JOHN DAY – Hunting advocates are looking to a new generation of hunters to bolster lagging numbers of people participating in the activity.

“The overall trend in hunter participation is in decline,” according to David Lane, statewide marketing coordinator for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s a nationwide trend, and Oregon is no exception. While 323,000 resident hunting licenses were issued to Oregon residents in 1975, that number had declined to 239,000 resident hunting licenses issued in Oregon during 2011.

ODFW is using its hunter education program to teach safety and responsibility to next generation hunters.

All hunters under the age of 18 are required to have a hunter education card, except those hunting on land owned by their parents or legal guardian, or youth age 9-13 who are participating in the Mentor Youth Hunter Program.

The hunter education card can be obtained through a hunters education class, online class or independent workbook. Youth who choose to complete the hunters education program online or through independent study are required to complete a field day with an approved hunter education instructor.

The number of cards issued is “on the rise over the last couple of years with about a 10 percent increase from last year to this year,” said ODFW hunter education manager James Reed. “We have about 5,600 students per year.”

This year’s graduates include six new hunters in Grant County, who applied their gun safety skills at a field day on July 21, the culmination of their two-week hunter education class.

The new card-holders are Lacey Brooks, Madison McKrola, Cauy Weaver, Jeremiah Davis, Jonathan Lawrence and Sasha Juarez. Their instructors were Deanna Maley, Lynn Comini, James Burgett, Mark Boss, Gordon Black, Andy Day (archery), Neil Bauer (muzzleloader) and Bryan Nelson (coordinator).

About 350 such classes are held each year across Oregon, teaching students about Oregon hunting regulations, ethics, wilderness survival and basic first aid, wildlife conservation, firearm handling and safety.

The course ends with a written final exam and a field day implementing firearm safety field exercises and live-fire exercises.

“The class has moved from firearm safety to hunting and life skills,” said Reed.

Understanding firearm safety and Oregon hunting requirements gives young hunters the information necessary to hunt safely, he said.

For more information, call ODFW at 541-575-1167 or see the ODFW website at www.dfw.state.or.us.

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