In 2006, the Pennsylvania Game Commission launched the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. The objective behind the Mentored Youth Hunting Program is simple and clear: create expanded youth hunting opportunities while maintaining safety afield.
This program provides additional means for youngsters to nurture their early interest in hunting and allows them to take a more active role in those formative trips afield with mentoring adults. The program increases hands-on use of sporting arms and can promote a better understanding and interest in hunting and wildlife conservation that will help assure hunting's future, as well as reinforce the principles of hunting safely through the close supervision provided by dedicated mentors.
Following are a few of the answers to some of the more frequent questions being asked about the program.
Who Qualifies as a Mentor? Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual 21 years of age or older, who serves as a guide to a mentored youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearm or hunter safety and wildlife identification. For a more in-depth training for mentors offered by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), click here.
Does a Mentor Need to Obtain a Permit? Yes, beginning with the 2009-10 license year, a mentored youth will need a permit. The permit costs $2.70 ($1 for the Game Commission, $1 for the issuing agent and 70 cents for the transaction fee). Benefits of this permit include that the youth will be provided with the necessary field harvest tags for one antlered deer and one spring gobbler. Also, by capturing data about how many youth are participating in the program and where they live, the Game Commission will be able to better plan on when, where and how many basic Hunter-Trapper Education courses will need to be held as these mentored youth approach 11 years of age, which is when a youth is eligible to take the course.
Who Qualifies as a Youth to Participate in the Program? A mentored youth is defined as an unlicensed individual under 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.
Does the Youth Need to Be Hunter-Trapper Education Certified? No, the youth does not need to take and pass the Game Commission's mandatory Hunter-Trapper Education course to participate in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. However, it is the responsibility of the mentor to ensure that each youth is trained in firearm and hunter safety before heading afield. Successfully completing a Hunter-Trapper Education course is required for all first-time license buyers.
What Details Do I Need to Know About the Program? The Program stipulates that the mentor to mentored youth ratio be one-to-one, which means that the mentor may not have more than one youth hunting with them at a time. Also, the pair may possess only one sporting arm while hunting. While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor. When the pair reaches a stationary hunting location, the mentor may turn over possession of the sporting arm to the youth, and then must keep the youth within arm's length at all times while he or she is in possession of the sporting arm. The program also requires that both the mentor and the youth must abide by fluorescent orange regulations for the species being hunted.
Are There Safety Concerns With the Program? Based on data from other states - many of which have no hunting age limitations - there are no facts showing a decrease in safety by allowing individuals of any age to go hunting. As with any hunting situation, it is the responsibility of the hunter - and in this case, more specifically, the Mentor - to make sure that the youth is prepared to go hunting. Preparation includes, but is not limited to, firearm safety, hunting safety and physical and mental preparedness. Also, the Mentored Youth Hunting Program has several safety precautions built into it, such as the one-to-one ratio limitation on the mentor-to-youth; the pair may only have one sporting arm; the youth may possess the sporting arm and hunt only from a stationary position; and the youth must be within arm's length of the mentor at all times while in possession of the sporting arm.
What Species Can Be Taken By a Youth Participating in the Program? The species identified as legal for the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are squirrels, woodchucks (groundhogs), antlered and antlerless deer, fall turkey, spring gobbler and coyotes. When hunting for antlered deer, those youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are permitted to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which is one antler of three or more inches in length or one antler with at least two points.
Is the Addition of Antlerless Deer New? Yes, antlerless deer hunting was added to the line up of legal species in 2011-12. When hunting antlerless deer, the adult mentor must be in possession of a valid antlerless deer license that can be transferred to the youth if he/she harvests an antlerless deer. The field harvest tag is to be completed by the youth and attached to the carcass. The harvest of the antlerless deer is to be reported by the adult mentor within five days of harvest, and a box is to be checked “taken by mentored youth.”
Is the Addition of Fall Turkey New? Yes, fall turkey hunting was added to the line up of legal species for 2012-13. When hunting fall turkey, the adult mentor must be in possession of a valid fall turkey tag that can be transferred to the youth if he/she harvests a fall turkey. The field harvest tag is to be completed by the youth and attached to the carcass. The harvest of the fall turkey is to be reported by the adult mentor within five days of harvest, and a box is to be checked “taken by mentored youth.”
What About Tagging and Reporting Requirements for Big Game Taken By the Youth ? The mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or spring gobbler taken using the harvest tags that come with the Mentored Youth Hunting Program permit issued to them. Also, the youth must report his or her harvest, which can be done online, through the toll-free telephone number (1-855-724-8681) or by mail within five days. Mentored youth can see a sample carcass tag and use the harvest report card available in the Digest, or in the Forms and Brochures section of the agency’s website. The mentored youth may not use the mentor's tags or harvest report cards if the youth harvests an antlered deer or spring gobbler.