Some thoughts on setting a minimum age for youth mentored hunters
I support the implementation of a minimum age for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's mentored youth program, but it's unlikely that will happen anytime soon.
Still, there is another change that can be made to help address any concerns about safety and ethics when it comes to a program that allows children of any age to harvest a squirrel, woodchuck, deer or turkey.
The Hunter-Trapper Safety course is open to those first-time hunters who are 11 or older. As a result, the young kids in the mentored youth program can hunt -- albeit under the supervision of an adult mentor, without having to take the course.
Along with the advent of fluorescent orange, the safety course is a major reason why hunting accidents have declined over the years. So why aren't children under the age of 11 required to take the course?
Because it's above their comprehension level. PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser said when the course was written it was geared toward children ages 11 and above.
In order to make it applicable to those who are younger, Feaser said the course would have to be re-written, which would be a major undertaking.
It's similar to a first grade student taking seventh grade math -- it's something beyond their comprehension level.
Still, if the agency is going to continue to allow children of any age to participate in the mentored youth program, they should consider writing a course that those young hunters can understand. It makes no sense for a child under the age of 12 to be allowed to hunt, and then take the course that educates them how to do it safely and ethically.
It's a backward approach -- one that should be changed.
Either implement a minimum age for the program -- say age 9 to hunt squirrels and woodchucks and age 10 for deer and turkeys, or draft a safety course that these very young hunters can understand.