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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2004

AGE LIMIT FOR HUNTING QUESTIONED

[Cash ed.: This is unbelievable...]

Wednesday, April 28, 2004 Time: 8:24:27 AM EST

By Brad Bauer, bbauer@mariettatimes.com  

A weekend hunting accident involving a 7-year-old is raising questions about how old a child should be before carrying a firearm into the field.

In Ohio, there is no age limit on when a child can begin to hunt with a firearm. However, the state does require all first-time hunting license buyers to present documentation showing they have successfully completed a hunter education course.

Regulations do, however, require youth hunters to be accompanied by an adult when in the field.

"After seeing the results of this past weekend, I don't believe a 7-year-old should have had control of a gun," said Brian Wilson, 44, of Lowell. "My son didn't carry his first loaded weapon for a few more years."

Washington County Sheriff's Detective Jeff Seevers said charges are pending from the Saturday morning shooting in Palmer Township. He said the 7-year-old's father, who was present at the time of the accident, will likely be charged because his son was unlicensed and had not completed a hunting education course.

Seevers said the 7-year-old was attempting to make his firearm "safe" after his 15-year-old hunting companion had shot a turkey. As the older boy ran out to inspect his kill, the boy dropped the lever on his .410 gauge shotgun with too much force, causing it to fire into the back of the 15-year-old's right leg.

Seevers said the 15-year-old was hunting legally.

The names of the individuals involved in the shooting are being withheld as charges are pending.

While some people would never allow their children to carry a firearm, Hunter Education Coordinator Matt Ortman, of the Division of Wildlife, said despite a large number of children and adults hunting, the sport results in very few accidents.

"Hunting is a safe sport," Ortman said. "We don't have many incidents."

During all of 2003, there were 32 hunting accidents in Ohio; none were caused by children. Of the 32 accidents, two resulted in deaths.

According to recent studies by the National Safety Council, hunting is one of the safest outdoors activities, resulting in fewer injuries per 100,000 participants - fewer than fishing and even bowling.

According to the report, hunting results in an average of about seven injuries per 100,000.

Wilson, an NRA-certified rifle instructor, agreed hunting can be a safe sport. He has taken his son along hunting since he was 5, but never allowed him to carry a firearm until he was almost 10.

"You can't expect to take a 5-year-old into the woods and spend a lot of time there or have good results," Wilson said. "But each time I took him out he was able to spend a little more time, and he learned a little more what this was all about and what was going on."

Wilson said last year his son completed a hunter education course and was allowed to carry a firearm for the first time into the field.

"He had demonstrated to me that he was ready," Wilson said. "But I still keep an eye on him."

Ortman said the average age student in a hunter education course is between 11 and 12 years old.

"According to our regulations, there is no minimum age to purchase a hunting license or take a hunting course," Ortman said. "If you pass the course, you are eligible to purchase a license."

Ortman said children as young as 6 have successfully passed the course; however, he said the course is set up on a fifth-grade level.

"It depends on a lot of things," Ortman said of when a child might be ready to hunt. "You have to look at maturity levels for kids, and some are more mature than others."

Linda Stewart, 55, of Marietta, said her husband frequently takes their 9-year-old grandson hunting.

"He doesn't carry a gun. He is still just tagging along, but he still enjoys it," Stewart said. "It probably won't be too long before he is ready ... but I know it is good for them to get out and share those experiences together."

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