The N.C. House of Representatives passed last week House Bill 296 - The Hunter Education/Apprentice Permit - which allows an individual holding a Hunting Heritage Apprentice Permit to hunt if accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who holds a hunting license in North Carolina, or if the individual is accompanied by an adult landholder or landholder's spouse who is exempt from the hunting license requirement if hunting on the landholder's land.

Hunting with an apprentice license would still require following other licensing requirements and hunting regulations.

The Hunter Heritage Apprentice Permit is a product of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's "Strategic Recruitment and Retention Initiative" recently organized by Commissioner Dell Murphy. The bill, introduced by Rep. John Bell (R-Craven/Greene/Lenior/Wayne), is intended to increase participation in hunting by allowing individuals to hunt under the guidance of licensed hunters instead of requiring them to complete coursework.

"This Hunter Heritage Apprentice Permit will allow someone to purchase a hunting license without first having completed the hunter-safety program, as long as they are within sight and hearing distance of an accompanying licensed hunter," Murphy said. "I am in complete support of any program that gets families into the outdoors and gives them a better understanding of conservation. I believe this legislation accomplishes that goal."


Rep. Bell and Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) sponsored the Hunter Education/Apprentice Permit bill, both noting that North Carolina's changing population requires the Commission to develop new strategies to get people outdoors.


"Many people in today's society may not initially have the time or opportunity to complete the coursework to go hunting, especially if they have veteran, safety-minded hunters already willing to serve as hunting mentors in the outdoors," Moffitt said. "This legislation allows someone to experience hunting with the guidance of trusted family or friends who are also seasoned hunters. After enjoying an introductory experience, apprentice hunters can then complete the hunter education coursework and go hunting without mentors, if they choose."


Gordon Myers, the Commission's executive director, said the apprentice license would be a particularly appealing option for family-oriented hunting opportunities, such as dove hunts.


"If someone is invited to a family dove hunt on the day before the season opens, the Hunter Heritage Apprentice Permit would allow them to participate under the watchful eye of experienced hunters," Myers said. "I believe that after enjoying the outdoors and fellowship associated with a dove hunt, an apprentice hunter will be very interested in attending a hunter-education class, and hopefully, bring a friend."


The hunter apprentice permit legislation still has to be approved by the N.C. Senate and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.  If adopted, the new apprentice permit will be available July 1, 2013.