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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman… Mentored Youth Hunting

For an experienced hunter, one of the most valuable ways we can spend our time is to mentor a new youth hunter. It can truly be a rewarding experience to take a young, eager novice and nurture them through the process of becoming a safe, ethical and knowledgeable hunter. It will be an activity that

For an experienced hunter, one of the most valuable ways we can spend our time is to mentor a new youth hunter. It can truly be a rewarding experience to take a young, eager novice and nurture them through the process of becoming a safe, ethical and knowledgeable hunter. It will be an activity that both you and the youth will remember for years.

In 2006, a group of visionary hunters and conservationists sat at a round table at the Pennsylvania Game Commission office and developed the outline for a Mentored Youth Hunting Program. It was quickly recognized as a valuable tool to instill safety and ethics in new young hunters and to aid in recruiting new hunters into our ranks. The bill introducing the program was signed by then-Governor Ed Rendell that same year.

Having watched the program’s success here in Pennsylvania, today, more than 34 other states have adopted their own programs for mentoring youth hunters. Again, sighting the success of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, here in Pennsylvania, the concept of the program has continued to expand and today even includes provisions for mentoring new adult hunters.

Currently, mentored hunters are not required to take a Hunter-Trapper Education class before obtaining a permit to hunt through the program. Mentored hunters ages 12 or older may participate in the program for a maximum of three license years. After that period, they must obtain a license to hunt. Individuals who participate in the mentored program for at least three years before turning 12 are required to get a license at 12 rather than continuing as a mentored hunter. License buyers must first successfully complete a Hunter-Trapper Education course.

Over the years since its inception, the species of game animals and birds that are huntable through the program have expanded.

Today, a mentored hunter can hunt squirrels, rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, pheasants, crows, doves, porcupines, woodchucks, coyotes, deer, waterfowl, bears, and wild turkeys in any of their respective seasons and must follow daily and season bag limits for each species. Yes, in a change adopted earlier this year, waterfowl and bears were added to the list!

Mentored hunters 16 and under may follow the same deer antler restrictions as junior license holders, which is one antler at least 3 inches long or one antler with at least two points.

The current issue of the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest spells out in detail all of the information regarding Mentored Hunting Program fees, which vary depending on the age of the mentored hunter.

The regulations regarding the requirement of harvest tags and when they can be or cannot be transferred between a mentor and the mentored hunter are a bit more complicated. If you are planning on being a mentor, it would be important to make sure you have a clear understanding of these regulations as written in the Digest.

Safety and liability are critically important issues. Mentoring a youth provides one of the best opportunities to instill the many facets of hunting and firearm handling safety and liability in a new hunter.

All of the regulations and requirements are included in the section of the Digest that pertains to the interaction between the mentor and the mentored hunter. As with the use of harvest tags, these requirements can be a bit complicated, so take the time to read and understand them before heading afield.

Armed with the understanding of all of the aspects and requirements of the Mentored Hunting Program, it is time to take a new hunter under your wing and enjoy time together in our great outdoors, as you guide them through the process of becoming a safe and ethical member of the hunting community. The time you spend together over the course of your mentoring will create a bond and memories that will prevail for years to come and might just instill in the new hunter the desire to pass it forward one day by becoming a mentor themselves!

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