Toddler Hunting


Jan. 19, 2016

Most people in Wisconsin may be shocked to learn children at the absurdly young age of 10 without any training at all in gun safety are being encouraged to roam our woods during hunting season using fully loaded firearms.

A bizarre gun subculture in this state actually won the support of Republicans controlling the Legislature for that irrational change in state hunting laws to intentionally increase the number of deadly weapons in the hands of very young children.

OK, brace yourselves. Republicans now want to make that dangerous situation unbelievably worse.

Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc, married to Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, has proposed a bill opening the way for toddler hunting. He wants to totally eliminate the state’s minimum age for children hunting with firearms without passing a gun safety course.

This has absolutely nothing to do with Wisconsin’s celebrated, strong hunting tradition. In fact, the radical changes in hunting laws are prompted by exactly the opposite—a fear by the extreme gun subculture that support for hunting in this state is growing weaker all the time.

Hunting enthusiasts have worried for years about the future of their blood sport because aging participants are dying off without being replaced by younger people. Kids today! You can’t get them to stop playing video games long enough to go out and really kill something.

That’s why the Legislature lowered the age to 10 for a so-called mentored hunt, allowing gun-toting parents to take very young children into the woods to get them hooked on blowing away animals before the kids become teenagers and discover less violent forms of amusement with each other.

An adult is supposed to stay within an arm’s length of an untrained child with a gun and the two of them must share a gun. Another dangerous change Kleefisch proposes is permitting both the adult and untrained child to be armed. If a deer suddenly appears, it’s not difficult to imagine both of them firing excitedly and lethally every which way.

There were more than 30,000 mentored hunts with young children in 2014, but apparently those kids weren’t nearly enthusiastic enough about killing stuff. So the only thing left for Republicans to do is to start arming kindergarteners and preschoolers.

What could be a more wholesome form of family entertainment? Well, let’s think. Almost anything.


Kids Killing Animals Is a Warning Sign

One of the most beautiful qualities of sweet, little children is their love of animals. Not their love of shooting animals. Their love for animals.

Why not go to the Wisconsin Humane Society and adopt a pet for your children to love and care for? Take them to the zoo to see awesome animals from around the world and develop a healthy interest in protecting the planet and all its living species.

There’s a reason why young children love their stuffed animals. And it’s not because they’re eagerly looking forward to an adulthood where their trophy rooms will be lined with stuffed animal heads staring at them with glass eyes.

Children are supposed to love Elmo, not think about tracking him, assassinating him and nailing his bright red hide to their bedroom walls.

In fact, psychologists warn that any child who shows cruelty by torturing or killing animals at a young age actually may be exhibiting warning signs of mental illness or psychotic behavior in adulthood. Jeffrey Dahmer did just that, you may recall.

And it’s not just wimpy liberals appalled by guns and hunting who think early childhood hunting is a terrible idea. Experienced hunters are the strongest supporters of improving hunter safety education.

Ray Anderson, a Madison hunting safety instructor, submitted written testimony to the Legislature warning many children under 12 are simply physically incapable of controlling powerful firearms and far too immature to use sound judgment regarding gun safety.

“Too many children age 10 or younger are not ready to hunt,” Anderson wrote. “We’ve had situations in class where 9- and 10-year-olds simply don’t have the maturity to handle a firearm. They inadvertently point the firearm at others and instructors. I implore you to not pass [this bill]. If anything, raise the minimum age limit …”

Joseph Lacenski, president of the Wisconsin Hunter Education Instruction Association, also opposed legalizing hunting with deadly weapons by younger children.

“Can that 1-day-old to 9-year-old differentiate between shoot [or] don’t shoot?” Lacenski asked. “Can they rationalize the difference between video games they have been playing and the consequences of the real world?”

It’s no surprise Kleefisch’s bill has the support of the National Rifle Association. The NRA’s twisted new advocacy of a gun in every child’s lunchbox is a gross betrayal of what once was that organization’s primary mission, safety education for hunters and gun owners.

When I was a new parent, my child’s tiny fingers seemed like a miracle to me. There’s something obscene about imagining them wrapped around the trigger of a gun.


Somebody Definitely Needs a New Heart

Normally I would feel sorry for a girl born with a rare heart disease that requires her to get both a heart and liver transplant. But when 11 year old Kaitlynn Bessette of Stetsonville, Wisconsin, shot a 335 pound black bear through the heart, she lost all my sympathy.

Why is it that when some people suffer adversity they feel the need to take it out on others? And what is going on in the mind of a pre-teenaged girl that makes her want to kill a magnificent animal like a bear anyway? How can a person who knows all too well what it’s like to be the target of undeserved misfortune say, “I felt thankful, like really thankful I shot a bear”? Are kids today reading or watching too many stories, such as “The Hunger Games,” where the heroin is a huntress? Or maybe they’re playing too many violent video games, like “Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2012” (available for only $79.99 in Xbox or Wii).

Of course, Kaitlynn wasn’t out there on her own; she had the help of the Wisconsin-based “United Special Sportsman Alliance,” a hunting group that grants wishes for children (most of which no doubt involve killing animals). They must have lured the bear in with bait and had Kaitlynn safely stationed in a tree-stand close enough for an easy kill, since she wasn’t even looking when she pulled the trigger: “…I held the gun as steady as I could, I turned my head and then I shot.”

After learning that her daughter had killed a bear, her mother said, “I started instantly crying.” Crying would be an appropriate reaction to hearing that a bear’s life was just unnecessarily ended or learning that your youngster was a murderer, but Mrs. Bessette was crying tears of joy instead of sorrow, “…it was amazing.” Kaitlynn’s father was equally pleased with the carnage, “She’s a good kid. I’m really proud of her.”

The family plans to mount the bear’s remains on their wall to keep the memory alive. Had the child been satisfied with taking only a photograph of the animal, both the memory—and the bear—could live on.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson