Friday, March 14, 2008

States try to reverse decline in hunting, license $

To stem or reverse a decline in hunting, and a resulting drop in license revenue for wildlife programs, many states "are trying to bolster this rural tradition by attracting new and younger people to the sport," reports Ian Urbina of The New York Times.

Last week, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill that "allows hunting education classes in all schools where at least 20 students express interest," Urbina writes. "At least six other states are considering similar legislation. . . . In the last two years, 17 states have passed laws to attract younger hunters by creating apprentice hunting licenses that allow people supervised by a trained mentor to sample the sport before completing the required course work, which typically takes 8 to 10 hours and can cost more than $200."

Animal-welfare groups frown on such measures, but in rural states with heavy deer populations there are broader concerns. "Without enough hunters, the deer population can grow and has contributed to an increase in road accidents," Urbina writes. "West Virginia has the highest rate of vehicular accidents caused by deer, according to State Farm Insurance."

Urbina's story focuses on West Virginia, but he also reports, "In Illinois, game managers are holding learn-to-hunt classes for single mothers. In Vermont, the Fish and Wildlife Department sponsors youth hunting weekends three time a year. New Hampshire started a “Leave No Child Inside” initiative last year that encourages families and children to try fishing and hunting." In some states, there are efforts to put rights to hunt and fish into state constitutions.

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