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Kids Win With Families Afield

SzvanwormerGabe VanWormer of Bancroft, Mich., sends us this photo of a very proud Haley Jennings on her 10th birthday with her first every turkey. Haley shot the bird, a 16-pound jake with a 4 1/2-inch beard, at 20 yards away with a 20-gauge shotgun. Her dad, Bill Jennings, called the young tom in as Gabe filmed the hunt.

While Haley's smile says it all, father and daughter got their first true chance to hunt together courtesy of the recent passage of a law lowering Michigan's legal hunting age and creating an apprentice hunting program. The move is underfoot in a number of other states and has been the product of a concerted effort called Families Afield by the National Wild Turkey Federation, U.S. Sportsman's Alliance and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The whole goal is to lower prohibitively high hunting age restrictions common in many Northern and Western states so that children can legally hunt, while still receiving proper oversight and instruction from knowledgable adults. (Being a kid from the South, where that decision is left up to the parent to decide when a child is responsible enough to pull the trigger on a gun, I've never truly understood such restrictions anyway. But that's another post!)

Says Gabe: "The real trophy is a hunt that father and daughter shared together and will always be a memory they'll have together."

In fact, just after midnight as Haley's birthday arrived, her father purchased her license on-line and the group hit the woods the next day, upon which Haley tagged the bird you see here. What a birthday present!!! Congrats to the Jennings family and thanks to Gabe VanWormer for sending this picture in and sharing Haley's story. For that, Gabe will be entered into the Strut Zone's Give Us The Bird Photo Contest.

By the way, Strut Zoner Connie Miller asked me a very good question the other day and that is, "When am I going to announce the winners?" My apologies to those of you who have been waiting for the announcement. I had pushed it back a little along with the deadline for entries in order to run as many of the pics received before the announcement. I also forgot that I had planned this in the middle of magazine deadline here at OL. Well, the deadline for that is over and I hope to get the pics voted on this week and will announce the winners THIS FRIDAY!!! You can plan that one like opening day. Thanks for everyone's patience.



Encouraging children to hunt at younger and younger ages places these children in unnecessary danger. The hunting community used to embrace the idea of mandatory hunter safety courses - especially after they dramatically reduced the number of hunting accidents each year. Now, because the number of hunters has been declining year after year for more than two decades, the hunting lobby is struggling to keep this $20 million a year industry afloat and has children in its crosshairs. The Families Afield lobby has gone across the country attempting to lower the minimum hunting age and exempt new hunters - particularly children - from hunter safety courses. There are hundreds and hundreds of hunting accidents each year, many involving children and many fatal.

Many hunting accidents involving children result in a parent being killed by a child or a child being killed by a parent or sibling. These accidents ruin lives. Children should not be targeted simply to boost revenue for a failing industry.