COMMISSIONS >: GEOlino: Young Hunters
Hunting is an integral part of the culture for many communities in rural America. Numerous families participate in hunting together, both for the sport of it and for the meat it provides. While the United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, in rural areas guns are mostly used for practical applications, like hunting. Many rural families start teaching their children how to safely use firearms for practical uses at a young age.
Meredith Cole and Ethan Cole, who were 13 and 11 at the time, are siblings who live on their family’s dairy farm in Troy, a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Every year, they join their family for the opening days of deer hunting season, just as the generations who came before them did. Deer season is such a vital part of life in Troy, a town of around 1,500 people, that the Troy Area School District declares the first two days of deer rifle hunting a holiday and school is cancelled. Many of the students, as well as their teachers, are out hunting on opening day.
In the United States, each state sets the rules and regulations for hunting in their own state. The state of Pennsylvania has a Mentored Youth Hunting Permit, which allows children to hunt under the mentorship of a licensed adult 21-years-of-age or older. As long as they are enrolled in the program, there is no minimum age for a child to start hunting in the state. The child must be accompanied while hunting by one mentor, there can only be one gun between the two of them, the gun must be carried by the mentor when they are in movement and the youth must be within arm’s reach of the mentor at all time when holding the firearm. Once a child reaches the age of 12, they are allowed to carry their own firearm in the presence of a licensed adult after they pass a hunter safety course. At the age of 17, a hunter can obtain their own license and can hunt without supervision.
Meredith and Ethan’s family has been participating in deer season for generations. They hunt in various tree stands, small structures used to hide from the deer as well as to provide shelter, that have been built over the years throughout the property of their family’s dairy farm. As both are too young to hunt on their own, Meredith primarily hunts with her grandfather and Ethan with their dad. Meredith says she mainly enjoys hunting because sitting in tree stands together for hours, waiting for deer, is a way for her to spend close bonding time with her family, especially her grandfather. The siblings are just two of the many children across America who learn how to participate in the tradition of hunting at a very early age.