Should there be any minimum age to hunt in America?

That’s a question that a lot of states are grappling with, as the very welcome Families Afield campaign works to reduce minimum-age requirements as part of a coordinated effort to remove barriers to hunting participation. As a resident of a state where the minimum age to hunt is 12, I know that age is a very real barrier, indeed.

I’m a father of twin boys who turned 11 years old yesterday, and I’ve long believed that the decision about when a youngster is ready to hunt should be made by parents. I’d like to believe that we parents have a better idea about the emotional, physical and intellectual development of our children than the state does. And, besides, isn’t nearly any age arbitrary? Who is to say that your 12-year-old (or even 16-year-old) is ready to hunt? Or that my 9-year-old is not?

But today I read about a Virginia 4-year-old who killed two does on his father’s deer lease and it made me wonder if perhaps 4 years old is too young. Did the boy really have the awareness of what he was doing, taking the life of another animal? Does that matter?

I’d like to hear what you think on the topic. It’s one that goes to the very heart of what hunting is about – awareness of one’s actions. But it also goes to the very heart of the argument that if we want to perpetuate our American tradition of hunting, then we need to recruit youngsters as hunters before they get distracted by cars and video games and flirting. And it also goes to the heart of the biggest issue of all: whose job is it to define when a person is ready to hunt – the parent or the government?

Let the debate begin!