Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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NWTF pushing for lower hunting age

Staff Writer

St. Paul The National Wild Turkey Federation is calling for the
23 states with minimum age limits for big game hunting, including
Minnesota, to change their tune.

“Parents should have the authority to decide whether their child
is old enough to hunt,” said Tammy Sapp, vice president of
communications for the Edgefield, S.C.-based NWTF.

The Minnesota NWTF state board also officially has supported
lowering the age in Minnesota, where hunters have to be 12 years
old to hunt big game animals.

The Minnesota DNR’s Wild Turkey Committee will discuss the issue
at its meeting Aug. 17. Representatives from the NWTF also will be
at the meeting, said Tom Glines, regional director for the
NWTF.

The turkey committee had preliminary discussions about the
minimum age at its meeting last spring, but the DNR hasn’t taken a
position one way or the other regarding the minimum age, said Ryan
Bronson, the DNR’s hunter recruitment coordinator.

“It is an issue worth thinking about and talking about,” Bronson
said. “As an agency over the last couple of years, we have made
significant efforts to reinforce recruitment and retention and this
is something we need to look at.”

Turkeys in Minnesota are managed as big game animals. Hunters
must be 12 years old and have a firearm safety permit to get a
turkey license. Any change to that would need legislative approval.
The NWTF argues that forcing hunters to wait until they’re 12 could
decrease interest in turkey hunting.

“A lot of people get drawn (for a turkey license) once every
three seasons,” Glines said. “You take a kid that’s 12 years old,
he will only draw a turkey license twice in Minnesota by the time
he turns 18.

“How does that develop a habit and passion for the youth?”

Research shows that young people enjoy being in the outdoors,
but many tend toward sports like snowboarding and skateboarding,
Sapp said.

“If you’re not catching children at a young age, there are so
many things competing for their attention,” Sapp said. “Our hunting
heritage depends on the fact that we are bringing up new stewards
of natural resources at a young age.”

Turkey hunting is still a relatively young sport in Minnesota.
Since its start in the late 1970s, it’s been heavily regulated to
try and nurture the population, Bronson said.

Like bear and past deer regulations, hunters can take only one
turkey per year and are awarded permits on a lottery system.

With two or three times as many turkey hunters as permits in
Minnesota, there is concern that increasing the age range could
result in even more applicants. One question that needs to be
answered if the minimum age changes is whether hunters younger than
12 could apply for their own permit, or if the parent or adult
would have to give up their tag.

The main reason for the requirement that big game hunters be 12
years old is safety, Bronson said.

“The age 12 makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons in youth
development,” Bronson said. “I can tell you, from my perspective, I
started hunting ducks when I was 10 and could have been hunting
deer and turkeys at age 10.”

The turkey federation is pushing that young hunters be allowed
to hunt with their parents or mentors.

“We want the parent and child together, side by side, so the
parent can control the situation,” Glines said.

At this point, there has been a caveat from the turkey committee
that the young hunters be within arm’s reach of the adult hunter.
The Minnesota NWTF supports that. At the national level, the NWTF
feels similarly.

“If a young person is hunting, they absolutely should be hunting
with an adult that’s how people learn,” Sapp said. “They pass their
skills and values and morals down to the next generation.”

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