UPDATE: Assembly eliminates minimum hunting age

Published: Nov. 2, 2017 at 4:20 PM CDT
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The state Assembly has passed a bill that would eliminate Wisconsin's minimum hunting age.

The Assembly passed the Republican measure 57-32 on Thursday, sending the bill to the Senate despite complaints from Democrats that the move would put both children and other hunters in danger.

Right now someone must be at least 12 years old to purchase a license or hunt with a gun unless they're participating in a mentored hunt. Children as young as 10 can hunt under that program.

The Republican bill would allow anyone of any age to participate in a mentored hunt, effectively letting anyone of any age hunt. The measure also would do away with the requirement that a hunter and mentor have only one weapon between them.

The bill goes next to the state Senate.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- There may soon be more young hunters out in the woods in the state of Wisconsin.

The State Assembly is considering a bill letting hunters of any age participate in a mentored hunt.

Right now hunters must be at least 12 years old to purchase a license or hunt with a gun while 10 year olds are allowed to hunt only if they're participating in a mentored hunt.

However, under the Republican backed bill, that mentored hunt could expand to any age.

“As far as carrying a gun, older is better,” remarked manager of General Coin and Gun Luke Weyers.

Republicans chair of the 3rd congressional district Brian Westrate says the bill will allow parents to determine when their children are able to handle the responsibility of hunting.

Westrate said, “This notion that we have to have the state determine for the parents when their kids are both physically and mentally capable of becoming a hunter just doesn't make any sense to me.”

However Eau Claire Democratic Party Chair Beverly Wickstrom argues the current regulations are there to protect children and other hunters.

Wickstrom said, “People don't understand the gravity of life and death until a much older age and that's the reason you've got a mentor with someone who is age 10 right now because it's so important to keep everyone safe.”

The measure would also wipe out the requirement that only allows one weapon between a hunter and mentor which Wickstrom says could be hazardous and even fatal.

“Adding a gun adds a level of excitement for children that gets them distracted and keeps them from thinking as clearly about what they're supposed to be learning,” added Wickstrom.

But, Westrate says the law will actually give parents opportunities to begin educating their children on gun safety earlier which could in turn prevent tragic accidents.

“The more kids that understand how guns work, understand how to safely handle them, how to safely check them to make sure they're unloaded, then the less likely an accident is going to happen when that same gun is sitting on the table at home,” he said.

Westrate does say responsible parents are needed to ensure their kids become responsible hunters and that guns should never be left unlocked and unattended.