Youths aged 16 and older can now join in the moose hunt, which begins this weekend

For the Buckle family of Corner Brook, hunting is a family affair — one that goes back decades.

Matthew Buckle was waddling through snow to bring partridges back to his father almost as soon as he could walk. His wife, Tammy Buckle, also started hunting and fishing as a child, going out as a family with her 16 siblings. [!!]

“All my fondest memories of spending time with my father, it’s always been hunting and fishing,” Matthew Buckle said.

“It’s what I grew up doing. It’s what I love doing.”

Now the couple brings their own three children out hunting as well and this year their daughter Emily, who just started Grade 12, hopes to shoot her first moose.

Emily’s goal is possible this year due to recent changes in hunting regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador. One of the most significant changes is the new minimum ages of 16 for big game hunting and 12 for small game hunting, Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne told CBC’s Corner Brook Morning Show on Friday.

Watch out, moose: hunting season starts Saturday. (CBC)

“We’ve taken a number of very deliberate actions to increase access to our outdoor heritage,” Byrne said.

Minimum hunting ages were previously 18 for big game and 16 for small game.

‘I want them to learn what I know’

The reduction in hunting age will give young people more opportunities to spend time in nature, Byrne said.

“One of the big considerations in this was when you provide an opportunity for our young people to get access to the outdoors, to get access to hunting, they learn very, very important skills at an early age,” he said.

“Not only do they learn better safety skills that they retain for a lifetime, but they also retain important conservation principles and values.”

Young hunters have to fulfil the same safety requirements as adults. (Ashley Taylor/Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association )

That’s a key motivation for the Buckles.

“I want them to learn what I know,” said Matthew.

“I want them to learn about nature and the ethics of hunting. I want them to know where our food comes from and how to get clean, organic, free-range meat for your future.”

Those lessons have resonated with daughter Emily, who says she enjoys time spent hunting with her family and values the food from their hunts.

“When you kill something, you get to eat it and you get to know where it comes from,” she said.

The shared experience is a source of pride and enjoyment for the whole family, Matthew said.

“It definitely makes me proud to see my own kids involved in the things that I love to do. It’s so enjoyable just to see them in nature, to see them interacting without their iPhones, without their Xbox.”

Training requirements same for youth and adults

The eligible age for hunting licences has been lowered, but the safety restrictions are just as stringent as they are for adult hunters, Byrne said.

“There will be no 16-year-olds that will be hunting big game without adult supervision,” said Byrne, who said the same is true for small game.

‘There are very, very strict requirements that are in place to be able to receive a licence and participate in the hunt, and safety and training are part of those requirements.”

Eligible hunters of all ages must complete a hunting test for firearm safety and a hunter education program, and the province is offering youth hunter skills workshops a few times a year in different locations around the province. A recent workshop in Deer Lake had about 50 attendees, Byrne said, and another will be held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this weekend.

There will be no 16-year-olds that will be hunting big game without adult supervision.– Gerry Byrne

Safety is a key consideration for the Buckle family as well, and Tammy is a hunting safety instructor.

“‘When it does come to the firearms component, safety is of the upmost importance to us,” she said.

The couple have worked to instill a respect for and knowledge of hunting safety in their children from a young age, she said, including not just firearms but also rabbit snares and fish hooks.

Emily Buckle completed her firearms safety training before obtaining her first moose licence, and plans to practise before she goes out to hunt herself.

Such experiences, when done safely, are a valuable way to preserve both provincial and family traditions, Byrne said.

“It’s a great experience for a mother and a son, or a father and a daughter, to be out in our Newfoundland and Labrador outdoor heritage to participate in this.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Corner Brook Morning Show

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