Greetings Maryland Hunters and Trappers:
Nearly a decade ago, my son attended Maryland’s hunter education class. A few months later, he killed his first goose, duck and deer. Since then we have shared the forests, fields and marsh together and captured some of the most meaningful memories of our lives.
My daughter recently decided that she should join the fraternity of hunter education graduates. However, school, sports and other commitments in a young adult life left her taking the class online and rushing around for the requisite field day and shooting exercises. She eventually reconciled the scheduling issues and found a spot in a southern Maryland class and moved over to the new-hunter side of the ledger.
The path that both Peditto children took to gain entry to the hunting community was similar in the end, but far different in process. The option to take most of the class online was not available to my son because of his age at the time. My daughter was able to leverage the online class and found it adequately worked for her needs. In the end, the two youngsters passed the written and shooting tests and will no-doubt be lifelong outdoor enthusiasts.
To create a path for two new hunters is not enough though. We need to create the same buzz around hunting as exists for The Hunger Games or video games. We also need to ensure the process to become a new hunter is not the reason we fail to generate excitement.
Several years ago, we conducted a survey of new Maryland hunter education graduates. Approximately 75 percent of respondents said that they love to hunt and want to hunt more, but are often foreclosed from those opportunities because their family or adult mentor has other commitments – or their friends lack the time to attend the traditional hunter safety class and join them afield.
To address the former, we will continue to increase opportunities to make hunting more accessible to ensure more Marylanders may participate. Our junior hunter days and new Hunting 101 workshops are just two examples of our ongoing commitment to recruiting and reinvesting in the hunting community.
To address the latter, we are pleased to announce a new hunting apprentice program in Maryland. Working with our peers in the Maryland Natural Resources Police, we will begin offering a mentored program that will allow a junior or new adult hunter the opportunity to try the sport for three years or one year, respectively. The new hunter must hunt with an experienced adult and must always be in close-contact with the mentor; after the trial period, the first-timer must complete the requisite hunter safety requirements.
We are hopeful that this model, practiced by several dozen jurisdictions across North America, will ease the path to a solid future generation of hunter education participants without jeopardizing the remarkable safety record of Maryland sportsmen. Details on the new program will be forthcoming in fall 2015. I hope you will take advantage of this new program and introduce someone – young or old – to the remarkable experiences we all enjoy afield.
On behalf of the Wildlife and Heritage Service team, I wish you a successful and enjoyable hunting season and thank you in advance for your continued commitment to ensuring the future of wildlife conservation and the hunting tradition in Maryland.
Paul A. Peditto,
Director of the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.