CHEYENNE - Since 2008, thousands of hunters of all ages have taken advantage of Wyoming’s Hunter Mentor Program, which allows hunters who have not yet completed a hunter education course to participate in hunting activities in Wyoming.
Wyoming law requires anyone born after 1965 to have completed an authorized hunter education course before using a firearm to hunt wildlife in Wyoming. The Hunter Mentor Program, established in 2008, allows a one-time, one-year exemption from completing a hunter education course as long as that person is with someone 18 years of age or older who has completed a hunter education course. The mentor must also possess a valid Wyoming hunting license and a hunter education card while in the field with the mentee. The mentor can only supervise one hunter at a time while in the field and must be in direct supervision (sight and voice contact) at all times.
When the hunter mentor program began four years ago, the assumption of many in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was that the very young hunters would be the most likely to take advantage of the change in the law.
“To a large extent that has been the case,” said WGFD Hunter Education Coordinator Jim Dawson. “As expected, there have been many youth that have been mentored, but a number of adults are using the program as well.”
To date, nearly 3,900 individuals have used the program with ages of mentees ranging from four to 80. The single largest age group continues to be 12-year-olds with 566 youth of that age group enrolled since the program began. An additional 1,100 youth between ages 9-17 have also participated in the program. A somewhat mild surprise is the 18-30 adult age group, with 1,298 persons, participated. To date, nearly 1,700 of the mentored hunters have gone on to enroll in a hunter safety class.
The special hunter mentor authorization is valid for one calendar year. After that, any person participating in the program must comply with the hunter safety statute, which means they must pass hunter safety before taking wildlife without a mentor.
Hunter Education Coordinator Jim Dawson said with bird and small game seasons getting in full swing, there are numerous hunting opportunities available. “This is a great way for youth to get started in hunting,” Dawson said. “It gives those who may not have had a chance to get out and still go hunting this year.”
Dawson said that anyone who plans to hunt in Wyoming can participate, but youth must be at least 12 years of age to hunt big game.
“Hunters should be aware that the special hunter mentor authorization is only valid for one year,” Dawson said. “After that, a hunter safety course is required to hunt in future years.” Dawson said it does put the burden on the accompanying mentor, regardless of age, to have completed a hunter education course.
Information on the Hunter Mentor Program and upcoming hunter education courses is available on the Game and Fish website wgfd.wyo.gov.
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)