Tuesday, August 12, 2008

At What Age?

As the 2008/09 hunting season draws nearer, the age old tradition will be passed on to the next generation of young hunters. Parents, grandparents and siblings will all be anticipating their youngest member of the family joining them on this annual ritual. The unfortunate aspect to this rite of passage are the accidents resulting from lack of supervision and /or the individual not having completed a state sponsored Hunters Education Program successfully.

I was 11 when I passed my hunters safety class and began hunting with my dad. Up until then I had a pellet gun which I was taught the basic rules of firearms.

1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
2. Know where the muzzle of your gun is at all times.
3. Never point a gun at something other than what you intend on shooting.
4. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you know what your target is.

These rules keep everyone safe provided they are taught in the correct environment and at an appropriate age . Not all kids mature at the same rate. A six year old is certainly not mature enough to cognitively know the consequences of his actions. He may still be a believer in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and for his sake I sure hope that is the case. My point being that a 6 year old is too young for firearms. Same is true for a 7 and 8 year old. Perhaps around 9 or 10 is a more appropriate age to introduce firearms.

You may be wondering why I have gone on a bit of a rant here? Well, it's because of someone I know who thinks his 6 year old son is ready to walk beside him with a real unloaded gun. Yep, I can see the scenario play out. The kid now wants real bullets and after weeks or months of whining, the parent finally caves in to their sons wishes. Setting the table for another accident just waiting to happen. We do not need to fuel the "anti gun" lobbyist with needless firearm accidents.

The last thing we as hunters need are self indulgent ego driven parents putting firearms in the hands of children who haven't the ability to know what is right from wrong. Our responsibility as hunters is to safely educate and instruct youth with proper gun safety. Even as an adult when I hunt with another adult for the first time, I am watching to see if they have safe gun handling skills. If not then I won't want to hunt with them again.

Each state has their own Hunter Education Programs and has established laws or guidelines as to what age a child may legally hunt. Most states require an adult to be with the youth up to a certain age.

I am interested in hearing back from you, the reader as to when you started hunting and at what age do you feel it is appropriate to give a child their first real gun?


Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt


Tom Sorenson said...

To be honest, I cannot remember at what age I actually started to carry a gun. I just think I've been hunting my entire life because I remember always getting to go hunting with my family...I just don't know when I first carried a gun. I remember shooting my first pheasant when I was 12, so it was likely a year or two before that. I'm guessing it was like you - I was probably 11...and I was an accomplished rabbit hunter with my pellet gun a few years before that.

Anonymous said...

I don't hunt yet, but I've written a lot about this issue. I think a lot of it depends on the individual kid. I've known six year old kids who were responsible enough to remember the rules and handle a gun safely. I've known sixteen year old kids who were not. A lot depends on personality.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I honestly think that a 6 year old should be allowed to have the gun....with some restrictions.

I don't think the 6 yr. old should be walking with the gun, but I have no problem with the 6 yr. old actually being able to hunt at that age....provided the parent is carrying the gun to the location and supervising the shot.

In this day an age, if we don't get kids involved early we are going to lose them to video games and ipods.

Plus, the number of gun accidents involving children is very low. I know that 1 is too much, but a child riding in a car is more dangerous.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I just wrote about this too, and I don't have an answer. Not a blanket answer, anyway. Seems to me that the age at which a kid should be allowed to hunt depends on that kids's maturity and intelligence.

I also can't help but think about rites of passage in hunter-gatherer societies, and the systems they have in place to ensure that small children can experiment with hunting, but certain standards must be met before they become full-fledged hunters.

Terry Scoville said...

I think that you are right on the mark Norcal, regarding hunter/gatherer societies. In those days kids were brought up around hunting from infancy. They began hunting as early as possible because it was required for survival. Not the same these days.

Blessed said...

I think it depends on the child to a large extent - I know one 10 year old that I would trust with a gun in my presence I know another 10 year old that I wouldn't trust - they are both girls, they both come from hunting families the second one just isn't mature enough yet.

6 seems young to me though... My youngest nephew is 8 and his parents are trying to decide - the first place he would get to use one would be a range as for hunting Dad would carry the gun and then let him shoot.

I guess since I have a little one of my own I need to start thinking about this :)

Good topic!

Cristina Acosta said...

Interesting subject Terry -- you're right, a six year old my seem "mature", but regardless of what we think we observe, children do not have fully developed brains and consequently, fully developed discernment at that age. Putting a weapon in a child's hand at that age puts undue responsibility in their hands. You can involve a child in the field without putting a gun in their hands, tasks include: tracking animals, cleaning the harvested animal, preparing for the trip, etc.

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