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New hunting program starts in Utah

Trial hunting program allows a person to hunt before taking Hunter Education

Would you like to bring the joy and solitude of hunting into the life of another person? Maybe your spouse, a child, a co-worker, or a close friend?

The new Trial Hunting program is a perfect way to introduce family and friends to hunting.

The new Trial Hunting program is a perfect way to introduce family and friends to hunting.

Photo by Brent Stettler

If you answered "yes," but the person you're thinking of hasn't completed a Hunter Education course, no problem — a new program in Utah provides a way.

Utah's new Trial Hunting program started in early August. The program allows a licensed hunter, who must be at least 21 years old, to take someone 12 years of age or older hunting.

The person who is 12 years of age or older must have the proper hunting licenses and permits and must complete a brief online Trial Hunting Program orientation course. The course, and more information about the Trial Hunting program, is available online.

Kirk Smith, Hunter Education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says Utah's program is based on similar trial and apprentice hunting programs in 35 states. The programs give people a chance to try hunting before committing to a Hunter Education course.

"Having an experienced, responsible hunter 'show you the ropes' is the best way to introduce someone to hunting," Smith says. "It's better than being introduced to hunting in a classroom or online."

A concern hunters might have about the program is safety. Before the Utah legislature approved the program, the DWR did extensive research regarding the safety record of similar programs in other states.

"We learned two things," Smith says. "The safety record has been exceptional in the 35 states that have a similar program. And the program has been extremely successful in introducing people to hunting."

Smith credits "mentors" — those who invite people to hunt with them — with the success similar programs have found. "I can't think of a better way to introduce someone to hunting than to have that person go into the field with a safe, responsible and ethical mentor," he says. "And that's the caliber of the people who invite people to go hunting with them. The mentors care about hunting, and they want to share that experience with others."

Smith says you can try hunting out, under the Trial Hunting program, for up to three years. Then, if you want to continue hunting, you must complete a Hunter Education course.

If you have questions about the program, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.

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