A local hunter-safety instructor thinks some 9-year-olds are ready to handle a rifle and hunt game.

But Craig Strouse is not on board for a bill in the state Legislature that would remove all age restrictions.

“I think it’s unrealistic to have a 2-year-old or a 3- or 4-year-old (hunting). I think that’s crazy,” Strouse said.

The state Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would let a child of any age hunt with close supervision. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Now, no one younger than 10 years of age may acquire a hunting license in Wisconsin.

The state’s minimum hunting age used to be 12, but in 2009, the Legislature created mentored hunting, in which hunters ages 10 and 11 could hunt with a licensed hunter, who must be within arm’s reach.

The new proposal, AB 455, removes the age restriction from mentored hunting.

While Strouse doesn’t think young children should hunt, he also doesn’t want government taking that decision from parents.

“Do you want the government telling you what you can or cannot do?” he said.

Strouse, who is a captain and assistant administrator at the Rock County Jail, has been teaching hunter safety for years.

The ideal would be wise parents deciding when their children are ready to hunt, but not all parents are wise, he said.

Some adults can’t even drive responsibly, he noted.

“I guess I don’t have the legislative answer to the question. I do know I’ve been at and heard about some terrible hunting accidents, and they always violate one or two of the rules of hunter safety,” Strouse said.

The rules:

  • Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Be certain of the target and what lies beyond.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot.

But it goes deeper than that, Strouse said. For example, a hunter has to appreciate what the firearm is capable of doing. A deer rifle can shoot a bullet three to four miles, a .22-caliber rifle can send a bullet about a mile, and a slug from a shotgun can go 300 to 600 yards.

Strouse strongly endorses hunter-safety courses. State law requires those born in 1973 or later to complete hunter education certification.

Hunting deaths have dropped greatly since that law was enacted in the 1980s, he said.

Even older hunters could benefit from the course, said Strouse, who suggests parents take the course with their children.

Strouse said hunting is a great way for parents to spend long stretches of quality time with their children.

Strouse said for him, having children along enhances the hunt.

He doesn’t get excited about harvesting a deer anymore, unless it’s a big one. But when hunting with children brings back the joys of his youth: “It’s exciting again.”

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