HARRISBURG - Joined by a coalition of sportsmen, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe and state Sen. Bob Robbins (R-50) this week announced that experienced hunters, who have historically helped pass along the state’s rich hunting heritage, now have another way to introduce youths to hunting by serving as a mentor in the new Mentored Youth Hunting Program (MYHP), which officially begins this Saturday, July 22. “Pennsylvania’s hunters, this Saturday, will have an unprecedented opportunity to introduce those under the age of 12 to hunting,” Roe said. “The Mentored Youth Hunting Program will require one interested adult for every young person yearning to become a hunter. Hunting is deeply woven into the cultural fabric that is Pennsylvania, and it is important that we recruit new hunters to carry on this tradition.” “The logic behind the Mentored Youth Hunting Program is simple and clear: create expanded youth hunting opportunities without compromising safety afield,” Roe said. “This program paves the way for youngsters to nurture their interest in hunting early and allows them to take a more active role in actual hunting while afield with mentoring adults.” As part of a nationwide effort, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass legislation designed to encourage more young people to take up hunting to increase hunter numbers. The measure was part of a national Families Afield campaign promoted by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. In Pennsylvania, the state’s leading sportsmen’s organizations formed a coalition to promote the measure. “In Pennsylvania, hunting and trapping have an annual $4.8 billion economic impact and are responsible for supporting more than 45,000 jobs,” said Sen. Robbins, who sponsored the enabling legislation for the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. “As such, it is important that we not only work to retain hunters, but to attract the next generation in Pennsylvania. That is what the Mentored Youth Hunting Program is all about.” Representatives of those organizations who served on the program’s ad hoc committee and joined in the announcement were: Ron Fretts, National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF); Greg Caldwell and Jon Pries, Pennsylvania Chapter of the turkey federation; Melody Zullinger, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs; Jen Sager, the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania; Patrick Domico, Central Counties Concerned Sportsmen; Tom Baldrige and Kory Enck, National Rifle Association (NRA); and John Kline and Monica Kline of Kline Associates. Those committee members unable to attend today’s event were: Kip Adams, Quality Deer Management Association; and Rob Sexton, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual at least 21 years of age, who will serve as a guide to a youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearm or hunter safety and wildlife identification. A mentored youth would be defined as an unlicensed individual less than 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities. The regulations require that the mentor-to-mentored youth ratio be one-to-one, and that the pair possesses only one sporting arm when hunting. While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor. The species identified as legal game for the 2006-07 license year - the first year of the program - are squirrels, woodchucks (groundhogs) and spring gobbler. The Board approved adding antlered deer in the 2007-08 seasons. The Board noted that those youths participating in the program would be required to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which is one antler of three or more inches in length or one antler with at least two points. The program also requires that both the mentor and the youth must abide by any fluorescent orange regulations, and that the mentored youth must tag and report any wild turkey taken by making and attaching a tag that contains their name, address, date, WMU, township, and county where it was taken. Also, the youth must submit a harvest report card, which is available on page 33 of the 2006-07 Digest, within five days for any gobbler he or she takes. For more information on the program, visit the Game Commission’s Web site (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on “Mentored Youth FAQs” in “Quick Clicks” box in the upper right corner of the homepage. Information also is included on page 15 of the 2006-07 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.