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