I read where State Fish & Wildlife officials here in Washington are planning to ask the legislature to reinstate a law that would require juvenile hunters to be accompanied by an adult.
Good, we need that and a bit more.
I think we also need to set a minimum age requirement for legal hunting in Washington.
I know that last will raise some hackles, but I donít come by that opinion lightly.
I say it as an individual whoís hunted for more than 30 plus years and who intends to hunt until Iím no longer physically capable of doing so.
I say it as an individual who begins planning next year's hunting trip as soon asI climb into my truck to leave this yearís camp.
I say it as an individual who has taught his own kids to hunt and plans to teach his granddaughter to hunt.
I say it as an individual who believes that hunting is an ethical, moral, and highly demanding sport.
I say it as a Life Member of the NRA, as a certified rifle instructor, range safety officer, and as a hunter education instructor for the State of Washington who knows that hunting is a safe sport thatís becoming safer each year.
That last isnít just wishful thinking or an attempt to blow smoke in your face. According to studies performed by the National Safety Council, more people (per hundred thousand participants) are injured playing baseball, riding bicycles, swimming, fishing, and even bowling than are injured while hunting.
But it could be safer.
As parents, we care about our kids. We want nothing but the best for them and go out of our way to ensure that no harm comes to them.
From the day theyíre born we do this by setting boundaries.
Before they can walk and talk, we go through the house and install all sorts of safety devices to prevent them from harming themselves or others. They may be too young to understand why we do these things, but we know they need this protection.
As they get older, we put boundaries in place. We set rules. We forbid certain behaviors. We monitor their play. We watch their friends. They may chafe at all of this, but we know the results of not doing so and willingly enforce these rules and boundaries despite their protests.
As more years pass, they gain experience. They learn about the consequences of their actions. However, until they show us that they can handle responsibility, until they show us that they have the experience to safely navigate the world around them, weíre there at the gates to ensure that they do no harm themselves or others.
We donít issue driversí licenses to 10-year-olds and the insurance rates for teenagers are pretty impressive. We donít allow 13-year-olds to buy firearms or ammunition nor do we allow minors to but cigarettes or alcohol. Thereís a reason for this. The reason is that, in general, weíve found that the young amongst us are prone to mistakes.
So, as a society, we opt for age limits. Granted, this isnít a ďprecision instrumentĒ approach, but itís proven to be useful in terms of holding them back until theyíve gained some experience, maturity, and have earned a measure of our trust. This same thinking should be applied to hunting.
There is no current minimum age to begin hunting in this state. If an 8-year-old can pass the hunter education course, that 8-year-old can hunt legally and alone. That, my friends, is just plain foolish.
I love hunting and Iíll fight any effort to have the sport banned. Further, Iíll argue any point with those who see it as unethical, immoral or brutal. That said, I want the legislature - with input from hunters - to establish minimum ages for both the issuance of hunting licenses and the permission to hunt without adult supervision.
Iíd argue that small game hunting licenses could be earned at 10 years of age with big game licenses to follow at 15. Iíd further argue that these same hunters should be accompanied by an adult until theyíre 16-year-old.
No, itís not perfect and itís open to argument and criticism, but the point is to make the sport safer and discussion, criticism, and honest argument is the best way I know to do this.
Having no age limits ignores whatís obvious to every parent out there.
Our kids need time and guidance to grow into anything - hunting included.