Illinois needs to rethink hunter safety requirements
When it comes to hunting, there is nothing more important than safety. There’s a long list of scenarios in which a positive and memorable experience can go very, very wrong, and the majority of them can be prevented with patience, practice, but most of all, education.
Several years ago, the DNR introduced the Apprentice Hunter License. It’s a one-time, non-renewable license that is good for one year. A hunter safety course is not required to purchase the apprentice license; however, you must be accompanied by an appropriate hunter who is over 21 and has a valid Illinois hunting license. More specific details can be found on the DNR website or in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.
Since a safety class is not obligatory, I’m not the biggest fan of the Apprentice License Program. That said, I get it. It may help in recruiting more hunters if they have the opportunity to experience hunting without much of a commitment, but I still think that safety should come before everything else, even hunter recruitment. After all, I can think of several hunters right off the bat who aren’t even close to being a reliable and positive role model for teaching a new hunter proper safety techniques.
Last year, the DNR implemented changes to hunter safety requirements that I’m absolutely not okay with. In fact, in my opinion, they’re downright irresponsible and could lead to tragic consequences. Now, it appears that more modifications are coming soon, and like last year’s, I don’t see them as a positive thing.
It used to be that if you were born on or after January 1, 1980, a Hunter Safety Education class was mandatory in order to be allowed the privilege to hunt. Period. Now, however, it seems as if the DNR is on a roll with making it easier and easier to bypass and/or diminish a crucial component I’d like to remind them is called, “hunter safety.”
Last year, the age limit for hunting as a youth increased from 16 to 18. No problem there. But here’s the kicker – a youth license is like a regular license: It’s good for one year and can then be renewed.
Taking a hunter safety class, however, is no longer mandatory until a hunter turns 18 – essentially during the most vital time when a kid is supposed to be soaking in knowledge about hunting and learning about of all aspects of hunting safely and how to incorporate the proper procedures.
There is no longer any accountability in making sure that the safety education they receive is properly and completely taught. Frankly, the thought of a child being allowed to hunt for several years without enrolling in a hunter safety course, possibly developing all sorts of poor habits and unsafe behavior, sickens me. In my opinion, this has the capacity to negatively affect public safety. My safety. My kid’s safety. This is unacceptable.
Coming soon to hunting regulations are changes in the hunter safety requirements for those over 18 and born on or after January 1, 1980. Previously, it was mandatory to attend the traditional 10- to 12-hour, instructor-led course. Then came the ability to take the first portion online and then attend the second portion, which is a more hands-on field day. No problem. Soon, however, the only part that will be obligatory will be the field day.
Does anyone else see something very, very wrong with this picture?