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Michigan considers lowering hunting age

State Senate mulls moving minimum age from 14 to 12

By David Eggert
Associated Press — Sept. 15, 2004

LANSING — Is 12 too young to hunt for deer, bear and elk?

A state Senate committee will consider the issue today, taking testimony from supporters who say the minimum age for hunting those animals in Michigan should be lowered from 14 to 12.

Under the proposed legislation, already approved by the House, 11-year-olds also could obtain a license if they turn 12 during the calendar year when the license is issued.

State Rep. Sue Tabor, a Republican from Eaton County's Delta Township, said children are losing interest in hunting because they have to wait too long to actually shoot animals. The bill, she noted, would still require children to be accompanied by an adult.

Getting children involved in hunting at an earlier age teaches them proper stewardship of the state's natural resources and encourages them to stay active in outdoor activities, Tabor said.

But opponents said the proposed change could threaten the safety of all hunters, especially children.

"You have to be 16 to drive and 21 to drink," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "It just seems inconsistent and inappropriate to have 12-year-olds handling firearms and shooting animals for recreation."

Opponents have a tough fight, however. The state Department of Natural Resources supports the legislation, as do a number of sportsmen and hunting groups.

Rodney Stokes, a DNR legislative liaison, said children, like many other hunters, would be required to pass a safety course.

To obtain a license, applicants must complete a 10-hour course that includes hands-on firearms instruction, said Lt. Sherry Chandler of the DNR's hunter-education section.

The Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee will hear testimony on the bill today and possibly vote on it next week. Similar efforts to lower the hunting age failed in 1999 and 2001.

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