It's easier than ever to introduce someone new to hunting in Idaho.
One way is through Idaho Fish and Game’s Hunting Passport, which offers novice hunters, both young and old, the opportunity to hunt for one year before needing to complete a hunter education course.
A Hunting Passport is a special authorization that allows anyone who has never held a hunting license in any state, resident and nonresident, age 8 and older, to hunt wildlife for one year when they are accompanied by a mentor and participating in the Mentored Hunting Program.
“This simply allows people to test the waters and see if hunting is something they will enjoy before committing to the coursework and effort required to complete hunter education,” said Brenda Beckley, Fish and Game hunter and angler recruitment manager.”
While there is no upper age limit to participate, new hunters must be 10 years of age to hunt big game, turkey and sandhill crane and 8 to hunt most other game birds and small game that do not require tags.
Passport holders must purchase general season tags, appropriate permits and validations. All hunting rules, seasons and weapon restrictions also apply.
Hunting Passports cost $1.75 and are available at all Fish and Game license vendors. It expires December 31 of the year it was issued, and only one can be purchased in a lifetime, except an 8 year old may obtain a second passport at 9 years old. To continue hunting after the passport expires, the hunter must complete a hunter education course and purchase a license.
The program was originally designed as a way to get more youth interested in hunting before they may be distracted by a myriad of other activities such as youth sports and video games. But the passport program isn’t just for youth. The growing interest of many adults to eat locally sourced food is attracting new adult hunters to the sport.
“Being able to secure healthy, local meat is becoming a real motivation for new adult hunters,” said Beckley.
And more people are giving passports a try. Approximately 1,098 passports were purchased in 2013, the first full year they were offered. So far this year, 2,096 have been purchased.
Research demonstrates that exposure to hunting, especially with youth, is critical in them taking it up as a life-time sport. But both children and adults are busy today and have many more recreational choices. In addition, some studies show that the hunter education coursework may be a barrier that can discourage some from participating in a first-time hunting experience.
“Rather than undermining the hunter education program, the passport provides another avenue to build excitement and spark interest in hunting as a life-long activity,” Beckley said. “Whenever experienced hunters can help promote the sport through safe, one-on-one, hands-on learning experiences, it’s a good thing.”
Anyone 18 or older who holds a valid Idaho hunting license can serve as a mentor. No certification is required, but adults may not mentor more than two people at the same time.
For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit Fish and Game's website at https://idfg.idaho.gov/licenses/hunter-passport, or contact the nearest regional Fish and Game office.
In addition to the passport, Fish and Game also offers reduced price hunting licenses and tags for both resident and nonresident youth, and several youth-only controlled hunts for turkey, deer, elk, and pronghorn. Youth-only general hunting seasons are also offered for antlerless deer in many areas.
Youth who hold a passport or have already completed a hunter education course and purchased a hunting license and appropriate permits can also pursue waterfowl Sept. 24-25, 2016, pheasant Oct. 1-7, 2016, and turkey April 8-14, 2017 – all prior to the general season’s opening day.
These opportunities were created to promote hunting as a safe, enjoyable family-oriented activity. Fish and Game believes there is simply no better way to introduce a new hunter to the safe, ethical and responsible aspects of hunting than with the close supervision of an experienced adult mentor.
“When first-time hunters receive one-on-one training and hands-on hunting experiences with an experienced mentor, all of the aspects of the hunting tradition including ethics, safety, and responsibility are likely to be passed on,” said Beckley.
Plus sharing the hunting tradition with someone new can be mutually rewarding. Mentoring provides an opportunity to give back to the hunting culture and thereby conserve the hunting legacy for future generations.
But going hunting by yourself is one thing - teaching someone new about the sport is another. While being a mentor can be very satisfying, it carries with it important responsibilities. The following are some helpful tips for mentors:
Focus on the new hunter’s needs first: It’s easy for the passionate and experienced hunter to become engrossed in the seriousness of the hunt. Relax and try to remember your first hunt and the overwhelming newness of it all. Slow down and spend time explaining and sharing rather than expecting.
Be safe, legal, and sure: Discuss and practice safe gun handling prior to the hunt and routinely throughout. Review hunting seasons and rules booklets. Discuss the importance of properly identifying the game being hunted before pulling the trigger.
Prepare and plan: Help new hunters prepare and plan for the hunt. Get them excited by including them when sighting in rifles, pre-season scouting, packing gear and reviewing maps.
Practice: Practicing shooting skills before the hunt eases fears, reduces wounding loss, and builds confidence.
Limit expectations: As an experienced hunter, it is easy to take for granted all the knowledge and experience accumulated over many years. Understand that the new hunter has not had the privilege of time and experience. Do not focus solely on killing. Instead, stress enjoyment of the hunt and the outdoors. And remember, sometimes the best shot is no shot. The only good shot is one the new hunter is comfortable with.
Easy does it: You may be able to walk for miles in rugged terrain with a full backpack all day long. Trying to impose that method on a new hunter, youth or adult, may discourage them from ever going again. Instead, make the initial outings interesting, enjoyable, educational, and relaxed.
Fits and starts: Be sure that new hunters have the clothing and the necessary hunting equipment that fits to get them started.
Commit to comfort: Whether in warm or cold temperatures make sure the new hunter remains warm and comfortable. Being considerate of the new hunter’s comfort can make the outing more enjoyable and rewarding.
Full tank: Breakfast should always be a start to any day a field and be sure the new hunter has plenty of snacks and water, especially young hunters.