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Initially open only to youth under 12, Pennsylvania’s mentored hunting program has expanded incrementally in recent years to offer opportunities to unlicensed hunters of all ages.

Because the program is a tool to recruit new hunters, it only made sense to open it to everybody.

However, phasing-in program eligibility for hunters of different ages has brought about a mix of different rules that can be confusing to follow – and actually might undermine the goal of hunter recruitment.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today started the process of simplifying the program and making it more uniform for hunters of all ages.

The board voted preliminary to approve a measure that would makes a few important changes.

First, mentored hunters of all ages would be eligible to hunt the same species. This would expand opportunities in each age class and eliminate confusion about which species different-aged hunters may hunt.

Secondly, while mentored hunters under the age of 7 would continue to be issued permits that do not contain deer or turkey harvest tags – meaning the deer and turkey tags they use would continue to be provided through transfer from their adult mentors – mentored hunters of all other ages would be issued their own tags.

And finally, mentored hunters ages 7 and older could apply for their own antlerless deer licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits, as well as migratory bird licenses and pheasant permits.

If the changes are given final approval, all mentored hunters could hunt the following species: rabbit, hare, ruffed grouse, mourning doves, bobwhite quails, pheasants, crows, squirrels, porcupines, woodchucks, coyotes, deer and wild turkeys.

Safety requirements that prohibit mentored hunters under 17 from carrying a firearm while moving, limit mentors to accompanying one youngster at a time, and require the mentor and mentored hunter under 17 to possess no more than one sporting arm between them, will remain unchanged.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.