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St. Cloud, Minnesota

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Mike Bryant
Mike Bryant
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Child Safety: Minnesota Has Youngest Hunters Ever

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This past legislative session, the Minnesota legislature lifted age restrictions on 10 and 11 year old hunters. This is the first time in modern history hunters this young can hunt deer and other big game in Minnesota using high-caliber firearms and slug-shooting shotguns without first passing a hunter education and firearms safety course. With the number of hunters dropping in the state, the hope is that early interest will help grow the numbers. A recent study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) found that for every 100 hunters who leave the sport, only 69 take their place.

The change has lead to some concerns. "The main risk I see," said Capt. Mike Hammer, hunter education coordinator for Department of Natural Resources, "is that for many young kids, the frame of reference for firearms is toy guns, not real guns. And kids playing with toy guns don’t care what they point them at. Many don’t know the concepts of muzzle control, keeping your finger out of the trigger guard and keeping the safety on. Constant reminders regarding gun safety by an adult would be needed."

Between 2002 and 2007, Minnesotans under age 19 represent a minority of state firearms hunters. But during two years of that six-year period, the 19-and-under age group was the shooter in 50 percent or more of firearms accidents. The figure was as low as about 20 percent in other years. In Wisconsin, hunters under age 18 have been responsible for about a third of hunting accidents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics opposed an effort in that state earlier this year to lower the deer hunting age from 12 to 10. The physicians said 10-year-olds lack the strength, coordination and decision-making ability to hunt safely with a gun.

For all hunters, the injuryboard members have provided gun safety and hunting tips in the past. For each of these new hunters, it’s important that the supervising adult be vigilant, each young hunter understand when and how to use their gun, and everyone be safe.