<National Report>The United States Government has decided 2015 is the year to enact a new nationwide “minimum hunting age” of 21. Previously, each state has set its own minimum age for a hunter to hunt alone and sometimes a different age for minors to hunt while in the company of an adult.
The federal regulation, set to go into effect on July 1st, 2015, will supersede all existing hunting age restrictions in all fifty U.S. states. For example, prior to this ruling Alaska had no license require for any hunters under the age of 15; meaning that a four-year old could go out and hunt game with or without adult supervision. Under the new policy, any hunters under the age of 21 will be locked out of the sport and all hunters over 21 will be required to show a national hunting license upon request from a game warden.
In addition to the nationwide minimum hunting age now being 21, all hunters will have to take a federally sponsored annual “hunting safety and wildlife appreciation” course which will feature a written exam that must be passed to be eligible to receive a National Hunting License. All prospective hunters must also pass an annual physical endurance test and receive clearance from their primary care physician. Under these new regulations, individual state licenses will no longer be required and state game wardens will become federalized.
Younger hunters will be able to first take the safety and appreciation course starting at the age of 19. They will then be allowed to participate in no more than three ‘mock hunts’ per year which will be organized by the federally approved groups offering the courses. The ‘mock hunt’ will not feature live ammunition or live game but will attempt to simulate an actual hunt as closely as possible. 20-year-old prospective hunters will be able to apply for a license up to sixty days before their birthday, however, the license will not be valid until their actual date of birth.
“We wanted to be sure that everyone was able to successfully plan a hunting expedition with their loved ones for a twenty-first birthday party,” explained U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gregory Pearson. “We realize that these changes will be upsetting to some so we tried to make this transition as painless as possible.”
The new federal regulations have, predictably, been met with outrage from the hunting and gun enthusiast communities.
The National Rifle Association has begun a petition asking for the immediate repeal of these new restrictions. When contacted, they presented a prepared statement that said they intend to “challenge these restrictions” and demand that “states are once again given the right to dictate who is allowed to hunt and when”. The NRA also is in strict opposition to the penalties levied upon violators of the new regulations that include the seizure of firearms. A first offense of “hunting with a minor under the age of 21” will result in immediate suspension of their National Hunting License for one year. A second offense will result in the confiscation of all hunting implements, including firearms, bows and their ammunition, and potentially a fine and jail time. A third offense will result in mandatory jail time as well as the fines and confiscations second time offenders are subject to. Likewise, anyone under 21 caught with hunting tools or weapons will have the instruments confiscated and will be subject to time in a juvenile detention center. Repeat offenders will be denied the ability to apply for a federal license.
There has been quite an uproar on the internet by Americans unhappy with the changes. Herb Boucher, of Glenview Hills, Kentucky posted the following on a Facebook discussion about the new restrictions, “I took my boy out on his first hunt when he was just five. He’s fifteen now and I will not stop hunting with him no matter what that Obama idiot has to say. That is my time with my boy and they can’t stop me, I’d like to see them try.”
“The thing to remember is that hunting is a privilege, not a right,” concluded spokesman Pearson. “We hope that these new restrictions will teach all Americans the value of wildlife and how to safely conduct themselves on a hunt. Far too often, the television shows children grow up watching glamorize the wrong aspects of hunting wild game and we intend to teach them the proper mindset to be in while out in the forest.”