Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Wisconsin needs safe youth hunting

News you can use

August 2, 2008, 14-year old Tyler Kales was on Sauk Mountain north of Seattle, Washington when he thought he spotted a bear. The young teenager, hunting with his 16-year old brother fired at his prey. However, Kales didn’t see a bear. He shot and killed a 54-year old woman who was hiking on a trail.

Kales was convicted of second-degree manslaughter with a firearm and was sentenced on July 10, 2009 to 30 days in juvenile detention and 120 hours of community service including four hours of hunting safety education.

The incident prompted to review whether other states, like Washington, do not have a minimum age for hunting without adult supervision. The news agency found that seven states, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington, do not have established minimum age for solo hunting. Kids in Texas are allowed to hunt alone when they are nine. Alaska, Louisiana and Tennessee allow unsupervised hunting for children as young as 10. In Missouri the minimum age is 11 and in nine other states the minimum age is 12.

What about Wisconsin?

According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), under current Wisconsin law, all hunters must be licensed. No one under the age of 12 may purchase a license or possess a firearm. Children ages 12 and 13 may purchase a license and hunt if accompanied by a parent or guardian at least 18 years of age. Anyone 14 years of age or older, born on or after January 1, 1973, may purchase a license and hunt if in possession of a hunting safety course completion certificate unless privileges are revoked in a court of law.

Current law could be changing soon. This legislative session, Senate Bill 167 was approved by the state Assembly and state Senate and is now being considered by Governor Doyle. Senate Bill 167 allows 10-year olds to hunt if they are accompanied by adult mentors at least 18 years of age. Joint possession of only one firearm would be allowed for the new hunter and mentor, and the new hunter would have to be within arm’s length of the mentor. Conservation groups and the DNR support the legislation.

"The bottom line is that the mentoring program called for in this bill is a highly controlled situation, and will provide the student with a highly safe, quality hunting experience," said Wisconsin Wildlife Federation President and former DNR Secretary George Meyer.

Senate Bill 167 is considered critical to preserving one of Wisconsin’s great rites of passage. 
According to Families Afield, a national hunting organization, “Current data show only 25 percent of youth from hunting households are active in the sport. Over the past quarter-century, the total number of hunters has dropped 23 percent.”

Nationally, for every 100 hunters lost, 69 hunters take their place. A “Hunter Replacement Ratio” is derived by dividing the percentage of youth hunters by the percentage of adult hunters. The lower the ratio, the greater the potential for a decline in hunting. Wisconsin has the tenth worst hunter replacement ratio in the country.

Young hunters in the field supervised by adults are very safe. The Hunter Incident Clearinghouse reports that of the 14.7 million hunters active during 2002, only .0000016 percent were supervised youth involved in an accident.

Hunters who start out early in life are more likely to hunt as adults, maintaining a wonderful family tradition. This storied lifestyle provides a significant economic boost. In Wisconsin, 1.2 million people spend more than $3.1 billion a year on hunting and fishing.  Hunters and anglers pump an incredible $8.6 million a day into Wisconsin’s economy.

An old saying advises, ““Hunt with your kids today, so you don’t have to hunt for them tomorrow.” Senate Bill 167, if signed into law, will create more opportunities for families to hunt together safely and carry on a rich Wisconsin heritage.

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