This Week in Fish and Wildlife: Youth hunts help young hunters in Montana gain experience in the field

Posted at 4:47 PM, Sep 20, 2023

For those who hunt waterfowl or pheasants in Montana, you have to wait until Oct. 1. However Montana will see some hunters in the field this Saturday, hunting those same species. MTN’s Chet Layman takes a look at Montana’s unique youth hunts.

BOZEMAN — Hunting is much more than just grabbing a weapon and heading into the field. That's why hunter education courses are required to get a license. Montana also makes it easier for the youngest hunters to use those skills in the field, without competition from anyone else.

“There's a reason they come first,” said Morgan Jacobsen with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “They're a tremendous opportunity for young hunters to become introduced to the sport, to find some success early on in the season and in their hunting career, and to put what they learn in hunters' education into practice there in the field.”

Think of hunters' education as your first trip into the adult world. You learn about hunting and firearms and then can get a license to use those adult weapons. Those are the classroom skills—youth hunts are where it all comes together.

“We talk about firearms safety, we talk about ethics and responsibility and all those things, but until those kids put it into practice in the field, that's really when that knowledge and experience becomes part of who they are as a hunter,” said Jacobsen.

Legally licensed hunters between 12 and 15 and apprentice licensed hunters 10 to 15 can go, but not alone. Non-hunting adults over 18 or over 21 for the apprentice must go with them.

“Really that's so important, that mentorship opportunity to help these kids understand what ethical hunting looks like—how do we be responsible, legal, and safe in the field. And so these youth, again these youth hunt opportunities like what we have starting here in September are really a tremendous opportunity to get that started.

This weekend’s youth hunt is only for certain waterfowl and pheasants. Another youth deer hunt weekend takes place in October.