer hunting with crossbows is legal during the archery season. The first portion of the hunt continues through Oct.15, and then runs again Jan.16-31. All crossbow hunters must be fully licensed and have a bow stamp. Any white-tailed or sika deer taken with a crossbow will count toward the appropriate regional bow bag limit.

Join a big hunt club —The National Sportsman Association is issuing memberships for the 2005-2006 hunting season. The group has land in 13 Virginia counties, some as close as Fairfax, Frederick, Caroline and Fauquier. It also has hunting properties in St. Mary’s County, Md.

Interested? Memberships aren’t free, but it doesn’t cost anything to ask how much. Call 703/670-9783 or go the Web at nsa-inc.com.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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