First Steps Afield

Published on: Sep. 18, 2013

but at some point, we decided that something better was in order. Consider hanging on to your entry-level gear. Oftentimes, having the requisite equipment is a barrier to getting out into the field. Maybe your first foray into duck hunting resulted in a pair of inexpensive waders. After a season of putting up with them, you decided to upgrade to a nicer set. Hang on to that first pair. They might be what it takes to turn one of your work buddies into one of your waterfowling buddies. If neither of you has the necessary gear, consider shopping for used items.

Take Advantage of the Apprentice Hunter Program

It used to be that, if you wanted to take a friend out hunting, they had to complete a hunter’s safety course before purchasing a hunting license. While I recommend that everyone take the course, the time investment may be just enough of a deterrent to keep someone from getting a license for the first time. To address this issue, the Department of Conservation has created the Apprentice Hunter Program.

The Apprentice Hunter Program is for experienced hunters who want to share the joy of hunting with a friend or relative, and it’s for the curious who want to try hunting before making the commitment to become hunter-education certified. Under this program, people age 16 and older who are not hunter-education certified are allowed to hunt with firearms as long as they satisfy the following requirements: First purchase the Apprentice Hunter Authorization for $10 (good for one year); purchase a firearms hunting permit (a small game permit or spring turkey permit, for example); hunt in the immediate presence of a properly licensed, hunter-education certified hunter who is 18 years old or older, or who was born before Jan. 1, 1967. “Immediate presence” means close enough for normal conversation, without shouting.

The Apprentice Hunter Authorization allows new hunters to purchase firearms permits throughout the permit year, and they can purchase the authorization for two permit years. After the second year, the hunter must become hunter-education certified to continue hunting on a firearms permit.

Missouri is a leader in hunter recruitment, and the Apprentice Hunter Authorization is just one more tool to help experienced and novice hunters continue Missouri’s rich hunting tradition.

Recently, a friend of mine wanted to learn to hunt but was unsure if he could devote part of a weekend for the training. At $10 dollars for the permit, this gave him a low-cost option to figure out if he wanted to pursue hunting enough to take the safety course. It’s paving the way for a brand new turkey hunter.

Share Our Tradition

As hunters, we’re always looking for the next big challenge, a bigger buck, or a limit of birds. It never ends, and that’s just fine. But may I suggest that the best we can aspire to, our biggest thrill, is opening up this incredible world to our friends and family? Introducing people to the hunting lifestyle will deepen your relationship and add to the ranks of those who support stewardship of the species and habitats we cherish.

I don’t know what sensory cue it will be for my friends, the smell of a well-worn gun case or maybe the sight of red-blinking traffic lights (because no one in their right mind should be up at that hour). For me, decades later, the remembered sound of those little brass hinges in the quiet morning brings me back to my father, who instilled in me the love of hunting, and sends me back afield.

Take it to the Next Level

Whether you are a novice or an expert, if you are interested in improving your hunting, shooting, or other outdoor skills, check out our “Events” page at mdc.mo.gov/events. Free and low-cost classes are offered throughout the state for Missouri residents

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