SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law creating the Illinois Apprentice Hunter License Program. The law creates a new special hunting license to give those who do not hunt a chance to try it before buying a regular Illinois hunting license.
“Hunting is a way of life in many parts of Illinois. This new program will gives parents and grandparents a way to introduce their children to the sport, and will give adults who didn’t grow up hunting a chance to try it with a licensed hunter,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, chaired by Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Steeleville) and Sen. Todd Sieben (R-Geneseo), initiated House Bill 5407. Sponsors of the new law are Rep. Mark Beaubien (R-Wauconda) and Sen. Sieben. The Apprentice Hunter License Program will allow youngsters ages 10 to 17 to buy an apprentice license and go hunting with a parent, grandparent or guardian who has a valid Illinois resident hunting license. Those 18 and older will be able to buy an apprentice license and go hunting with any family member or friend who is a validly licensed Illinois resident hunter.
“This program is an incentive to encourage young people to try the experience of hunting as a sport,” Rep. Reitz said. “It is our hope that this will provide an opportunity for parents, grandparents or friends to introduce youth to this exciting sport and continue the rich tradition of hunting in Illinois.”
“Hunting is an outdoor activity that is already enjoyed by many Illinois families. However, I think it is a tradition that needs support and encouragement,” said Sen. Sieben. “It’s my hope that this law will establish a responsible outlook on hunting in this state, while fostering the growth of the sport in Illinois.”
Hunter participation surveys have indicated most new hunters, especially young hunters, begin hunting with encouragement from a parent, other family member or a friend.
The Apprentice Hunter License will be a one-time, non-renewable license. It will be available only to residents of Illinois beginning this fall from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for $7 each. The apprentice license will be valid from the date issued to the following March 31. Apprentice Hunter License holders will also have to buy any additional required permits or stamps, such as a deer hunting permit or habitat stamp.
“As an avid hunter and sportsman all my life, I’m excited that the state has a chance to advance a program that will open up hunting to a new generation of Illinoisans who may not otherwise have had a chance to experience the sport,” Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said.
"This bill supports the sporting traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation," said Sen. Arthur Wilhelmi (D-Crest Hill), a co-sponsor of the legislation. "By creating the apprenticeship program, we provide the best forum for young hunters to learn about gun safety- through family and friends."
"Raising our youngsters to be responsible hunters and responsible gun owners is important. When we teach responsibility at a young age, it sticks with our children and they demonstrate that responsibility in every aspect of their lives. This bill not only teaches responsibility, but also helps our outdoor way of life continue in Southern Illinois," said Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton).
"This program will allow parents, grandparents and guardians to enjoy the tradition and sport of hunting with their young family members and pass on the skills and safety precautions necessary for them to enjoy hunting throughout life," said Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville).
“Not only does this law open the door to new hunters, but it ensures that they spend time learning the sport while accompanied by a dependable sportsman before they go on to apply for their full license,” explained Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac). “Obviously, the more time young hunters spend with an experienced adult, the safer this pastime becomes for everyone.”
Safe hunting remains a priority in Illinois as the IDNR offers free hunter safety education courses throughout the state.
Illinois law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1980 must successfully complete a free hunter safety course before a regular Illinois hunting license is issued. The courses, coordinated by the IDNR and taught by volunteer safety experts, include instruction on hunting regulations, archery, firearms, ammunition, first aid, wildlife identification and conservation, and hunter ethics and responsibility. A minimum of 10 hours of instruction is involved.
Those completing the course and exam receive a certificate of competency. More than 18,000 hunters completed the course last year. For the license year ending March 31, 2005, Illinois issued more than 336,000 hunting licenses.
“The Apprentice Hunter program will give those who don’t hunt a chance to give it a try as they accompany a family member or friend in the field,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. “Hunters of all ages and all levels of experience need to make safety a priority. We hope the apprentice program, followed by participation in the hunter safety education course, will get more new hunters involved in safely enjoying hunting opportunities in Illinois.”