Yesterday one of my editors, Sammy Reese, called me. Sammy is a former cop, a great shot, a father and all-round good guy. The purpose of the call was to inform me he had received a complaint from a game warden in Montana about one of my articles. In the article I mentioned that when my son was six years old he killed his first deer. This western woods warden proceeded to inform my editor that it is illegal to hunt when you are six years old because you cannot get a license.
Obviously this lawman was not familiar with West Virginia state law. I’ll forgive him for that. What I will not forgive him for was his comment that it is irresponsible to let a kid that is only six years old hunt or even shoot for that matter. For what its worth, the Gunwriter Assistant is now 11, has taken two more deer – one with a crossbow – and can shoot pretty darn well. (In case your reading this and think I have again disclosed a violation, the deer taken with a crossbow was in Virginia where he did have a license and hunting with a crossbow is not considered a sin.)
From what Sammy told me, he tried his best to line this fellow out, apparently to no avail. At the end of their conversation the reader vowed to call his West Virginia counterpart and have me “checked in to.” I hope he did. I’m sure if he got one of our wardens on the line, WV law and the state’s dedication to, and understanding of, the importance of youth hunting was explained to him in a manner he could understand. With some southern hospitality thrown in for sure.
As a former police officer, I have a lot of respect for game wardens. I know several and admire their work and service. They have the difficult task of enforcing the law on folks that are engaged in a historical American tradition, that is a recreational and emotional pastime, which is very often family oriented. Many violations are without any intent. On top of these difficulties, most everyone they come in contact with has a gun.
This makes a game warden’s job doubly difficult. They must balance an understanding of an American heritage with the necessity to enforce the law. All these game wardens, like any police officer, must be prepared to maybe not go home at the end of the shift – or ever again.
What they should not be is ignorant of or unreceptive to the idea that a father should be able to pass along the skills of shooting and hunting to his children whenever he thinks they’re ready. Luckily, West Virginia, as screwed up as some of her game laws are, does recognize this. [Residents who have not reached their 15th birthday may hunt without a license but they must be accompanied by a licensed adult at least 18 years of age.]
Maybe Montana should get with the program. Real hunters, shooters and sportsmen understand the necessity of introducing youngsters to shooting and hunting. Without the interest of our youth, this heritage will be lost and game wardens, gunwriters and about everyone else in the industry will be unemployed. Check out this article by fellow West Virginian Chris Ellis.
West Virginians have a name for game wardens that don’t understand this concept; we call ’em “possum cops”
By the way, I do know how to spell “opossum”
In case your wondering where I found a rifle small enough for a six year old to shoot, it was a custom rifle on loan from Charlie Sisk. Chambered in the odd choice of .25-35, it was built on a Remington 788 action and fitted with a 4X Leupold. Oh, and yeah, the shot was at 60 yards and right through the heart.