MD abby dannyI was astonished to read one time that a 4-year-old Mississippi boy shot his first deer. The local paper did a big story on it, saying the kid didn’t want a doe (he didn’t want a doe, or his Daddy didn’t want him to shoot a doe?). The boy waited for a 6-point buck and smoked him.

Stories like this are cute and make us feel warm and fuzzy that our kids are getting into hunting and helping to perpetuate what we do. But how young is too young?

Can a 4-year-old handle and aim a rifle safely, even with Dad holding it and pointing out the animal, which is hard if not impossible for a kid that age and size to find in the scope? Can the youngster know to shoot buck in the shoulder?

Can a 4-year-old comprehend what it means to shoot the life out of an animal, something that is very personal (bordering on the spiritual) for those of us who do it right?

I submit to you, no way.

I am sure the parents of kids like this are my kind of people—salt of the earth, hard-working, well-meaning hunters. But I cannot help but to think that in some way they must be living vicariously through their kids to let them kill a deer at such a young age.

I fear this is becoming a competition. Next, some Daddy will try to have his 3-year-old break the record…then a 2-year-old will shoot a deer…where might it end?

This topic came up earlier this year with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which tweaked its rules. As I understand it, now a kid of any age can kill a deer if accompanied by a mentor (and using the adult’s tag on the deer). To get their own deer tag, a kid would have to be 7.

“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 (parent’s) tag,” said the president of the Board of Game Commissioners.

A 2-year-old shooting a deer, are you serious?

I raised two boys. I understand every kid is different. To me 8, 9 or 10 years old seems a reasonable age to kill a deer. I do agree with those who say that only a parent (or grandparent) will know when their kid is mature enough to do it and handle it.

This I know for sure: I challenge any of you to look at his or her 2- to 4-year-old rumbling around the house and tell me that he or she is ready to kill a deer.

What do you think is the right age to shoot a deer?