Utah hunter trial program gains support

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:14 PM

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY – A Weber County lawmaker wants to be a bit selfish about his chance to draw a tag to hunt deer, but he voted to support a proposal to expand the number of hunters in the state anyway.

A program intended to help kids give hunting a brief trial, before committing to a required hunting course, cleared a Senate committee with a favorable recommendation on Thursday. It now advances to the Senate for further consideration. It was described as an initiative that can increase the number of hunters in Utah.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, was among the lawmakers supporting the program, even though he complained about how it might impact his chances, as part of the process. The bill, SB 165, is sponsored by Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe.

The legislation would establish a hunting training program as a means of giving people a chance to sample hunting, in the company of an experienced, licensed hunter, without committing to the safety course required to get a license.

The program is tailored after similar measures in 35 other states, according to Robin Cahoon of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. She said a wildlife board would hold six public hearings, before determining what kinds of hunting that would be allowed in the program.

“What this piece of legislation will do is says ‘give it a try,’” Cahoon said.

Jenkins, who chairs the committee, wondered why there would be an effort to expand the number of hunters, when deer permits are so hard to draw.

“Will this decrease my opportunity to draw?” Jenkins asked.

Cahoon reminded Jenkins it would be up to the board to determine what game would be subject to the draw. She said the board may opt to simply open the trial hunting to turkeys and birds and not extend that to deer.

“I understand the concern with having more people in the field but if we don’t ensure there are more people, this sport won’t grow,” Cahoon said.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, reminded lawmakers hunters and money from licenses go into programs to restore wildlife in the Beehive State.

Jenkins still sounded like a frustrated hunter in the end.

“I got a lot of points, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference,” he said of his chances in the draw.

Okerlund told Jenkins deer hunting was much different when they were young and reminded his colleague the state is working to rebuild the deer herd.

Okerlund hopes the Legislature will move quickly on the proposal and suggested the trial program could be in place for turkey hunting later this year.

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