BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game wants to give kids as young as 10 years old a shot at bringing down big game, saying it should be up to their parents if youngsters are allowed to hunt some of Idaho's prized species.
That's a two-year age decrease from the current minimum of 12 years old.
But unlike hunters 12 and up, who can head out after deer, elk, bear and other wildlife alone, the younger children must be accompanied by an adult who is licensed to hunt in Idaho.
Currently, 10- and 11-year-old kids can hunt for small game, but they can't hunt for bigger prey.
For department Deputy Director Sharon Kiefer, it's a matter of parental discretion. The department has received repeated requests from parents to provide an option for younger hunters, she said.
"This doesn't mean you must go hunt game at age 10,'' Kiefer said. "This just gives families that option.''
In Idaho, everybody born after Jan. 1, 1975, must complete a hunter-education course to buy an Idaho hunting license — or else show proof of a previously held valid hunting license in Idaho or another state.
Idaho's big-game animals include deer, elk, moose, bear, wolves, mountain lions and pronghorn antelope.
Kiefer said that kids who participate in "mentored hunting'' programs for 10- and 11-year-old children have better safety rates than hunters as a whole, judging from statistics gathered in other states with similar programs.
"Statistics demonstrate that kids hunting are no more accident-prone than other older ages,'' she said. "Mentored hunters have some of the highest safety records.''
The House Resources and Conservation Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to schedule a full hearing to debate the proposal and see if they favor sending it along to the full House for a vote.
It Idaho lawmakers agree with the proposal, Idaho's age requirements will mirror those in Arizona, Maine and Nebraska, all of which allow children 10 and up to hunt. Some states, including Nevada, do not have a set minimum age to hunt.