Two of the state’s sportsmen’s groups offered differing opinions on Thursday.
Representatives of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, or UBP, and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation both spoke on proposed changes to the state’s mentored youth hunting program.
Up through this past hunting season, children – regardless of age – could kill antlered deer and spring gobblers. There’s been evidence of people cheating the system, though. Some adults have been caught shooting game for the kids, or without the kids even being in the woods.
Everyone agrees that’s been a problem. How big of one, and what to do about it, have been the questions.
The solution settled on by Game Commissioners is to allow children younger than age 7 to take bucks and gobblers, but only if using the harvest tags of their adult mentors.
That would still allow parents to decide when their children are ready to hunt, while eliminating an outlet for cheaters, said board president Dave Putnam.
Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the idea in January. Final approval could come Friday, when they vote again.
On Thursday, Pennsylvania Turkey Federation president Sam McCartney asked commissioners to reconsider and leave the mentor program as is. Parents needs opportunities to get kids outdoors before youth sports and other activities swallow them up, he said.
Wes Waldron, spokesman for the Bowhunters, took the opposite stance. In January, UBP board members likewise opposed any changes to the mentor program, but they’ve since come around to support the commission’s proposal, Waldron said.
He added, though, that the group would like the commission to follow up with state Rep. Keith Gillespie. He recently said he’d support legislation creating stiffer pines for those adults who use children to break wildlife laws.