Rothenburger: Do we need more teenaged hunters?

Mel Rothenburger / Kamloops Daily News
February 21, 2013 01:00 AM

Do we really need more 14-year-olds traipsing about the woods shooting at things?

Steve Thomson, B.C.'s minister of forests and other stuff, thinks it's a fine idea. He's announced a plan to get more teenagers out in the boonies with rifles.

This will be accomplished, he and his fellow Liberals hope, by expanding the age range for youth hunting licences from 10 to 17 years instead of 10 to 13.

Youth hunting licences are cheaper (seven bucks), so blasting at wildlife will now be more affordable to more kids. And no longer will 14- to 17-year-olds have to complete the CORE firearms course first. (Mind you, they can do the CORE program anyway and buy a regular hunting licence if they want.)

Instead, they will have "more mentorship opportunities," a potential mentor being any adult with a regular hunting licence. Under the new rules, an 18-year-old hunter could "mentor," that is, accompany, a 17-year-old newbie as they beat about the bushes looking for unwary animals.

Late starter? How about the new "initiation" licence that makes it easier to try it out for awhile? It's reassuring to know that, as far as the government can tell, there were only 188 injuries involving guns (including pellet guns and such) and children under 14 between 1998 and 2003. In the 15-19 age group, there were 115.

Not that I think teens and pre-teens won't make fine hunters - they get a lot of practice on video games, after all. But wouldn't hiking, golfing or photography suffice for outdoor activities?

I get it when hunters insist they're doing a service to the ecosystem by harvesting the surplus and all that, and that they enjoy a tasty venison stew or moose steak. However, I think we could do without it and that
a lot of deer, moose, wolves, bear and ducks would appreciate it too.

Hunters - who are fine, healthy people with whose "sport" I happen to disagree - are plentiful enough.

They're in no danger of dying out.

I have difficulty accepting that there's a need, or even a social benefit, in encouraging more young people to get out there and bag some wildlife. Since when does killing wild animals qualify as subsidized family recreation? The family that shoots things together stays together?

The answer is, the economy stupid. As clearly evidenced by the brand new budget unveiled by Finance Minister Mike de Jong on Tuesday, we have some revenue challenges. Hunting is big business in B.C. Combined with trapping, fishing and "wildlife viewing," it brings in about $1.3 billion.

As I understand government arithmetic, in exchange for saving a few bucks on a licence, teenagers and their parents will line up to shell out a thousand dollars or so for firearms, ammunition, special clothing, boots, permits, equipment and fuel.

So, the Liberals are unabashedly on a - and this is their word - "recruitment" drive for new hunters. Which doesn't quite square with the argument that hunting is all about the environment.

Well, as Thomson says, "Hunting will always be an integral part of the social fabric of British Columbia."

Yup, and an integral source of cash for strapped provincial coffers. But couldn't they just slap a surtax on family bowling nights instead?

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