Our current law limits legal hunting to those that are 12 or older even though a six-year-old can pick up a rifle and go target shooting and varmint hunting. This seems odd to me. I understand that there are great risks involved in hunting, but the rewards (excise, knowledge and love of the outdoors, e.t.c.) are exactly what the current generation of couch-sitting videophiles needs. We should scale the age back (0r abolish the age limit altogether). Here is what I suggest we do and why.

First, Montana needs to realize that 12 is not a universal standard. More than half of the states allow hunting at younger ages and many of them have even less limitations on younger hunters (click here to see age restrictions by State).

Secondly, the risks of hunting are still present in children's lives and having a child go through Hunter's Safety will only make them safer. There are two big dangers involved in hunting, 1. the danger of the weapon being used and 2. the danger imposed by nature itself. Right now, children can come into contact with weapons and the outdoors, a hunting license does not increase this risk. In fact, because of Hunter's Safety training, children will be forced to have basic weapon skills and survival training.

Thirdly, we need to abolish the age limit for buying a hunting license and simultaneously strengthen our Hunter's Education programs. Hunter's Education teachers are the crux of this plan working and, in past attempts to get the age limits dropped, were one of the strongest voices against lowering the age limit. As a former teacher, I can understand how someone used to teaching 12-year-olds would balk at the idea of teaching a 7-year-old . . . there is a big difference in ability and attention span. For this reason, we need to give hunters Ed. teachers more power to restrict their classrooms. Parents of children under 10 should be forced to attend class with their children and sign a waiver agreeing to drop their student from the class if the teacher decides the student is too unruly. The traditional written test should be maintained, and by nature will  bar students that cannot read (which will curtail most of the really young kids). The practical safety portion of the Hunter's Ed. program should be modified to include a pass/fail accuracy test to ensure that students can hit an animal without simply wounding it. I admit to not having an intimate knowledge of the way Hunter's Ed. courses are structured now, when I took the class eighteen years ago we didn't fire a single bullet. Some of these changes may already be part of the program.

Finally, If a child under the age of 12 completes their Hunter's Ed. course, they should be granted the ability to hunt with one major restriction. They must be accompanied by an adult who has also passed the Hunter's Education training. Well, now you know what I think, what are your thoughts?