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 with Rob Miskosky

Hunting With Guns At Twelve

I can remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday; myself and my younger brother regularly accompanying our father on grouse hunting forays into the high country of the Okanagan valley. Actually he quite often took us deer hunting as well, but at our young ages deer hunting never held quite the same amount of excitement as hunting grouse; there just seemed to be a lot more action when we were grouse hunting and we always seemed to come home with a few birds for mom to cook up in the oven.

I know that our father instilled in us a sense of pride that many of our childhood friends never got the chance to experience the way we did. There is just something about being allowed to carry a gun at a young age, albeit supervised, but just holding that old .22 somehow made us older, more responsible, and gave us a feeling that maybe we were making dad proud of us.

We would listen intently as he preached proper gun safety and showed us how to look down the barrel and through those old iron sights. Dad used a shotgun quite often but neither my brother nor I wanted to feel the kick of that gun. It just seemed too big of a gun to shoot, especially after watching dad’s shoulder buck back every time he pulled the trigger. The .22 was gun enough for us and we were more than happy to be limited to the use of it only.

I’m not sure when my younger brother shot his first grouse, but I know I was a mere eight years old when I shot mine. I’m sure my brother was of similar age when he first came home with bird in hand and bragging rights around the supper table. Dad was a good teacher.

I’d bet that many underage kids today have come home with that same sense of pride my brother and I had so many years ago, with their first .22 killed bird in hand. While this act would be considered illegal by fish and wildlife laws today, I have a feeling that it is an act that takes place with regularity. It is a father’s right to teach his young boy to become a man. Many would argue that it is teaching something else, but I would suspect it isn’t viewed that way by the vast majority of hunters with young sons. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a feeling I’m not.

For many aspiring young hunters, being allowed to hunt big game with a rifle at 12 years old is a dream come true.
My young son Dakota turns 12 this August. We’ve been waiting for this year for quite some time now. He’s nearing the completion of his Hunter Training course and is excited about putting in for this year’s draws. But more recently his excitement has really grown at the prospect of hunting this year, at 12-years-old, with a rifle.

For the past several years now Alberta’s hunting laws have been changing, getting progressively better for all hunters. The archaic Sunday hunting law is slowly but surely being dismantled in many areas. Seasons are getting longer and opportunities are being increased. Unfortunately, some of these increased opportunities come at the expense of a disease that threatens to ravage our deer herds, but nonetheless, they are increased opportunities that also help in the control of chronic wasting disease.

The author’s young son Dakota has spent many days afield with dad.
But for my son and many others like him, the prospect of being allowed to hunt with a rifle instead of a compound or cross bow at 12 years of age, has just increased their interest in a pursuit that may have otherwise been lost. Let’s face it: most kids would prefer to use a hunting tool that goes bang!

For several years numerous Canadian provinces have allowed 12 year olds to hunt big game, while supervised, with a rifle. Alberta has languished in this regard for many years.

The Alberta Fish and Game Association have put forth numerous resolutions regarding a reduction in the age limit required to hunt big game with a rifle at their annual convention. Each year this particular resolution has been dismissed by caucus. As recently as 2006, our government’s response to dropping the age limit has been, “The current legislation provides the opportunity for youths age twelve and thirteen to hunt big game using a bow but not rifles. When legislation allowing twelve and thirteen-year-olds to hunt big game was enacted, it was felt that youths of this age were not sufficiently experienced to safely handle high-powered rifles during the excitement of the hunt. This concern still exists.”

But in 2007, government’s response to this same resolution put forth by the AFGA was, “It will be put forward as a proposal for the 2007 hunting regulation changes”

The young sons of hunters are generally taught how to properly handle a gun at a very young age.

Changes in caucus appear to have been changes for the better for hunters in this province. Under the Klein watch, there was a mentality that our youngsters were incapable of hunting under supervised conditions. For those unfamiliar with hunting rifles and their capabilities, the thought of such a tool in the hands of someone so young must have been horrifying. It is this same naive mentality that has plagued hunters for years, making the non-hunting public question why those of us who hunt do what we do. But for those in the know—those of us who use these tools on a regular basis—concerns are diminished once supervision is added.

Hunting accidents where the gun is the primary source of that accident, contrary to what groups like the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting (CASH) may portray to the general populace, are so minute you have a better chance of being hit by a bus than you do being injured in a hunting accident with a gun—the percentages are that small and hardly worthy of note.

So now it looks like a .243 may be in order for my young hunter. It is a good gun for the novice deer hunter, with little kick allowing for confidence in shooting. Practice is also high on the list this summer with several boxes of ammunition projected to pass through the barrel of that new .243.

For my son and others like him—those who are the future of our outdoor hunting, fishing and trapping pursuits—it is an exciting time. It is a time when responsibility and the prospect of becoming young men and enjoying the fellowship of hunting camp will fill their dreams at night. It is a time where the smell of spent gunpowder and dreams of big deer and a limit of grouse will fill their every waking moment.

I can only hope that my young son, about to turn into a young man, can take from me that same pride that my father gave to my younger brother and I. It is a pride that can only be felt by those who spend time hunting, fishing and trapping. ■

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