Idaho has a way for potential new hunters to dip their toes into the sport before committing time and energy to a hunter education program.
People who are at least 8 years old and have never held a hunting license in Idaho or any other state or country can now buy a hunting passport for $1.75.
The document, similar to a license, allows people to hunt with a license-holding mentor for up to one calendar year and temporarily waives the hunter education required to buy a standard hunting license.
The program was created in 2011 by legislation backed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and its governing commission. It is viewed as a way to recruit new people to hunting, especially those who might be curious about hunting but are unsure if it is right for them.
It is trying to create multiple pathways to hunter recruitment, said Sharon Kiefer, F&G deputy director. We value hunter education, but we recognize sometimes its that spark from family or friends, that experience with them, that can really make the difference.
Those who participate in the passport program must have a mentor who is 18 or older and holds a resident or nonresident Idaho hunting license. No certification is required to be a mentor, but people may not mentor more than two people at the same time.
Those being mentored must obey all hunting rules and regulations. For example, they must purchase tags when applicable and obey weapon restrictions and bag limits.
Children younger than 10 can only hunt certain small-game species, such as upland birds. Those who are 10 and 11 can also hunt turkeys and sandhill cranes, and those 12 and older can hunt big game.
The program was designed as a way to get kids interested in hunting before they get distracted by other activities.
But Kiefer said it isnt limited to children. Theres growing interest among adults to consume food they obtain locally, which is attracting new hunters across the country. The hunting passport can help continue that trend in Idaho.
Passport rules are the same for adults. An adult first-timer also must be accompanied by a mentor with a valid license.
Kiefer said several other states have similar programs.
Its kind of timely, she said. We have some folks who are kind of excited about doing some outreach to some of the university natural resource programs. The program has its genesis in youth requirements, but you will see with many of the states, its definitely not a program that is limited only to youth.
The program is not a way to permanently get around the states hunter education requirement.
Passports are issued for a calendar year. Those who want to continue hunting must fulfill the hunter education requirement before buying another hunting license.
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1975 unless they have held a license from Idaho, or another state or country, must complete hunter education. Courses are offered throughout the year and also online.
We are not abandoning hunter education, Kiefer said. That is still a requirement to lifelong hunting license purchasing. The passport is just creating a first-step pathway trying to get people excited.
New program allows people to get a $1.75 passport so they can try hunting.