By Senator Scott Boulanger, Senate District 44
Hunting is one of Montana’s most treasured pastimes and is an activity that creates lasting bonds between family and friends, fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. It helps build character in our children and teaches them the value of the great outdoors. Some of my fondest memories in life have come from spending time with my family out hunting in the great outdoors. It is a common link that lasts a lifetime and goes on for generations, one that permeates further than just a father and son to the entire family. Hunting is a great pastime in the state of Montana and it is time we made it easier for all of our children and friends to participate in the experience, particularly those not old enough to complete a hunter safety course.
Because of this, I am sponsoring Senate Bill 197 which will create an “apprentice hunter certificate.” It will create an apprentice hunting license which will be available to people even before they have taken a hunter safety course. This is a great way to start people hunting at a young age in a responsible and controlled manner. The bill will allow an experienced mentor to take a newcomer hunting prior to the completion of a hunter education course. This method has been implemented successfully in thirty-four other states, including Idaho and Wyoming. In these states, bills such as this have increased the number of youths learning to hunt in a safe and responsible manner.
Opponents of this bill claim that it is not safe for people to hunt without taking a hunter safety course. However, studies have shown that this method is incredibly safe – up to four times safer than regular hunting – because people are under the watchful eye of an experienced hunter. If a parent, family member, or other experienced hunter is working directly with a person, they will gain firsthand knowledge from seasoned outdoorsmen. This will teach them valuable skills that they can use for the rest of their life and will instill proper safety techniques in people well before they take a hunter safety course. Additionally, the bill was amended to allow for only three apprentice certificates, therefore requiring a hunter safety course to be taken within three hunting seasons.
In a society where technology has taken over in-person conversations and the laziness of the indoors has taken over the beauty of the great outdoors, we must do everything we can to change the course. This program will allow for our children to return to lives filled with nature instead of succumbing to a life of video games, cell phones, and computers. Our youth are increasingly living an unhealthy lifestyle filled with obesity and lack of exercise. This bill gives them a healthy and enriching alternative. By making the outdoors fun at such a young age, it will be engrained in them for years to come. Montana is great because of its natural beauty and the outdoors. With Senate Bill 197, this will be the mindset of our children at the youngest possible age, even before they can become obsessed with technology.
On February 14, 2013, Senate Bill 197 passed the Senate. With the help and backing of my constituents, citizens of Montana, and my fellow senators, I am thrilled that this bill is being transmitted to the House of Representatives and on its way to becoming a law. I thank the many organizations that have already publicly stated their support for this legislation. With the assistance of the great people of Montana, I am optimistic that this bill will become law and provide a positive impact on our children.