According to a report by The Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources sold nearly 2,000 hunting licenses to children age nine or younger through Sunday, including 10 to children under a year old.
Under legislation that Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign into law this week, kids of any age will be allowed to hunt deer and carry their own gun when accompanied by an adult, no training required. Previously, kids had to be at least 10 years old to hunt with a mentor and the two had to share a weapon.
Wisconsin’s traditional gun deer hunting season will open Saturday and this twist is raising concern around the country.
“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,” Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point said last week in a story that ran in the New York Times.
The DNR released data Tuesday that shows the agency had sold 1,814 mentored hunt licenses to children age nine or younger through Sunday. The vast majority, 1,011 license, went to nine-year-olds. Fifty-two licenses went to children under age 5, with 10 going to a child under a year old. A four-year-old was the youngest licensee to register a kill. Harvest data doesn’t show who actually killed the deer.
Stafsholt, a Republican from New Richmond, said widespread support for his bill underscores the trust Wisconsinites have in a hunting culture that’s already family-based. Parents are hardheaded and they know best when a youngster is ready to join the hunt, he said. Having each mentored hunter within arm’s reach, still a requirement under the proposed new law, will keep everyone safe, he said.
In addition, he said, the revision doesn’t change other aspects of youth hunting, including formal hunter education requirements starting at age 12.
“This leaves it to the family,’’ Stafsholt said. “That’s how I learned.”
Jon Paurus, education coordinator for the Minnesota DNR, said he doesn’t anticipate Wisconsin having problems once the minimum age for mentored hunts is dropped. “Parents who want kids involved are going to do it right,’’ Paurus said.