NEWTOWN, CT -- Today, Vermont became the 30th state to pass Families Afield legislation aimed at reducing barriers for the next generation of sportsmen.
Gov. Jim Douglas signed House Bill 243 late this afternoon. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Adams (R-Hartland), allows newcomers to try hunting under the close supervision of an experienced mentor prior to the completion of a hunter education course. Previously, the legislation had overwhelmingly cleared the state House of Representatives on March 17 and the Senate on April 28.
The Families Afield initiative began in 2004 through a joint effort of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance to reduce barriers to new hunters entering the field. To date, in the 29 states that have enacted similar measures, 418,000 new hunters have purchased mentored licenses making it one of the most successful programs of its kind.
The three founding organizations are thrilled with this latest effort.
"We couldn't be more pleased that Vermont has become the 30th state to embrace mentored hunting and especially that this legislation is not age restrictive in any way," said Chris Dolnack, senior vice president of NSSF, the trade association of the firearms industry. "Now all Vermont residents, no matter whether you are 8 years old or 80 years young, can give hunting a try."
"Mentored hunting programs are an important step to creating the next generation of hunters, so this is a tremendous victory for hunters and conservationists," said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. "We are grateful for all the volunteers, partners and sponsors who played a part in getting this important bill passed."
"Vermont now joins the majority of states in the country that have taken steps to preserve sportsmen's traditions by helping get the next generation outside," said Bud Pidgeon, USSA President and CEO. "We thank everyone that was part of the coalition that pushed this important bill across the finish line."
Numerous other organizations worked diligently to pass the Vermont legislation, including the National Rifle Association, Vermont Traditions Coalition and Ducks Unlimited.