Mentoring the Next Generation


It is November and Wisconsin’s gun deer season is here. But then, like most Wisconsinites, that’s not news to you. Hunters anticipate opening day like a child yearns for Christmas morning. 

Wisconsin’s hunting heritage has been handed down from parents to children for generations. Until passing a mentored hunting program in 2009, the state, mirroring the rest of the country saw a steady decline in new hunters. Wisconsin saw over 197,000 first time hunters since the bill’s passage.

 Young hunters have to fulfill certain parameters before they are able to hunt. With hunter safety certification, 12 and 13 year olds can hunt as long as they are within voice or visual contact of an adult. Teenagers at 14 years old and older with hunter safety certification can hunt alone and without being within voice or visual contact. Every hunter born after 1972 must complete a hunters’ safety class.

Starting September 1, 2009, the hunting mentorship program allowed 10 and 11 year olds to hunt with a qualified adult mentor. Under the mentorship program, only one firearm or bow is allowed and the mentor must be within one arm’s reach of the youth hunter.

In order to mentor a minor, Wisconsin State Statute 29.592(2)(b) (b) states: “The person is the parent or guardian of the person for whom he or she is serving as a mentor or is authorized by the parent or guardian to serve as a mentor.”

Furthermore, according to the DNR: “All mentors shall have at least five years hunting experience with the animal to be hunted and pass a background check.”

Thirty-four states with hunters’ mentoring laws including all those bordering Wisconsin (Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa) have no minimum age restrictions. Furthermore, only 4 states with hunter mentoring laws on their books restrict the number of hunting devices between the mentor and trainee. 

Parents know their children and know their rate of development as well as best judge which of their children have athletic aptitude, which are studious, and which have the ability to correctly handle various hunting devices.  As with clothing – one size certainly does not fit all.

 I voted for Assembly Bill 455. Passing out of both the Wisconsin state assembly and senate on bi-partisan votes, the bill eliminates any minimum age restriction as well as removes the stipulation restricting the number of hunting devices between a mentor and trainee. Governor Walker signed AB 455 into 2017 Wisconsin Act 62.

Hunting’s contributions to Wisconsin goes beyond tradition. Along with heritage, hunting brings tourism dollars to the state. Roughly 900,000 men and women ages 16 and over hit the outdoors each year throughout Wisconsin’s various hunting seasons. The DNR estimates approximately $2.5 billion is spent on hunting related activities and purchases per year, which is just under $2,800 per hunter.

How many times have you hit the brakes to avoid hitting a deer? Hunting also reduces herd size which decreases car/deer collisions. Cited by the Department of Transportation, in 2016 Wisconsin drivers were involved in over 20,000 auto-deer collisions. According to State Farm Insurance, these crashes are costly for drivers, with a national cost per claim average of $4,179.

Parents pass down to their children inherited traits such as hair and eye color. Just as importantly, children get their personality from their parents. And as is often the case, pursuits they enjoy become activities shared by the entire family.

Wisconsin has a vested interest in continuing a healthy participation in deer hunting. This year consider mentoring the next generation to the world of hunting.  Foster the traditions inherent in the sport.