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convince me it's ok for a six year old to 'hunt' and kill a deer  RSS feed

 
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First of all, I am fine with hunting.  I don't eat much meat anymore but used to like venison and squirrel...bear was ok and have eaten racoon and possum.  Some of my best friends are hunters

Here, by twelve years old most boys and girls are hunting as often as they like with an adult.  It seems like the age is getting younger and younger and now I see photos in the paper of children as young as six years old holding up a dead deer's head by the antlers.

When our youngest son started school in the first grade, he came home mad at us the first week because he found out that all of the other kids had guns and televisions...many other things also, but those stood out for him.  He was allowed a gun at 12 and I took him target practicing and my husband took him hunting.  I can't imaging taking him out at six or seven.

My concern is that at six years old a child has no concept of what he has done...other than the praise and attention heaped on after the fact.  My husband and I were brought up that if you killed it you cleaned it, fish, squirrel, deer, whatever...a child that young can't even lift the gun on his own....

I'm only trying to change my attitude...I can't change this southern 'tradition'.









 
pollinator
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I have no problem with a 6yr old helping me do laundry or seasoning meat, or helping to cook dinner.
Same goes for feeding chickens or getting and taking care of a pet.
I would also not have any problem with him, helping me pluck/kill a chicken or kill/butcher a goat/sheep.

I don't see a problem with him getting a skateboard doing back-flips or a BMX bicycle or doing karate.
I think it is fine to bring the kid to go hunting too. And for him to bring a knife outside to peel whatever fruit he picks

I am not too sure about leaving him and his younger sister unsupervised with a scissor, much less cutting up greens togather.
And it would be crazy to leave him alone or worse yet with his younger sister with a loaded gun.

It would have to be a very supervised situation. Similar to having your 6yr old get a go-kart or turn the vechile steering while in your own personal backyard but not on the highway.

I do however thing that if a kid is given enough practice and supervision they could be a top notch marksman/marks-kid or is it marks-toodler, lol.
What I do worry about is the level of maturity(play fighting/joking), other general clumsiness and being aware of long term consequence (oh a bee, and I have my finger on this trigger but I am just going to run)
 
steward
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My intent is to keep high-powered guns away from 6 year olds. I believe that they don't have the motor skills, or self-awareness to be able to reliably follow gun safety rules, or to keep their mouth shut,  so as to not frighten off prey. I observe those skills begin to develop by about age 8. So after they have learned to not fidget/talk, then it might be appropriate for 8 year olds to accompany a hunt, but only with close supervision. In my own family, I'm not interested in allowing people under 12 to be hunting with high-powered weapons. Highly supervised target shooting. Fine. I might allow them a less supervised BB or pellet gun, accepting that the occasional flesh wound or broken window is part of learning responsibility.    
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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There may also be political an economic forces at play... If a family is living on the edge economically, and a 6 year old can get a hunting tag. Then family survival might well depend on the six year old stepping up and doing the responsible thing of taking a deer.

 
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Well my son doesn't have a gun. Not like a gun gun at least. He does have a BB gun. 2 actually. And he's killed things with them. Rabbits mostly but there have been mice. He got the gun when he was 5. My husband told me it couldn't kill anything so imagine our surprise when he comes in saying there's a hurt rabbit. We aren't against the killing of rabbits. Hubby hunts them. We have a rabbit problem. So we had to have a talk about humane killing with our little guy. So now, you can watch him out hunting rabbits. He'll shoot, run over to it and shoot it in the head. He's been around us killing animals we are actually fond of since birth so I dunno. He's cried over the loss of dogs but a rabbit or any other animal we kill, no real emotional impact.

He has gone hunting with his Dad though they've never managed to find anything to shoot. He didn't have a gun but he would have been there for the killing. Pretty normal I think.
 
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I'm with Joseph on this.  I don't think a 6 year old has the mental capacity to be able to hunt safely and effectively, with regards to himself, other people, or the animal being hunted.  I grew up in the midwest.  Nearly everyone hunts.  Everyone has weapons.  No one I personally know lets a 6 year old deer hunt.  Very mature 6 year olds (my little brother was one) are allowed to be along during the hunt.  We also learned to shoot .22s at a young age, but never without supervision.
 
S Bengi
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I have gone hiking with kids and have seen deer/wildlife. I have gone camping with kids and seen deer/wildlife. So if we went camping and had a gun during hunting season, it is possible that a deer could be had, but with a kid along the odds are infinitely closer to zero. I think it is okay to take a kid along on a hunting trip knowing very well that you are just on babysitting duty with a hand on the child 99% of the time, and it is just for the family time not to actually catch anything. Similar to going fishing just to hang out but zero expectation of catching anything but if you really want to catch something you go to your secret pond, even though it is a hassle to get there.

I remember roaming the wood with my siblings as a kid, but the idea of a single kid or a group of kindergartens/grade schoolers roaming the woods with guns, does sound pretty unnerving.

How about hunting with slingshot/bows/BB and fishing spear crossbow. Wow this is taking me down memory lane. I wonder at what ate I 1st used a fishing spear (mostly for turtle. Uhmm I never owned one, just borrowed from friends.
 
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6 seems rather young but I expect the 6 year old is also being hand-held through everything, and with a rifle in a blind using a tripod etc etc. I still wouldn't want to risk putting a poorly shot deer through hours or even days of suffering if that child doesn't hit just right.

My dad grew up in "the holler" in Kentucky, and he hunted birds with a sling shot every day to help put meat on the table. I think he said at 8 he got an air rifle which made it much quicker work, he would lay on the berm next to the railroad tracks, as pidgeons would be lined up on the phone lines above. The sling shot would scare the rest away for a while, while the rifle was quiet enough that he could shoot 5-6 in a row and then collect them all and go home.

I was shooting a rifle at targets and squirrels around age 5-6, and target shooting a compound bow at 6. I was never left alone with the rifle. The rifle was a little 22 caliber, and it was always slung on my shoulder when we moved around and that was over pretty easy terrain. My folks divorced when I was 7, so I never went hunting anything beyond then. But being quiet in the woods and learning to look up and out as well as where you stepped before moving was standard practice.

So I can a 6 year old being out there, but certainly not carrying the hardware over terrain where a trip could at the least damage a scope and under stupid conditions results in the weapon discharging a round. I'd feel sorry for any little kid having to shoulder a rifle during that shot too, between knowing how bad it will kick and trying not to tense up, while still making a clean shot that quickly drops the deer. My dad always shoots the spine with a rifle so they drop right on the spot, and is always up in a tree so even if a shot were to miss it's going to hit dirt regardless. I wouldn't want a child in a blind shooting and possibly missing, and that bullet travelling  a really long way until it hopefully hits a tree or hill before another hunter.
 
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Six year olds hunting deer? Really? What could possibly go wrong with that plan?
 
Judith Browning
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s. Bengi, this is hunting with an adult along, many times a grandparent...the child is usually allowed to hold the gun and pull the trigger...some only pull the trigger.  Then child is given credit and great praise for the kill...usually a photo in the local paper.  It is somewhat of a right of passage in some areas of the south.

I just can't get my mind around a six year old killing something with any real concept of what that means?

...and as others have said children that young don't have the maturity and strength for handling hunting guns.  BB guns maybe...even an air gun or a paint gun possibly.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I do not enjoy firing my deer hunting rifle. It is loud, it kicks like hell. I would consider it child abuse to allow a 6 year old to fire it. I probably wouldn't allow anyone under 100 pounds to fire it. Kids tend to achieve that weight around 12 to 14. My deer hunting rifle is specific for western hunting with wide open vistas and long shooting ranges. Some of the brush-type hunting rifles might be more suitable for smaller bodied shooters, but I really question whether there is enough body mass for a six year old to be able to safely fire a rifle that is powerful enough for deer hunting. Isn't .223 REM generally considered the least-powerful caliber suitable for deer hunting?

Edit to add: Hmm. Put the gun on a tripod, sandbag it well, and shoot a mostly tame deer from a blind? I'm fine with that. My family has never undertaken that kind of a hunt.
 
Trace Oswald
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I do not enjoy firing my deer hunting rifle. It is loud, it kicks like hell. I would consider it child abuse to allow a 6 year old to fire it. I probably wouldn't allow anyone under 100 pounds to fire it. Kids tend to achieve that weight around 12 to 14. My deer hunting rifle is specific for western hunting with wide open vistas and long shooting ranges. Some of the brush-type hunting rifles might be more suitable for smaller bodied shooters, but I really question whether there is enough body mass for a six year old to be able to safely fire a rifle that is powerful enough for deer hunting. Isn't .223 REM generally considered the least-powerful caliber suitable for deer hunting?

Edit to add: Hmm. Put the gun on a tripod, sandbag it well, and shoot a mostly tame deer from a blind? I'm fine with that. My family has never undertaken that kind of a hunt.



It's illegal to use a .223 for deer hunting here, and for good reason in my opinion.

Actually, I just looked that up, and it isn't illegal any more.  I still wouldn't do it, and I don't know anyone that does.  Common calibers here are 30.06, .308, .270, and the like.
 
pollinator
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I have no issues with this at all, a kid along for the hunt and allowed to make the kill shot. The child is learning where their food comes from, and that is not a bad thing at all. Failure to understand that leads to people like the woman who wrote into the newspaper staing that "hunting should be outlawed, and that those people get their meat at the grocery store so that no killing has to be taken place". Honestly, you cannot make this stuff up.

I had to inform my daughter's kindergarden teacher that she had a vast understanding of the life cycle. Since we are a commercial sheep farm, and only the worst lambs come in the house, sadly the ones we get to know are the ones that most often die. It is just how it is. But my daughters also have a very good understanding of the circle of life.

 
gardener
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Judith Browning wrote:My concern is that at six years old a child has no concept of what he has done...other than the praise and attention heaped on after the fact.  My husband and I were brought up that if you killed it you cleaned it, fish, squirrel, deer, whatever...a child that young can't even lift the gun on his own....



My lived experience tells me that it depends on the child, the circumstances, and the gun.

When I was five, my family of six moved into an 18x20 cabin on some old mining claims on a tributary of American Creek near Eagle, Alaska on the upper Yukon River.  I was taught to set small leg-hold traps for ermine and marten and snowshoe hares, set picture wire snares for snowshoe hares, and I was given a pneumatic BB gun (very low powered) for hunting squirrels, which were a pest and needed for dogfood.

I annoyed a lot of squirrels with that low-powered BB gun, but I learned to shoot with it too, and eventually got to where I could kill the small sub-arctic red squirrels with it at short ranges.  It also served as a platform for learning the basic rifle safety rules.

By the time I turned seven we were closer to town, squirrels were a bigger problem in our storage, and I had been taught to shoot both a .22 rifle and my father's backup moose hunting rifle -- an old British military pattern bolt-action .303 with a brass buttplate and many metal finishings.  (He carried a much more modern 30-.06 with a scope.)  A child that age can lift and carry that rifle; ask me how I know!  I couldn't fire it freehand with the barrel waving in the sky and supported by my puny left hand, but that's not how I was trained to shoot at wild game; I was trained to drop and find a rest  to steady the barrel, like a fallen log or a piece of driftwood.  Or, at a pinch, the branch of a tree. My recollection is of my father telling me the .303 "only" weighed 12 or 13 pounds because it had been customized by having the bayonette lug and various other military hardware removed; but I have no idea what it actually weighed, all I remember is that it was very heavy to carry in the woods.    

For my seventh birthday I received an old and durable single-shot bolt action .22, a box of .22 short ammo, a very strict refresher course in gun safety, and permission to hunt independently (for squirrels and hares) in the vicinity of our cabin and garden under the protocol that I was to take with me only one shell at a time.  I had to check in with an adult after expending each shell and account for its firing -- not with a dead animal, although this was strongly encouraged, but with, at least, a good and responsible-sounding story about what I had shot at and why I had missed, if I had. Only then could I leave again with a new shell.  

At about that same time I started going with my parents on moose hunting excursions, carrying that terrifying .303.  I could indeed carry it, I could indeed lift it, I could indeed shoot it.  I was not expected to make any independent kills.  I was trusted to keep the bolt closed on an empty chamber until instructed otherwise, and the safety on until instructed otherwise.  I had a moose tag.  The plan and protocol -- which we executed on one highly memorable occasion -- was for Dad and I to shoot more or less simultaneously at the same moose, ideally both putting bullets into it; whereupon I would notch my tag, leaving him free to take me home with the moose and still go back out hunting with a clean tag.  The time we did this, Dad (looking through the scope from about 400 yards) claimed that it was my bullet that went through the moose's Achille's tendon, and then he took credit for two rather more vital shots that dropped the animal.  No responsible hunter would take that shot alone at that animal with that gun over iron sites at that range, much less at the age of seven -- but for what we were doing, it made sense.  And I was proud of my contribution to the effort.   We didn't perform spectacles of marksmanship that day; the moose was on one side of the Yukon River and we were on the other.  Both of us took shots that terrorized driftwood and ravens.  It would have suited Dad's purposes to claim that one of my bullets hit that moose whether it did or not.  Honestly it struck little me as an improbable shot for me.  But I was prone with a good driftwood rest and shooting at a target the size of an automobile.  It's possible.

Did I have the skills at that age to be hunting big game unsupervised?  Hell no.  Did I have the concept of hunting clear in my head, the ability to clean and assist with butchering/processing, the moral understanding of what it meant to kill animals? Oh so very much yes.  I also by that age had been taught to despise sport hunting and sport hunters, whose illegal wasted carcasses we would find several of every year while out scrabbling for subsistence meat.  

So, yeah, like everything else we talk about here on Permies: it depends.



 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I do not enjoy firing my deer hunting rifle. It is loud, it kicks like hell. I would consider it child abuse to allow a 6 year old to fire it.



I think I was precisely six when Dad took me to the gravel pit and taught me to shoot his rifles.  First his semi-auto .22, which from the noise I assumed would have a terrible kick.  I was greatly surprised that it did not have any kick at all.  That helped me get over my fear.

Then his 30-.06, which is a hell of a cannon.  I only shot it once -- "shells are expensive" was his remark -- and it had a big kick, but it also had a nice rubber buttplate and it wasn't actually painful.  He also spent a lot of time briefing me on way to hold it tightly against my shoulder and how not to have my eye too close to the scope.  He even did a little physics demonstration by holding a stob of firewood against my shoulder and pushing very hard on it and then asking if I'd rather be hit with it using the same amount of force.  All to drive home the point about pressing the butt solidly against my shoulder before pulling the trigger.

So then BOOOOM! and it kicked and it wasn't traumatic.  

Then we did the .303 with the brass shoulder plate.  That I was scared of.   (In fact, much later, as a teen, I procured a slip-on rubber boot for it.)  He showed me the comparative shell sizes, explained it had less powder, smaller boom, explained the physics (gun weighed several pounds more, with less boom to throw it against my shoulder) and then admitted that, due to being a military rifle not designed for comfort, it still kicked basically just as badly as his gun.  But not, he swore, any worse.  

My experience was otherwise.  It kicked and it did hurt.  But not, you know, so much that I wasn't willing to shoot off a couple more shells.  After that I had a sore shoulder and was ready to quit.  But that was as much as Dad had in mind for the day.  

Child abuse?  I could tell a dozen stories about our life on the Yukon that would have gotten all us kids taken away by Child Protective Services, if they hadn't been on the wrong end of 170 miles of summer-only dirt road with no way to reach them short of writing them a postcard and waiting for the weekly mailplane.  But that, I think, is not one of them.  
 
Mark Brunnr
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I think it's fair to allow the little ones to help turn that deer into food- when my dad would come home with a deer he'd tie it up in the back yard to process. I can still remember how tasty it was to take some venison into the house, toss it in the manual meat grinder and then cook it up, and can still vaguely picture sitting on the porch to eat it 40 years later.

I think it helps that I was around hunting and fishing and the general outdoors since I was a baby (my dad has a pic of me sneaking a sip out of his brown beer bottle when we were fishing when I was 3) and knowing that's how things work. I was always a nut for animals, adopting baby squirrels or rabbits, also giving a kiss to each fish I caught, and hugging the cows and pigs on the grandparents farm. But it was also matter of fact that we would eat some of those animals, like taking a chicken that wasn't laying any more over to the stump with a hatchet before heading out to church, and coming home to clean the chicken up for dinner.

Taking a small child that has spent their lives in the city or sterilized suburbs and maybe has been to the zoo once, whose meat comes wrapped in plastic from an isle in the grocery store, and showing them something they maybe have only seen on TV being processed to eat? That'll cause some tears for a lot of kids whether they are 6 or 12. Waaaaay too many people are totally separated from their food, whether an animal or vegetable. Any way to establish that connection again is a good thing to me, so long as it's done safely. Hunting as a sport is pretty much the same, I just hope the deer is being brought back and processed so someone that needs the food is getting it.
 
Dan Boone
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I think now and again about the risk calculations my parents made in turning me loose at the age of seven with a .22 rifle and single .22 short shell.  It's insane by modern standards, and it even raises my hair a little bit.  But I was a pretty responsible kid, we needed meat and did not need hares or squirrels on the property, and we were surrounded by a whole lot of not very much.

In actual fact I never did any damage with it.  (I did have one negligent discharge a few years later with a slightly more robust .22, in about ideal circumstances if such can be said to exist: alone, on the upper Kandik river in the heart of what is now the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.  Dad and another hunter were within sound of the shot, but not close enough to be at risk.)

Balanced against which are some of the other risk calls my father made that struck people as odd then and now.  Until the day I left home I never owned or carried a pistol, nor handled/fired one except under Dad's direct supervision.  His point of view was that the added risk to the user and others was not balanced by any need that we had, especially where children were concerned.  (He owned, but rarely carried, a couple of pistols.)  During the time I was growing up at least two of my peers were involved in ugly but non-fatal accidents involving short guns.  And recently here in my central Oklahoma county there was a situation when a bunch of youths were shooting on the farm during a holiday get-together and one of them fell down the slope of a stockpond, killing himself with the pistol in his possession.  He was a child of single-digit age (not sure exactly).  There was much noise made locally about the great tragedy of the situation and the terrible accident involved, but I never heard a peep about what I consider to have been a rather profound parenting failure.  Of course the family is very prominent and wealthy and well-liked.  Nobody questions why a bunch of youths were allowed to run around with inadequate (the thing speaks for itself) supervision and handguns; it's apparently part of the local culture, like the sort of hunting-as-social-rite-of-passage that triggered this thread.
 
elle sagenev
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Judith Browning wrote:
I just can't get my mind around a six year old killing something with any real concept of what that means?



I think they know exactly what it means and they can separate the two just as an adult can.

Our daughter has a rabbit as a pet in the house. No one has ever pointed a gun at it yet we openly talk about needing to cull the booming rabbit population outside. Funnily we aren't big bug killers. The same kid we call "The Snipah" (because he has really incredible aim) saves bugs from classmates and cousins who might kill them. *shrugs*
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Dan: Thanks for the stories. Perhaps it's time for me to get reacquainted with my .270 Winchester deer rifle. I can't remember firing it since I was a teenager. Perhaps it's awesome power has been embellished by my memory since that time. Uh... Maybe not so much. I've been looking up cartridge energies. A .303 British releases about 40% less energy than a .270 Winchester, which is the only deer rifle I have used. And, it only weighs 7.5 pounds, so it's easy as can be to carry. (Another 40% more kick than a 13 pound gun). These sorts of details have definitely colored my speculations in this thread.  
 
pollinator
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Dan Boone wrote:

Judith Browning wrote:My concern is that at six years old a child has no concept of what he has done...other than the praise and attention heaped on after the fact.  My husband and I were brought up that if you killed it you cleaned it, fish, squirrel, deer, whatever...a child that young can't even lift the gun on his own....



So, yeah, like everything else we talk about here on Permies: it depends.



I'm, 100% with Dan on this. I think it really depends.
In a generalization, 6 sounds really young. My son will turn 7 in a month and he is not ready to shoot a slug gun (Illinois rules), but my 4 year old daughter is tough as nails and could probably do it if she had the body mass.
So it depends.

My dad did not let me gun hunt until I was 13 or 14. We had neighbors growing up who thought that was silly, they had gone hunting when they were 11. Depending on how my son does this year, we may look at Youth Gun Season next year for the reason stated earlier. That's one more opportunity to put low cost, healthy meat on the table. My brother and I we raised on the philosophy that if you shoot it, you're going to at least be VERY involved in the cleaning of it and processing of it. I have no doubt that my children are on board with that already. We butchered 6 chickens this spring and they participated. We had a very serious family talk about what was going to happen, and that something was giving its life so we could survive. They may not grasp the full magnitude of that at this stage, but they are learning.

Great conversation!
 
pollinator
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Sounds a little sketchy.  You may be able to take a 6-year old into a range like scenario, where there is strict control and the weapon never comes off of the rest.  I have done quite a bit of weapons training including military and there are adults that can't keep a loaded firearm down range.  I would be terrified to hunt with even

the most mature 6-year-old.

As far as killing the animal is concerned I would say that if it is treated properly, almost as a spiritual endeavor, that would be a good life lesson.   The flip side is kids wasting meat that is processed in a plant. Desensitization to the fact that the food you eat is a living animal.

For me, this is a gun safety issue.  The only way a six-year-old would fire a gun would be on a bench with me standing right there.  If six-year-old is on a range situation they would be shooting with an airgun and learning gun safety, maybe a .22 after they prove themselves.
 
pollinator
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I don't think there is a hard age limit.

For some kids 5-6 they are well mature and able to process high concepts. For example I knew a 6 yr old girl who loved to consider deeper thoughts like that to aliens we here on earth would be alien.

Of course I have also met 40 yr olds who still have not figured out sharing and not to hit others when they get upset.

So is 6 yrs old too young? Not at all, but it is not also a fixed line. It is highly dependent upon the youngster, and their abilities as well as the adult supervision they are able to have.

I would say 6 yrs old these days is likely the exception, but lets not forget that not long ago youth were hunting butchering and generally exposed to life and death. It is a relatively new thing for youth to be so sheltered and unknowable of these things.

I am not advocating 6 yr olds going out to shoot and kill game. Just pointing out that Some may be able to handle it, while others may not.
 
master steward
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Like others, I think it might largely depend on the child. There may, in fact, be 6 year olds who can maturely handle a gun. My son is 5. He doesn't even get to use a carving knife (or scissors!) without supervision. My husband keeps trying to convince me to let him have a little nurf gun, and I won't go for it. I do NOT need him shooting his little sister all day--which I'm pretty sure is what he'll do--or accidentally hitting my glass oil lamps and breaking their chimneys. I also don't want to encourage violence on his part. I think some kids can disassociate their shooting in a video game or with a nurf gun from actually being violent, but not all kids can do so. I very much want him to respect that real guns are not toys...and for him, giving him a toy gun would not help with that.

I also live in a very liberal area of the country. Kids that talk about guns or draw pictures of guns, can get in some serious trouble. This was even so almost 60 years ago! My father was in kindergarten and drew a picture of the two things he loved most: guns and his mom. And they interpreted that as him wanting to shoot his mom. I don't need my son having that sort of thing on his school record, or getting in trouble because he pretended to shoot someone in school. There's too many school shootings for schools to take such things lightly. As a former teacher, I want my son to have every chance to succeed in school, and sometimes things like talking about guns, or swearing, or breaking small rules can really affect how well a child does in school. I've seen too many kids get stuck in downward spirals in school. I don't want that for my kids.

I just can't get my mind around a six year old killing something with any real concept of what that means?



My son understood death at the age of three, but he was very confused about it. We kept losing ducks to predators, and he'd watched a video about composting which showed a rat decomposing. Because of this, for a while, he was extremely distraught about the animals dying, then he wanted them to die to "become nutrients for the earth," and now he's got a deeper understanding about how it's sad, but we can still make use of death. But, I honestly would not want him taking a life himself until he's MUCH older.
 
Judith Browning
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Thanks for all of the thoughtful responses with so many great perspectives...you've given me much to think about.

Some have mentioned this being part of the cycle of life lesson...I'm not so sure?
Our sons grew up well aware of the 'cycle of life'. We had goats, horses, rabbits, chickens, ducks and a variety of dogs and cats.  We did the butchering ourselves and with that many animals there was always a natural death or a predator caused one. We just did not expect nor allow them to do the job of killing the animal when they were very young, whether it be a goat or a rabbit or a chicken.  

They helped in many other ways, just not the actual killing, which was never done with a fire arm...goats with a knife and chickens a hatchet; rabbits, a blow to the back of the skull.  That may be why I have trouble with a child shooting an animal.  Butchering for us was respectful and intense.  I don't think a young child has enough experience to sort that out....maybe it's not important and they learn it with time?  A gun separates the child from the death of the animal so maybe this isn't an issue?

and yes, in the end, I know, it depends

Dan Boone...I think I would have been good friends with your mom.....you have some wonderful stories.






 
pollinator
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I'm gonna hazard a guess and say it is unlikely that the kid is just being given free rein with the gun. Coming as a parent who is teaching her kids how to do things that I find necessary (Oh I dunno, like my 6YO washing the dinner dishes, etc) one thing to consider is often kids, when they are learning to do something, are given credit for something as if they did it themselves even if they didn't do most of the work.

So my daughter yesterday was making deviled eggs for the first time. She's 10, and I didn't just set her in the kitchen and forget it. I walked her through the process, helped her measure everything, showed her how to mash the yolks, and yes I did a lot of the work for her.

The end result? She gets credit for making dinner.

Or let's say you make cookie dough, and the young child gets to help scoop the dough onto the cookie sheet. The end result? "Wow, (child), you made such amazing cookies! Good job!"

This is how it is, and imo how it SHOULD be, with kids. They need that recognition to feel like they accomplished the task, even though they may not see all the things the adult had to contribute to help them succeed. It helps keep them encouraged to learn more. As a parent I feel it's my job to provide that assistance and also "work my way out of a job" in the sense of gradually eliminating the things I do until she can do the whole thing without any assistance. I don't see hunting as any different.

Even if mom or dad had their hand over the kid's, ultimately if a 6YO is in a photo with a deer they hunted, chances are they weren't just given free rein. Chances are, there was an adult with them, probably doing most of the work with them. But when kids are very young this is how they learn. And gradually, eventually, said kids will learn to do it all by themselves. But it doesn't happen overnight. It just sounds to me like these parents are choosing to teach their kids sooner.

ANd given that in many places in the country, a landowner or direct family member of landowner (such as a child) can get a free deer tag or two to hunt on their own property, it makes a lot of sense to me that these parents might be doing everything they can to help their child "hunt" the deer. Because that's a lot of food which is basically free to them.
 
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IMO a six year old "hunting deer" and posing with their trophy is ridiculous. Pulling the trigger after someone else has done all the work is NOT hunting.

But I could be wrong. Perhaps there are 6-year-olds that are more than capable of cleaning/loading a rifle and carrying it into the woods, then climbing up into a deer stand and waiting until they spot the prey, then chamber loading that rifle and methodically taking perfect aim while ensuring the target really IS a deer and it really is the appropriate age/gender required under the law, then delivering that perfect kill shot. (or if they failed to do that running out and tracking that deer to deliver a kill shot).

However if someone else is doing all the work, and pulling the trigger is the only thing required in order to be a "deer hunter"  then I don't see why 2 year olds couldn't qualify, I am sure if someone tied a string onto the trigger of a rifle many 2 year olds would be able to pull the string hard enough to discharge the weapon.
 
Mike Barkley
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Eureka Lucrecia! That's exactly what has been bothering me about this topic. What is being described is NOT deer hunting. It is deer hunter training. No problem with that. No problem with making technically legal use of a legitimate tag either. But to allow a 6 year old to go deer "hunting" is simply unsafe. Every time. For the record I grew up around hunting & am about as southern & pro gun as possible to find anywhere. I'm more pro kid & anti foolish though. Not with my kid. Not with my gun. Not with my deer. Not on my land. Not going to happen.

What is being described is a glorified participation trophy. Assuming proper & responsible adult supervision is provided at all times there is no real harm in that. Call it what it is though. A participation trophy. I don't do participation trophies. When any given youngster has spent (far more than six) years learning all the required skills & safety procedures & has shown consistently good judgement then & only then can they even be considered as maybe being safe. A .22 can make something just as dead as a howitzer. Intentionally or accidentally. No do overs. No play again button. That's the part kids just don't truly understand. When they can safely find it, shoot it, then immediately look the dead deer in the eye & personally apologize for harvesting it & thank it for providing the generous bounty & explain that it's death was for the greater good of the species before proceeding to field dress & process the entire deer on their own then maybe they are ready to be called a deer hunter. Know any six year olds capable of that?

I really liked Dan Boone's story about having to account for every bullet. That's the reality. Unlike participation trophies.

Struggled with this overall topic for the past couple days now. Kept remembering the 9 year old girl in Arizona who accidentally shot & killed her firearms instructor with a fully loaded uzzi about three years ago. Estimating it took all of 2.3 nanoseconds. Happy birthday little girl, here's an uzzi. NO. Don't do that. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Right? Think of how that young lady must feel now that she has reached the ripe old age of twelve. I verified it's still on youtube. No desire to watch it or link it.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Mike Barkley wrote:
What is being described is a glorified participation trophy. Assuming proper & responsible adult supervision is provided at all times there is no real harm in that. Call it what it is though. A participation trophy. I don't do participation trophies. When any given youngster has spent (far more than six) years learning all the required skills & safety procedures & has shown consistently good judgement then & only then can they even be considered as maybe being safe. A .22 can make something just as dead as a howitzer. Intentionally or accidentally. No do overs. No play again button. That's the part kids just don't truly understand. When they can safely find it, shoot it, then immediately look the dead deer in the eye & personally apologize for harvesting it & thank it for providing the generous bounty & explain that it's death was for the greater good of the species before proceeding to field dress & process the entire deer on their own then maybe they are ready to be called a deer hunter. Know any six year olds capable of that?

I really liked Dan Boone's story about having to account for every bullet. That's the reality. Unlike participation trophies.

Struggled with this overall topic for the past couple days now. Kept remembering the 9 year old girl in Arizona who accidentally shot & killed her firearms instructor with a fully loaded uzzi about three years ago. Estimating it took all of 2.3 nanoseconds. Happy birthday little girl, here's an uzzi. NO. Don't do that. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Right? Think of how that young lady must feel now that she has reached the ripe old age of twelve. I verified it's still on youtube. No desire to watch it or link it.



Exactly. I think it is wrong on so many levels. Firearms are a HUGE coming of age accomplishment for kids and it is something they should value as well as EARN.  A  10-11 year old boy that really wants to be able to get his own 22 rifle will probably do just about anything to earn that priviledge, and he should be made to work for it. That means learning gun safety, learning how to clean a weapon, and if it were my kid ALSO reading a book on self defense laws and hunting laws and being able to answer questions (i.e. he should know more than most of the grown men he meets). Even though the kid may not need to know all about the laws at his age, he will need the info later and getting him to study in exchange for that big reward is ideal.

Also IMO it is very SELFISH of a father (and/or mother) to steal his son's first deer. It is robbing his kid of a big coming of age moment and all of the pride/glory that comes with it just so the DAD can do the bragging and post the photos and get the attention, compliments and congratulations from his friends. That is really not a nice thing to do. A 12-14 year old kid that worked hard and learned the rules and took a deer ON HIS OWN (with an adult also confirming the target etc..) gets to experience a huge sense of pride and satisfaction. He gets to brag about it, and tell his story to others including older men he admires, and be proud of a trophy photo etc... He also gets to feel like "one of the men" when he hangs out at the hunting camp. It is a big deal!  But a six year old really can't do any of that, and if he does talk about it when he is older he will just sound like a spoiled rotten snot-nosed kid (i.e. "Well hell I took my first deer at 6....")
 
pollinator
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Yes, 6 years old is too young.  At 6 years of age they are still being strapped into a car seat.  If you'd have asked, "Is 14 too young to hunt and kill a dear?", that would have been a much more realistic question.  

They haven't the strength, stamina or patience to sit silently in a tree stand or hike game trails.  Would they be a helpful spotter?  No.  They'd be cold, bored, and downright dangerous if you put a rifle in their hands.  Could they even safely hold a 6 to 7.5 pound rifle?  My 30.06 gets tiring for me to carry and I weigh over 200 pounds.  

The attention span of a 6 year old is about 45 seconds.  What parent would want to bring that kind of frustration with them into the woods?  The child would be frustrated as would the parent.  My rule of thumb would be that until they are able to sit patiently and watch an entire football game (outdoors) without complaining or constantly needing to run to the bathroom, and until you're able to safely leave that child at home without childcare, being able to use a stove safely and care for themselves in basic ways, they've got no business carrying a loaded weapon out into the woods, even with close supervision.

Let little children play.  That's what is developmentally best for them.  But hunting isn't play.  There will be plenty of years as they grow older to start hunting with them, beginning with squirrels, then teaching them to fish (a good activity to see if they've got the patience to hunt), then graduating to carrying a .410 and hunting small birds, before eventually taking them out on a hunt for larger game.

My biggest concern would be some father yelling at a little 6 year old kid for being a 6 year old kid.  "Stop being so squirmy.  Stop making so much noise.  Stop asking for stuff all the time.  Stop being so tired and cold.  You need to sit still and stop being so six-year-old."  At some point, that becomes abusive.  It sounds like a recipe for innoculating a child from ever wanting to hunt again.

 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:My intent is to keep high-powered guns away from 6 year olds. I believe that they don't have the motor skills, or self-awareness to be able to reliably follow gun safety rules, or to keep their mouth shut,  so as to not frighten off prey. I observe those skills begin to develop by about age 8. So after they have learned to not fidget/talk, then it might be appropriate for 8 year olds to accompany a hunt, but only with close supervision. In my own family, I'm not interested in allowing people under 12 to be hunting with high-powered weapons. Highly supervised target shooting. Fine. I might allow them a less supervised BB or pellet gun, accepting that the occasional flesh wound or broken window is part of learning responsibility.    


Then it will greatly surprise you that in Wisconsin, the Governor [who just lost his seat] passed a law in 2017 eliminating the age requirement for hunting altogether!
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/midwest/ct-wisconsin-hunting-age-20171113-story.html
Immediately, we had 'fathers' "bonding" with their toddlers in the woods. It was just an excuse for the father to buy a couple of extra tags to get more meat or another chance at a 'really big buck'. I don't think that anyone was fooled: It was just a way to get around the law on the number of deer one could kill and put a gun in everybody's hand.
We've also had a couple of people killed at a firing range by a pre-teen [aged 9, if I recall] holding a machine gun. He was not supervised closely enough. This is sheer madness.
As a retired teacher, I totally agree with you that a child just does not have the maturity to understand the seriousness of holding a firearm or the finality of death: They are raised on cartoons that show animated figures getting shot or hit on the head then stand up for the next scene. Most kids at 12 can barely hold a heavy gun steady enough to shoot straight and make a good clean kill.
There is a reason why the age of consent is much later for sex, [which if done properly won't kill anyone] and why children are not authorized to enter into a contract. It is not that they are dumb. They just do not have the maturity to understand. And yes, folks should know how to handle a firearm. but it is not a guitar: You just can't thrust one in the kids'hands and hope he becomes a musician... or a good hunter. It takes dedication in the mentoring and training too.
 
pollinator
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So, I was allowed to hunt on my own at six. I had been taught gun safety since birth (all guns are loaded, never point them at people, what do you do if you’re at a friend’s house and you find a gun when you’re playing? And stuff like that). My parents also arranged several tests where they did things like leave unloaded guns out to see what I would do when I found them. I passed. So at 5 yrs old my dad took me target shooting with the .22. When I could handle it safely, clean it, and hit the spade on the ace of spades at 100 yards (with a scope), and Dad and Mom we’re confident in my awareness and understanding, I “graduated” to being able to carry the gun on my own (they still spied on me for a while, I have learned). I hunted small stuff on my own (and ate ever I shot), and hunted deer with my dad, and helped him dress deer, pick birds, make sausage, etc. At six I was left in a deer stand to hunt whenever I wanted on my own, with the borrowed .264 (which I could lift but admittedly not lug for miles) or of course I could go out with my .22 whenever I wanted. I was admittedly a precocious kid and I do think I genuinely had a better idea of what was up than most kids my age, plus I grew up on a ranch helping out and was physically strong for my age, and had a very clear understanding of death in people and animals (my mom was a home health nurse; I knew people who died), where meat comes from, etc. I don’t know that I would let my kids hunt alone so young if I had any (depends on the kid and th strength of my own anxieties, probably) but I don’t think my parents were irresponsible and I don’t think it did me any damage. I actually think it probably increased my safety and understanding. I feel pretty solemn about killing animals even now, although comfortable with it, and I have never wounded an animal accidentally or on purpose; I am not a fast shot but I am careful and patient, and I learned that from my dad at the very beginning, when I still thought his word was divine writ. I know I was safer than kids without knowledge of guns. I only fired the .264 when taking a kill shot, so did not suffer from the recoil and such. Target practice was only with the .22. I do find the “bragging rights” photos kind of crass, especially for young kids who don’t have a good understanding or respect for the process.
 
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Haven't read all responses, so apologies if this has been covered before.

I have 4 kids.  The oldest (a girl) passed hunter safety (a legal requirement in my state to get a hunting license) at 11.  My older boy is about to turn 13 and has only just now passed the written exam and still needs to take the field skills evaluation.  He's been begging since he was 9 and his sister passed the class to take it himself.  We wouldn't allow it until now because he simply didn't have the maturity or trustworthiness until now.

The other 2 kids are 7.5 and 6.  I might allow the younger boy (the 7 year old) to take hunter safety at 10 or 11 if he's got similar maturity at that age as his older sister did.  Otherwise, he'll have to wait too just like his brother.  Same goes for the youngest girl, assuming she's even interested in hunting by then.

I'm sure there are 6 year olds that can responsibly hunt and have the maturity to handle it.  I've just not met any.  I've taken the kids on hunts around that age, but that's them tagging along for fun, not to try to kill anything themselves.

Now, if we were starving and I needed the ability to get more game to survive, I'm not sure the bother of licenses or following bag limits etc would really play into it.  If it got that bad, I'd probably sell the high-power rifles and use the money to buy breeding sets of livestock.  Lots of times I've come home from a hunt empty handed.  But raising some sheep/goats/cattle/pigs/chickens is pretty reliable if you are able to keep them safe from predators and healthy.  And if you do it right, quite a bit less costly than hunting.

I'd keep a .22lr though, regardless.  If it all goes pear-shaped I can brain-shoot a deer or elk with that if things get apocalyptic.  Still not sure I'd have my 6 year old do the hunting in that case though.

But, if it works for you, instills a good hunting ethos in your kids, and they can do it safely and responsibly, I'll cheer you on.
 
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Another here that hasn't read all the replies.  so if already covered I apologize.  Most, if not all, states require an adult to be present(as in right there with the kid) when children hunters are in the field hunting.  Don't know the age cut off for allowing a young person to hunt on their own and imagine it varies by state.  I grew up with and around guns and hunted since I was a kid of maybe around 10 or 12 and fished since I was three or four.  My Mom, or Dad went with me until I was able to go by myself whether the quarry was squirrels or white tailed deer.  All that said, i know of absolutely NO 6 year olds that are capable of holding a rifle and accurately firing it on their own save for maybe the little Chipmunk 22 lr rifles.  Maybe in a blind with a good rest hunting over a field etc they might be able to successfully harvest a deer.  Then there is the subject of recoil.  Recoil from most any firearm except the 22lr, 22 magnum or maybe the 22 hornet would most likely be too much for a child of that age to really handle.  Even the .223 round IMHO would be too much for a 6 YO.
 
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The age limit for hunting is highly individual and totally depends on the child...

...in a broader context, if a child eats meat they need to kill animals...

...so as to understand the connection between consequence and the behavior that creates it.
 
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