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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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Apprentice hunting program helps local father and son bond

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

As general deer and elk  hunting season opened Oct. 21, Montana youth got a head start with the state’s youth hunt last Thursday and Friday. 

The two-day “youth hunt,” which corresponds with Montana state teacher conventions when student are out of school, gives hunters 15 and under the opportunity to bag a deer before the regular season.

During the youth hunt, Owen Burman, 11, and his father, Newly, got to a share a moment they won’t soon forget. The Burmans participated in the state’s apprenticeship hunter program which allows youth as young as 10 to hunt with a mentor before they complete a hunter’s safety course.

Newly, who works and lives away from his family, filed for the hunter apprentice certification in Bozeman and came home for the special occasion.

“His friends were talking about the apprentice program so I think that pushed him to want to go,” Newly said.

The two along with Owen’s grandmother went to Wibaux for the day where they went hunting on private land.

First time hunter Owen shot a 3 x 3 buck around dusk, which his father described as “prime time” for hunting.

“We were sitting in a barn and we had to wait till a doe passed, then we walked up to a hill, and set up the shooting sticks and I got him,” Owen said.

The fifth grader at Lincoln Elementary School made one lethal blow to the buck’s back to bring it down from about a hundred yards.

“I hit it in the back and the bullet ricocheted inside him,” Owen said.

Owen skinned the deer with the help of his dad.

The two quickly put the meat to good use, making 18 lbs. of jerky and 5 lbs. of ground venison.

This 2017-2018 hunting season is the third year Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has offered the apprentice hunter program.

According to Neil Whitney of the Montana FWP, as of Oct. 24, there have been 3,640 apprenticeship certifications filled this fall. Last year there were 4,570 apprenticeship certification filled during the deer hunting season.

The Apprentice Hunter law enacted by the Montana Legislature allows people ages 10 and up to hunt as apprentices with a legal guardian or parent or relative by blood, adoption or marriage without completing a hunter’s education course for their first two years of hunting.

The apprentice must hunt with a mentor who is 21 years old or older who has also completed the hunter education course if the mentor was born after Jan. 1, 1985.

The mentor must have a current Montana hunting license and confirm the apprentice is capable to  ethically and safely engage in hunting activities physically and psychologically while staying within sight and voice of the mentor.

Certifications for the apprentice program are $5 and must be signed and turned in to any Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks office. The apprentice then may hunt with his or her mentor for the rest of the season as long as they have the appropriate tags. The mentor must fill out the hunter mentor form as well.

The apprentice program only allows the youngest hunters to shoot deer, but if the participate is 15 years or older, he or she may apply for an elk tag.

An apprentice also may not participate in a permit drawing with a limited quota. 

For more information and how to apply for the apprentice hunter program, visit the website at www.fwp.mt.gov.

Reach Kyle Vuille at

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