Utah starts 'trial hunting' program

Mule deer buck in velvet
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

This month, Utah started a new Trial Hunting program that allows people who have never hunted before to experience the joys of hunting — even if they have not yet taken an in-person Hunter Education course.

How is this possible? It's all done through the mentor concept, having experienced hunters introduce someone to hunting, so they can "go into the field with a safe, responsible and ethical mentor," explains Kirk Smith, the Hunter Education coordinator for the state's Division of Wildlife Resources. 

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

The hunting 'mentor' must be at least 21 years old and possess a valid Utah hunting or combination license, and they can only supervise one or two trial hunters at a time. 

The new hunter must be 12 years of age or older, and, if a minor, must obtain written permission from their parent or guardian.

The trial hunter must also make sure to have the proper hunting licenses and permits, and complete a brief online Trial Hunting Program orientation course and exam. Upon passing the exam, they receive a trial hunting authorization number which is valid for three years.

Participants in the trial hunting program have all of the abilities of a licensed hunter, except they may not for or obtain the following types of big game permits: limited-entry, premium limited-entry, once-in-a-lifetime, CWMU, dedicated hunter, sportsman or convention.

This kind of trial, or apprentice, program has been implemented in 35 other states, so Utah had plenty of examples to look at. A primary concern was safety, so the department did extensive research on the safety records of those similar programs.

"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."


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