Dumb and Dumber

Thanks to my friend Shawn for letting me post this excellent piece. Published in Minnesota Outdoor News June 24, 2005 Points North Dumb and Dumber: Legislature, lobbies erode hunter safety By Shawn Perich Believe it or not, the Minnesota Legislature actually accomplished something during its regular session, including the passage of a laundry list of fish and wildlife legislation. Perusing the list in a recent news story, a couple of line items caught my eye. These legislative actions deserve mention. First was the law change to make the .30 Carbine (M-1) a legal caliber for big game. This was a surprise, since generations of Minnesotans (including WWII and Korean vets who had military experience with the caliber) considered the .30 Carbine inadequate for hunting big game, which in this state includes not only white-tailed deer, but also moose, black bear, and elk. I surfed to Remington’s website and did a ballistics comparison with the .30 Carbine, .243 Winchester, and .30-30 WCF--both of the latter considered light, big game calibers. In the comparison of velocity, foot-pounds of energy, and trajectory, the .30 Carbine fell far short of the other two calibers. On another website, I learned the .30 Carbine is ballistically comparable to the .357 Magnum handgun round. The .357 is legal for big game in Minnesota, though most shooting writers recommend using heavier calibers for handgun hunting. The bottom line? In the hands of a competent shooter, with careful shot placement the .30 Carbine is adequate for killing deer at close range. However, a competent shooter would most likely choose a caliber better suited to the task. With a less competent shooter, wounding of game animals is significant risk. Considering the wide range of adequate calibers and premium ammunition already available, this writer would sum up using the .30 Carbine for big game with one word: Dumb. Another new Minnesota law can also be summed up with one word: Dumber. Children under age 12 can now hunt turkeys if accompanied by an adult—they do not need to first complete hunter safety training and there is no minimum age when they can carry a gun into the turkey woods. According to a recent press release from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), a hunting advocacy/lobby group, the Legislature made the change at the organization’s behest. Most Minnesotans don’t know it, but our state is a beachhead for a nationwide campaign to relax hunter safety requirements and related youth hunting restrictions orchestrated by the NWTF, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), and U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance (USSA). Calling hunter safety certification “burdensome” and “red tape” (I am not making this up), these organizations say that state safety requirements are preventing children from taking up hunting. Sending untrained children afield with their parents, these groups assert, will lead to greater recruitment of young hunters. The new turkey rule is an example of what they seek. In a report titled “Families Afield,” the groups claim that 20 states do not allow children to hunt with their parents. If this claim seems alarming, it is important to recognize the groups’ definition of “hunting” starts and stops with squeezing the trigger. It doesn’t include unarmed kids tagging along in the field, going to the hunting camp, or in other ways participating in the way of life that is hunting. Claiming to be responding to “heartbroken parents,” the groups state “parents not politics should decide when children go hunting.” The report contains some statistics that purport to show a correlation between states that don’t allow children to hunt big game until age 12 and the number of young hunters coming into the sport. Although details of individual state laws were not included, states were divided into “Least Restrictive,” “Somewhat Restrictive” (Minnesota was in this one), and “Very Restrictive” categories. The report was produced by Silvertip Productions, which a web search revealed is a motion picture production company based in Ohio. The report also makes safety comparisons between hunting and other recreational activities. That hunting rates as very safe is no surprise. What is surprising is the report fails to give credit where it is due. Hunting is exceptionally safe, because generations of hunters have taken mandatory gun safety training. Such was not always the case. Decades ago, hunting accidents and shooting deaths were far too common. Back then, new hunters were taught about hunting by older, more experienced hunters, most of whom grew up around guns and hunting, and likely served in the military. This did not necessarily make them safe hunters, nor good mentors for youth hunters. Like most Minnesota hunters under the age of 50, I took firearms safety instruction. I also began tagging along with my father at an early age, received a BB gun for Christmas when I was seven, and shot my first ruffed grouse with my father’s shotgun at age eight. I began carrying a shotgun for small game under my father’s supervision before I reached age 12, but he did not consider me ready to enter the deer woods until I was 12 and completed gun safety training. By that time, I’d served a long apprenticeship that included helping to butcher deer and other game, tagging along on innumerable small game hunting trips, snaring rabbits, shooting sling shots, bows and arrows, and .22 rifles. This is not to mention a ton of fishing, camping, and other outdoor experiences that, for nearly all of us, constitute the whole of what it means to be a hunter. True, many of today’s kids do not have the opportunity to experience all of these things, but that hardly seems a reason to forgo safety training or turn our backs on the collective wisdom that set our present age limits based on when most children are physically and emotionally mature enough to use a centerfire rifle or turkey gun and kill a large animal. In an era when all of us are numbed from endless news reports of senseless incidents involving kids and guns, it is hard to imagine why anyone who claims to advocate for guns and shooting sports would seek less rather than more gun safety training for children. An NSSF spokesman assured me that the Families Afield program does not de-emphasize hunter education. “We hope kids take hunter education after they become hooked on hunting,” he told me. One can only wonder if we should apply the same logic to sex education or drug awareness programs.