While most of the U.S. is trying to get guns out of the hands of children, hunting groups and state legislatures are trying to put them in.
While the nation tries to mentor children academically, hunting groups and state legislatures are trying to mentor them in hunting.
This week, the Wisconsin state Assembly passed a bill removing minimum age restrictions for child hunting as long as the child is accompanied by an adult who follows certain rules.
Lowering child hunting ages in the U.S. is a trend that is at least a decade old. Eleven years ago, the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses (NASC) proposed new laws under a "Families Afield" program to fight the declining number of hunters. There were two million less hunters in 2004 than 1982 and the number continues to decline.
Specifically, the 2006 bills repealed regulations that prohibit children from hunting until they're 12 and have passed a hunter safety course. Rules like that are "barriers" to hunting bemoaned NASC, presumably speaking for state Departments of Natural Resources that rely on hunters to keep them financially afloat.
When Wisconsin considered the age lowering bill in 2006 bill, Wisconsin resident Joe Slattery said eight-year-olds "still believe in Santa Claus," and are just learning cursive writing. His own son was killed by a child hunter
By 2006, similar youth hunting laws had sailed through 13 other state legislatures.
Besides lowering the hunting age, 2006 Families Afield legislation legalized "apprentice" hunting licenses--the apprentice can hunt under the direct supervision of a licensed adult hunter before completing hunter safety training. This put "training back into the hands of Uncle Joe," charged hunter safety instructor Dave Dalton in the Detroit Free Press.
"We're not doing this for money," said State Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) who authored the 2006 eight-year-old Wisconsin hunter bill and owned a gun shop. "This is about getting kids involved in hunting at a younger age [so they] participate for the rest of their lives."
But former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell disagreed about the purpose of an age lowering hunting law for children. "We need this law because for every 100 hunters who retire, only 62 take up the sport," he said. "If this trend continues, our ability to manage wildlife will be severely affected and Pennsylvania's economy will suffer."
Hunting is not just about killing said Bobby Purcell, a member of North Carolina's wildlife commission and executive director of the Wolfpack Club. "One of the things I really enjoy about taking my son out is he gets to appreciate what God gave us and how beautiful our nature is." (That's why people hike and camp.)
But Shawn Meyer, a northern Indiana sportsman and full time youth pastor disagreed and said it is about hunting. Young kids may be "unable to appreciate a hunt that ends without something being harvested," he wrote on his web site huntwithakid.
"Five-year-olds and under will get more out of an outing if it's plinking squirrels, catching bluegills, gigging frogs, or blowing a box of shells on doves than if it's sitting motionless for hours on end," he advises.
And there is more outdoor fun for five-year-olds besides shooting squirrels and doves or gigging frogs said John Johnson of Braham county, Minnesota in the Isanti County News. With a couple of dozen traps and some fresh meat kids can "find enjoyment" trapping possums.