Montana’s general deer and elk season opened Oct. 21. If you want to expose a young person to hunting and mentor that person through their first hunt, now is a good time to consider signing them up for the Apprentice Hunter program. With that, it’s important to note that legal apprentice hunters can hunt throughout the general season.
The Apprentice Hunter law, enacted by the Montana Legislature, allows people ages 10 and older to hunt as apprentices with a mentor for two seasons without completing a Hunter Education course. As of 2017, there is no longer an upper age limit on being an apprentice.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks highly recommends that interested people visit fwp.mt.gov and read the packet on the Apprentice Hunter program before seeking certification. The packet outlines guidelines for both the apprentice and the required mentor, including what apprentices can and cannot do, who can act as a mentor, and how the certification process works. Reading up on it beforehand may prevent possible confusion and save people from making an extra trip.
Some key details to note: certification must take place at any FWP office, although the forms can be downloaded ahead of time from the website; an apprentice hunter must be certified before purchasing appropriate licenses, which will then show apprentice status; if the mentor is not related to an apprentice who is under the age of 18, a legal guardian’s signature will be needed in addition to the mentor’s; a parent or legal guardian must present a valid driver’s license or other identification at the time of certification; and there is a $5 fee for certification.
Apprentices must: be at least 10 years old at the time of license purchase; hunt with a mentor who is at least 21 and one that has completed hunter education if born after Jan. 1, 1985; have the appropriate Montana hunting licenses for the species being hunted which indicate that he/she is apprentice hunter certified; and stay within sight and direct voice contact of the mentor at all times.
Apprentices may be a resident or nonresident and may obtain apprentice certification for no more than two license years before he or she must complete a hunter safety and education course.
Apprentices are not eligible to: obtain a special bow and arrow license without first completing a bowhunter education course; obtain a resident hound training license for chasing mountain lion; participate in a hunting license or permit drawing with a limited quota; obtain any bighorn sheep license, black bear, mountain lion or wolf license; or obtain an elk license if under 15 years of age.
Mentors must: be 21 or older; be related to the apprentice by blood, adoption or marriage; or be the apprentice’s legal guardian or be designated by the apprentice’s legal guardian (guardian must complete form and show ID when purchasing licenses); have completed hunter education if born after Jan. 1, 1985; have a current Montana hunting license; complete the Apprentice Hunter Mentor form; agree to accompany and supervise the apprentice hunter and remain within sight of and direct voice contact with the apprentice always while in the field; and confirm that the apprentice possesses the physical and psychological capacity to safely and ethically engage in hunting activities.