Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Hunters

As states erase minimum hunting ages, kids are being robbed of their childhoods

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Photo Credit: iStock Photo

By Craig Shapiro

My granddaughter is 9, and her brother is almost 8. This summer, when they weren’t bouncing on a trampoline or riding bikes, they were running their lemonade stand. Both want a pogo stick for Christmas.

If they lived in Wisconsin, where the governor recently signed legislation that eliminates the state’s minimum hunting age, or in one of the other 34 states where it’s OK for anyone of any age to carry a weapon into the woods, who knows what visions might be dancing in their heads?

That worries me.

It worries opponents of the Wisconsin bill, too. They raised the first red flag right after it was blessed by the state assembly, and they didn’t mince words. “To allow … a toddler, a 2-year-old (to carry a gun), and I’m not being hyperbolic because someone will allow it, is dangerous,” said one legislator. “Absolute insanity,” said another.

In other words, kids are kids, they have attention spans that are as short as they are, and arming them is an accident waiting to happen.

Children in Wisconsin still have to be at least 12 years old to buy a hunting license or use a gun, but while they were required to be at least 10 to participate in a program that’s euphemistically called “mentored hunting” — meaning that an adult shows them how to kill — they can sign up at any age now, and mentor and hunter no longer have to share a weapon.

“How old are you, kid?”

“This many.”

“Perfect. Lock and load!”

Absolute insanity.

The bill’s proponents, among them the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International and other outfits that rally around any reason to slaughter animals, didn’t see it that way. One legislator, presumably with a straight face, said that he didn’t let his daughter kill a bear until she was 11 because — wait for it — she wasn’t ready at 10.

Another showed off a photo of his little girl standing next to the wild hog whom she gunned down when she was 8. “There’s nothing more exciting than seeing the look on someone’s face when they harvest their first animal,” he boasted.

Here’s where I raise the second red flag.

That legislator’s assertion regarding people’s excitement is simply boneheaded — just ask anyone who’s ever been in a delivery room or earned a degree — but using the word “harvest” in an attempt to sugarcoat what goes down on the killing fields is delusional.

Beans and corn are harvested. Bears and wild hogs are slaughtered. Hunting is a senseless, destructive blood sport. There’s no gray area. If hunters want to fool themselves by hiding behind misnomers like “harvest” and “cull,” another favorite dodge word, that’s fine. They’d first need to have a backbone before a primer in semantics would make any difference anyway. But to deceive children is contemptible.

Kids come by their affinity for animals naturally — my grandkids share space with three cats, and their dad grew up in a house full of animal companions. When children are taught how to get off a kill shot instead of learning to respect bears, wild hogs, and others as unique individuals with families of their own, that affinity is snuffed out just like the lives of the animals they kill.

Don’t we have an obligation, and isn’t it our responsibility, to tell our kids the truth?

There’s nothing sporting about hunting — a sport pairs willing, evenly matched opponents on a level playing field. It isn’t a tradition to pass down, either — less than 5 percent of the U.S. population still pursues the bloody pastime. Hunters aren’t conservationists — they disrupt hibernation and migration patterns and terrorize the animals whose families they destroy.

One more thing: Hunting is animal abuse. The correlation between people who abuse animals and people who go on to harm other humans is inarguable.

There’s already enough pain and suffering in the world. Let kids be kids.

This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

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