PA Game Commission logo

Kids of any age still would be allowed to hunt deer and turkey in Pennsylvania, under a measure given preliminary approval Tuesday by the state Game Commission.

But to get their own tags for those animals, kids would have to be at least 7 years old.

Younger kids would have to have a tag transferred to them by a licensed mentor.

"There's no reason in the world to give a tag to a 1, 2, 3 or 4-year-old kid," said Dave Putnam, president of the Board of Game Commissioners. "They're not going to be out there using them, so why don't we just leave the tag in the computer...

"We're not taking away the ability for the 2-year-old to shoot an antlered buck. If the parent decides, 'I think little Susie is ready to wail away' — go ahead. But they have to use their own tag."

The approval given to the measure Tuesday by the board is preliminary.

It must come up again for a final vote at the board's next meeting in April, which means hunters have three months to let the commissioners know what they think of the proposal.

Dozens of kids and hunters told the board Sunday not to set a minimum age.

"We believe the parent/mentor and child should make the decision when the child is ready to hunt," the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs wrote on its Facebook page.

Currently, the state's mentored youth hunting program allows kids of any age under 12 to get tags to shoot deer and turkeys while under the direct supervision of adults — usually their parents.

During special operations last fall, the Game Commission discovered evidence of adults having mentored-youth tags, while hunting without any children.

Last year, the agency sold 35,380 mentored youth permits.

In 2013, the agency sold 39 permits to kids under the age of 3, including 14 to kids less than 1 year old.

By setting a minimum age of 7 to get deer and turkey tags, the commissioners said they believe they will hamper attempts by adults to abuse the system by getting tags for their kids and then using them themselves.

"We recognize that a majority of the mentors are doing what we ask them to do," said Commissioner Tim Layton.

Commissioner Brian Hoover noted that parents and other adults can still take kids of all ages out hunting with them, and teach them about the outdoors, without letting the children shoot at anything.

"Mentor has nothing to do with harvest or kill anything," he said. "It has to do with the transfer of knowledge from an adult to a youth or to another person who doesn't have that knowledge."

Hoover said he's worried young kids are being conditioned to expect instant gratification.

"Everybody gets a trophy today, and that's not right," he said.

Harold Daub is a volunteer from Dauphin County who teaches hunter-education safety courses to kids and other new hunters for the Game Commission.

He organized a Facebook page dedicated to preserving the mentored youth program as is when he heard the commissioners' original proposal of setting a minimum age of 9 to hunt deer and turkeys.

Seven is better than 9, Daub wrote on his page Tuesday, but it's still not right.

"I think we did good avoiding the age of 9, but this is not acceptable to me, at the current time," he wrote.

What to Read Next