Wednesday, April 28, 2004 — Time: 8:24:27 AM EST
By Brad Bauer,
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
During all of 2003, there were 32 hunting accidents in
Ohio; none were caused by children. Of the 32 accidents, two resulted in
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
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
"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