It's been four years now since the state of Wisconsin lowed its minimum hunting age from 12 to 10 years old. But while a lot of time has passed since that 2009 legislative decision, not much has changed regarding the state's hunting age debate. Recently, the USA Today even published an article summarizing both sides of the debate, adding fuel to a fire that seems reluctant to die down.
Of course, both sides have reasons to defend their positions more ardently than ever before. Since the 2009 bill that made it possible for 10 and 11 year-old kids to hunt under the supervision of a state licensed adult, the number of so-called "mentored hunting licenses" issued by the state has continued to grow.
In 2009, Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources issued roughly 9,900 mentored hunting licenses, suggesting that many parents throughout the state were eager to start teaching their kids about hunting early. By last year's hunting season, the number of mentored hunting licenses had expanded to nearly 13,500, angering anti-gun activists and causing hunting parents to argue for the virtues of young hunters.
For those against Wisconsin's young hunter's law, the arguments are the same ones we have heard for years, ranging from complaints that children do not have the responsibility to fire a gun to claims that children who hunt from a young age are indoctrinated into a culture of violence that continues to fester throughout their teenage years and into their young adult lives. Though no scientific evidence exists to prove it, anti-hunting complainants continue to imply that young hunters grow up to become violent, murderous criminals.
Supporters of youth hunting have the same sort of age-old arguments as their opponents. While most of us would agree that hunting can teach respect for animals and nature, patience, and overall responsibility, that doesn't change the fact that we've all heard this Wisconsin debate a million times before. Sure, hunting can be a great way for parents to bond with their kids and to build memories that last a lifetime. Sure, as long as an emphasis is placed on viewing animals as a food source rather than something to be killed for sport, there is no reason to believe that hunting teaches violence more than movies, books, or videogames.
But the real question raised by this whole Wisconsin situation is this: is the hunting debate ever going to end? While we all can enjoy at least a certain amount of arguing in favor of our passion, there is definitely a point where those arguments become tiring and exhausting.
In the state of Wisconsin, we've certainly reached that point. The legislation has been passed, and the numbers show that it has been successful. It has opened up a new market for hunting that will lead to economic boons for the state and to more passionate supporters of the hunting world. No disastrous consequences have yet been reported - largely because the state's regulations require young hunter's with a mentored license to share a gun with their parent or guardian - and science has still not proven that young hunters are more or less likely to become violent criminals than anyone else in the population. We'd like to think that such evidence is enough to classify Wisconsin's 2009 hunting age legislation as a triumph. Sadly, the anti-hunting community will never be ready to endorse such a classification.