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The Pennsylvania Game Commission has recently issued some new regulations concerning youth hunting. Under the new regulations, “Kids of any age still would be allowed to hunt deer and turkey in Pennsylvania…[b]ut to get their own tags for those animals, kids would have to be at least 7 years old…. Currently, the state’s mentored youth hunting program allows kids of any age under 12 to get tags to shoot deer and turkeys while under the direct supervision of adults — usually their parents….” . . .

In 2013, the agency sold 39 permits to kids under the age of 3, including 14 to kids less than 1 year old.

By setting a minimum age of 7 to get deer and turkey tags, the commissioners said they believe they will hamper attempts by adults to abuse the system by getting tags for their kids and then using them themselves.

The commission originally considered raising the minimum age for hunting to 9, but could not come to a consensus on this.

Many outfitters, ranches, and guide services are catering to young hunters. Ox Ranch in Texas prides themselves on being very kid-friendly, with experienced youth hunting guides ready to help teach alongside their regular duties.

What’s the right age for hunting? I came to firearms from the perspective of self-defense, and although I hope to do some wild pig hunting at some point in the next year or so, my experience in the sport is almost nil. Taking a 2-year-old hunting seems…ill-advised. But is 5 or 7 too young?

I admit I’m coming at this from a position of ignorance. What say you, experienced hunters?

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  1. Different age for every child, and a different age may be appropriate for many types of hunting. Most families I am aware of started their youngsters out on small game animals or upland birds (doves, or maybe small waterfowl like ducks), and progressed upward from there.

    Each child should be evaluated individually; one size does NOT fit all, here.

    And the state’s minimum of 7 seems a reasonable compromise, here.

  2. It’s pretty safe to say that the toddlers were just proxies to get more tags for their parents. I mean – 2 years old? Really?

    • Fair enough, but if they needed a limit to prevent abuse of the system what’s an limit that doesn’t do the parenting for the actual parents?

      • Not sure – maybe 6? I wouldn’t ban a responsible 5 year old, but he or she would have to share mommy or daddy’s tags.

      • Why do minors need their own tags? If it’s about teaching the kid, then the number of tags is irrelevant. To me, it seems that 7 is a great compromise that keeps unscrupulous parents from abusing the system.

      • This doesn’t do the parenting. Parents can still take kids of any age hunting. They just can’t get junior tags until they are 7. No impact on parenting.

  3. My father was taking me out when I was 6 years old.

    He sure didn’t buy me my own tags, though. I was just along for the experience.

    Get them started early, accompanying you into the field. They’ll thank you for the memories later in life.

    • “In Maine the law says no hunting under 10yrs old.”

      Hm. Well, when they get to be teenagers, it should be no bag limit…


  4. “Taking a 2-year-old hunting seems…ill-advised.”

    Disagree with this as it’s worded. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a 2 year old hunting.

    One might was well say ‘taking a 2 year old for a walk in the woods seems ill-advised.”

  5. I started mine at 10 for small game using a .22 single shot rifle.
    His first squirrel skin is still on the wall.
    I don’t mind gaming the system, but a 2 year old? Come on

  6. I agree with the comments of take them as soon as they are old enough to get out in the field and enjoy the experience, let them varmint hunt as soon as they can safely shoulder and shoot the gun and you are confident they understand the tool. When they are actually ready for the deer or turkey hunt will be pretty obvious after all that. Each child will be different in their maturity. As for a limiting age, tough call as they are all so different.

  7. What age? Simple answer. When a child can properly, and safely hold, and handle the weapon of choice.

    I find nothing wrong with what PA is doing either. Lots of unethical hunters out and about, hopefully this will put a dent in the number of those taking advantage of the system in its current state.

    • Agreed. If a kid can properly hold and bring a deer rifle to target, and take the recoil then I don’t see a problem, but I don’t think there are many kids under 7 that are truly capable of that. I started small game hunting with a .410 single shot which I think is a more appropriate choice for a 7 year old.

  8. Two does seem young to be harvesting animals, but to go & spend time with parents depending on the kid it may be fun. I know I want to take my kids hunting when they are mature enough in my opinion to go with me. I think 7 is a reasonable age for the kid to be harvesting small game. Some kids might be ready sooner, it depends on to many variables to say that any age is the minimum for everybody. I’ve met some people who are over 30 that I’d never hunt with.

  9. I went on my first hunting trip around the age of 3.5.
    Tags for anyone under the age of 7 is really the parents getting extra tags in the name of the child, not the child hunting.
    Wildlife management shouldn’t be abused because people want extra tags and that person has a non verbal child.

  10. The age of 7 seems fair… But to be perfectly honest I’m jealous of the little buggers. I had to get myself into the hunting world, as my dad never made time to teach me. Hell.. if the kid actually goes with, 2 is fine by me.

  11. When do you think you can allow your particular child out of your sight with a loaded firearm? When You’re hunting times will come when you and your child will be not in immediate contact with one another.

    Do you implicitly trust your unsupervised child(Even if it’s only mometary) to safely handle the gun without you there to take control of the weapon in a questionable situation? That’s the proper age for your child.

  12. I think the minimum age will vary somewhat depending on the child and their training/mentoring details. I cannot imagine any 7 year old that I have ever known being able to hold, aim, and accurately (e.g. ethically) shoot a game animal. Target shooting? Sure. Hunting? No. I personally would put the minimum age at something like 9 to 10 years old — and only then under the direct supervision of an adult. And when I say direct supervision, I mean the adult is able to put their hands on the child and firearm at all times.

    I like the idea of children under the age of 12 hunting with their parent/guardian and age 12 to 16 having their own tags to hunt with a parent/guardian.

    • I personally think it is against the grain of our fighting to obtain as free of individual rights as possible for you to say that there is a minimum age. I personally understand someone who believes that 9-10 years old is typically the age at which a minor is able to compose themselves in a manner safe for hunting, that is probably right around the age I would expect most kids to be able to actually do the hunting.

      I know that is right around the age where my father actually started to hunt, rather than just tagging along with his own father on hunting trips. I haven’t ever had the pleasure of hunting, location isn’t the easiest and I had many other activities that took up free time, but that was the age where any firearms usage went from scrupulous observance of my actions and frequent reminders of proper actions to take, to a more casual mentoring, usually not interrupting me unless I was asking for specific instruction, or if he thought a gross violation of safety might be forthcoming.

      I also know, once upon a time and still often in the right areas, that by their early teens it was quite common for many people to be allowed out hunting solo, or with friends even, on known property for small game. My grandfather used to hunt most days of the week in his early teens for rabbit, squirrel, dove, and other game, so his family had fresh meat for the table.

      So, sure, 9-10 might be typical, but I can certainly see beginning at 7 for a select few, either out of necessity, or maturity, and even younger if possible. Still, even if you were to say, fine then, 7 is a good minimum, I still don’t like it when our own kind starts putting minimums or maximums on these kinds of things. I feel like when we do that, it is some kind of a starting offer in a barter, that at some point we are going secede some kind of middle offer.

  13. The young age in PA isn’t based on hunting for pleasure. The reason there was no restriction was food based. There are still many people who feed themselves from the land. My grandfather rarely purchased food, you had a garden and canned yourself, you hunted or trapped for meat. If you had children, you had mouths to feed. Children don’t wait until 9 years old to start eating, therefore since tags are given on an individuals need for food, kids need food. Remember, tags aren’t so you can shoot the deer or turkey, it allows you to kill and keep it.
    This is why PA has kept the age low, its not the game commission saying that 3 years old is a good time to teach them how to use a firearm, its allowing them to supply themselves and their family with meat.

    Don’t lose sight of the reason for hunting. Goes hand in hand with the reason for the 2nd amendment, just as the 2A wasn’t meant to protect hunting, hunting wasn’t started for sporting purposes.

    As a PA resident, I’m ok with someone using their infant to acquire more food, as long as they are eating it and not just collecting antlers.

    • Not speaking to the issue of PA specifically, and though you make a fair point, in NC, the tags a single adult have are sufficient to feed a family of four deer meat for a year if the family is ok having meat 4 times a week vice every day.

      That’s six tags per adult hunter.

      Supplement that with:

      (a) Hunting other game
      (b) fishing
      (c) second parent having six additional tags

      and it is possible for a family to subsistence hunt without the child having their own tags. That does depend on how many tags each adult gets, of course.

      Also, for what it’s worth, NC provides for subsistence hunting and fishing. Regulating ‘age of hunter’ has got to be a separate issue since there are other ways to provide for hunting for survival.

    • Brad,
      A most excellent point, lost on most of us in the modern day. On the surface it seems unreasonable for a 1 year old to have a tag, but you are correct that, when feeding an entire family off the land, filling the freezer for the winter shouldn’t be restricted. Of course, there are those who would abuse. In my opinion, if you’re hunting on your land then the Government doesn’t belong in the picture at all, ever.

      • If it were so important for people to need an extra tag from an infant to provide food for the family, then why not just up the adults tags? How many deer can one adult harvest in PA?

        • 4? I would have thought 2 by the way it was being described by some posters. We get 5 in TX, so between my wife, and I, that’s 10 for the season. Surely one can feed a family on 8 deer? I’m guessing far too many people were just taking advantage of the situation.

        • It varies with each area and your specific situation, but one with a general hunting license and one with a separate doe tag.

          Each general hunting license includes only one buck tag for the rifled buck season. If you want to hunt deer with a bow or muzzle loader during those seasons you will need to purchase the respective stamp. The stamp does NOT include any additional tags, but you can now use your general buck tag to harvest a doe in the archery or muzzleoader season. The rifled anterless deer season is an additional license, but includes a doe tag. You have to send this application off in July via mail. You can’t buy it over the counter until Oct IF there are any unsold doe tags. I haven’t had to jump through all the hoops in years since moving South, but my Dad would gripe about it each year. The Pa Game Commision is a bit antiquated in their licensing methods.

          I started venturing afield with my Dad around age 6-7 for a few hours. By age 9 I was out with him for the entire day during opening day and the Saturdays of deer season. Back then in Pa there was no legal youth hunting until age 12 after you had passed a Hunter Safety course.

    • Thanks Brad. You said it perfectly.

      My Grandfather, who taught me to shoot at 6, put meat on the table from hunting almost daily (in rural Iowa). His dad had to work long shifts so it was up to him for the main course – usually pheasant, rabbit & squirrel – taken with a single shot Winchester Model 68. That gun is what all my kids have shot first. The youngest being 3 (with my help). Also, my father-in-law grew up hunting on his way to and from school everyday for the same reason (in rural Minnesota). Back then he would just put his rifle in his locker. Shocking, right?

    • Brad – thanks. That is actually an excellent point, and one that I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even think of from my urbanized, upper middle class perspective.

  14. Depends on the kid, and not just how safe they are with a gun. I was a hyper little bugger who hated tree stands, but loved rabbit squirrel hunting. I started at 8 with my first 410 870

  15. How about bypassing the question and basing it on the number of people in the family?

    Yes there are still issues, e.g. Uncle Bob taking Junior out … But in that case Dad or Mom or other legal guardian could still get the tag, no?

  16. 7 seems like a reasonable age to choose; there are probably at least some 7 year olds that could be expected to be able to safely hunt with adult supervision, though they are probably more the exception than the rule. I do know that a 5 year old can safely handle/shoot an ar (mine has), but that must be under close supervision, and, even then, they are unlikely to be all that accurate with it.
    If you want to allow for those with bigger families to harvest more deer/turkeys/whatever, then, rather than allowing a 2 year old to have a tag, just allow a hunter to submit for more tags, based on family size. I know it is kind of a quibble, but, technically, whoever owns the tag is supposed to be the one to harvest (fire the shot); if a 2 year old fills a tag, you could almost certainly present that as evidence of poaching; the 2 year old didn’t fill it, someone filled it for them.

  17. I accompanied my Father hunting LONG before I killed my first deer.

    I remember walking with my dad while ” squirrel hunting” when I was 4-5 years old. I had my Red Ryder, he had a 10/22. What this really amounted to was walking around in the woods, me no so quietly asking him questions. The squirrels had PLENTY of warning to get out of dodge, but Dad used it to teach me how to carry a gun while in the woods.

    He would also take me deer hunting in a stand when I was 3 years old on. I’d eagerly go, then wake up at dark-30 as I always managed to fall asleep. To dad’s surprise, his second largest buck was taken with me snoring loudly next to him. He still jokes that I sounded like a grunt call and that he would lightly shake me to call that buck in.

    I was 8 before I actually went hunting with my own rifle, a single shot .243. I developed what dad called “buck fever” when that doe entered the field. I was so excited/nervous I could barely keep the cross hairs on her as I was shaking so badly! Dad pulled me back, got me to calm down and then let me take the shot. I’ll never forget that day though, and I still feel like I was most definitely ready at that point.

    I think its all about when the child is ready and how much exposure they have had before hand. I was the first child so my Father was learning how to teach as we went along. My sister took her first doe when she was 7 as Dad had figured out how to teach effectively with me. Our youngest brother took his at 7 as well.

    On the flip side, I know PLENTY of folks with Highschool aged kids that I would not trust to go hunting. Its all about the individual, which laws cant ever cater to.

  18. Everyone in my family was/is introduced to firearms at 8 years old. We’ve never experienced any problems with this being the optimum age. Of course, not all the kids take to shooting but at least they have experienced the sport and can choose to pursue or not by their own volition.

  19. Current NY law permits children to go hunting at 12, but there’s no provision for actually letting them handle a firearm in a training environment before their 12th birthday. Freaking brain dead laws.

  20. I’d say 7 is a good compromise that allows the younger enthusiasts to learn and bag their own, while at the same time preventing abuse of the system by hunters getting tags for their 3 year olds who have trouble staying quiet for longer than 5 seconds so they can take more animals than the other guys.

  21. It depends on the kid and the game, no? I can see an 8 y.o. hunting birds and small game side by side with his mom or dad, but maybe the same kid shouldn’t be on safari in Africa or hunting grizzly in the Denali Preserve.

  22. My nephews have started hunting with their fathers around the ages 6-8, depending on when they could be serious about sitting still and quietly when sitting in the blind. There’s no set age any of my brothers-in-law follow, but the general rule of thumb within the extended family is, “if he can sit still through church without making a ruckus, he can sit in the blind and learn about hunting.” It’s worked well for us so far, and it’s what I’ll likely do with my own boy. I’d say 7 is a fair age, especially if they’re bagging their own waterfowl or big game, and can handle their firearm safely.

  23. If appears the article is just describing tags for deer and turkey (“big game”), with no restrictions on kids younger than 7 hunting small game, or coming along for a deer hunt, which I think is more than reasonable I think. Side bar- In my state, game belong to all the people, not just the land owner, as was the case with the King of England in 1700’s. I have hunted in many states (Texas comes to mind) where land owners seem to have the opinion that the game on it was “their possession”, which is too bad for those not lucky enough to have their own private ranch. Lots of “kings” there I guess (I enjoy hunting in TX, but tough to find a place to hunt without paying through the nose, so I accept paying). Where I live, it is common to grant hunting permission to those that ask.

  24. The most important step is to take your children out with you as observers before they actually participate. Just dress them right and don’t forget eye and ear protection.

    You will know from their enthusiasm (or lack thereof) when they are ready to hunt.

  25. When they were eight and nine, I had made take the California hunter safety course. At the lunch break, the instructor said “I’ve never had an eight year old pass and only one nine year old pass. So don’t get your hopes up.”
    The eight year old came within a couple of questions of a perfect score. The nine-year-old (girl) was one question behind her.
    There were a couple of adults who didn’t pass and my kids led the class.
    I can still out-shoot the boy with rifles, shotguns and pistols.
    I took the boy duck hunting. It required that I carry him across a canal. As 30 min before sunset approached, I went over who hat what field of fire. Then I said if there was an accident it would most likely be him shooting me. And I’m not sure how he’d get through that canal.
    “Dad, go over the safety rules one more time.”
    And he killed two teal.

  26. Old enough to walk-old enough to stalk. 14 tags under 1? Honestly the gubmint is the biggest “poacher” around…

  27. I went solo at the age of 6 with a 1911 sidearm and a 410. I believe 6 is a good age with proper training. No I didn’t bag anything that outing.


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