On March 1st Michigan started selling hunting licenses to children of any age. The new Mentored Youth Hunting Program finally allows adults to extend the parenting of their children into the woods!
The hunting program is designed to keep kids active and interested in the outdoors. Under this program, a hunting mentor can purchase a child five different hunting licenses for $7.50. This means a child 9 years and under can shoot two turkeys, two deer, and small game hunt. These licenses are bought over the counter and do not require the child to enter into a drawing for purchase. They allow the child to have the same amount of licenses as any youth 10 to 14 years of age or an adult.
So who is a mentor? A mentor is a person at least 21 years of age, a person with previous hunting experience and in possession of a current hunting license. Technically the mentor does not have to be a parent or legal guardian, but it is advisable to get permission from the actual parent/gardian before buying the licenses.
Basic Rules of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program
- A mentor can have a maximum of two hunting devices (firearm, bow, or muzzleloader) per trip.
- The mentor can have as many children with them in the field as he or she desires.
- The mentor is 100% responsible for the actions of the child while hunting.
- The deer permit only allows the child to hunt on private property.
- While handling a weapon, the child must always be within arms length of the mentor.
- The mentor is responsible for making sure the weapon is fitted to the child.
My Experience With the License Purchase
I could not believe that the Michigan DNR would actually let parents be “parents”, so I tested out the Michigan Mentored Youth Hunting Program. As with any new process, the salespeople at the DNR license outlet were confused when I requested the youth licenses.
The licensing agent soon found the program information and figured how to issue the hunting license. I was asked the name, birth date, and sex of the child. The person at the counter tried a few times to process the license without success. I was starting to think that my initial doubts were right and the system had a “catch”. Just when I started to give up hope, the hunting licenses started printing.
As the licenses were printing, I started to have an overwhelming feeling of “careful what you wish for because you might get it.” As I believe a parent should be able to control the age a child can start hunting, I also believe there are a lot of adults that will be ill prepared for the responsibility. Whether we like it or not, there will be some people will buy a gun and give it to the child without providing instructions or basic education on hunting safety. They will buy a gun with the idea that the kid will grow into it or they will not show the child who to properly handle the hunting weapon. Both of these are completely wrong and if people use common sense they will find themselves in the middle of an accident involving themselves and their child. Should this occur in significant numbers, the program will be revoked.
Common Sense Rules for Using the New Mentor Program
I do not want to even think of a child getting hurt. But I need to think selfishly for a minute and set the common sense rules for this program. These are the rules that are listed above minus political correctness.
- Remember your kid is a kid and they will try and horse around. Be strict and only allow them in the field if they are going to treat the weapon as a weapon and not a toy. Being in the outdoors is a lot of fun, but if your kid cannot treat the weapon with respect, she or he is too young to carry a weapon. And you should wait another year to start hunting.
- Buy a gun that fits your child. If you don’t purchase the right gun, the child will not handle it correctly and could hurt someone. If they cannot control the weapon, they are too young and you should wait another year.
- Have the child practice with a target before heading off to a real hunt. This can be a lot of fun and it will help you decide if the child is old enough to hunt. If your child cannot hit the broadside of a barn, they should not hunt animals. And you should wait another year to start hunting.
- Do not let your child hunt by themselves or get farther than arm’s reach away. This is meant to keep them from making a mistake. They WILL make mistakes and it is your job to make sure they (and others) are safe when these mistakes happen. Remember you are financially and legally responsible for their actions.
- The most important rule. If you do believe our child is too young, do not let them hunt with a weapon. Remember it is a weapon. Give your child a camera and start off with a safe experience. If your kid does not pass ALL of the top 4 rules, they are too young and should wait. Just because the state of Michigan says you can let your kid hunt, it does not mean they are ready. I am glad the DNR is allowing parents to decide when their child is ready, but I do not want people to abuse it. First and foremost, we all need to be parents.
It’s About the Hunt and Not the Licenses
My son is 6 years old and has been in the outdoors hunting with me for the past two years. He has not been old enough to carry a gun yet, but he has been perfectly happy to get out in the woods with me every time we can go. He will even passionately tell you he shot a turkey. In reality it was turkey I shot last year with him next me. But in his young mind, it was his turkey.