More than 35 states now allow children to hunt or use a gun for sport — as long as there’s a parent or adult mentor along to supervise.
In America any talk about gun policy can get heated and divisive quickly. But in Wisconsin, when the legislature eliminated the age restrictions for hunting just before the start of the 2017 deer season, the change happened without much fanfare or debate.
Linde Lemerond is a third-grader. She thought she would have to wait until she was 10 years old to go hunting, just like her older brothers. But because of the rule change, at 9 she’s ready and able to go turkey hunting this spring with her father, Joe Lemerond.
Linde says that one of the ways hunters lure the fowl is with a slate turkey call.
“It’s a circle,” she said,“and it has like kind of a chalkboard kind of top to it, and then there’s like this wooden stick. You scrape it, kind of slow and fast at the same time and then the turkeys will, well hopefully, the turkeys will come to you.”
The sound is kind of like scraping your fingernails on the blackboard, but more piercing.
The toms gobble in reply.
Turkeys are very suspicious birds, due in part to their keen eyesight and hearing. In preparation for hunting from their turkey blind, Linde’s father reminds her:
“You know how we play that game, freeze? That’s how you have to hunt. Okay? You gotta be like a statue.” And it’s important to remain quiet. Linde says that it’s OK “to bring snacks if you’re hungry, [but] don’t bring like noisy snacks like chips.”
Linde learned to shoot with her BB gun, and then graduated to a .22. For the turkey hunt she will use a 20-gauge youth model, which is a little smaller than a regular shotgun.
She said, “It kicks back a little bit, but if you keep it tight on top of your shoulder it won’t hurt at all. But if you keep it loose and you wiggle it while you’re shooting, then you’ll mess up the shot.”
Linde has been honing her skills by shooting cardboard turkeys at the range. She will be turkey hunting from a sitting position with her shotgun barrel perched on a shooting stick.
I asked her father why it’s a good idea to teach children to hunt.
“Hunting is not just pulling a trigger or killing an animal,” Lemerond said. “It’s the preparation, the hunt itself, the time with family and friends, and then all throughout the year being able to enjoy the table fare.”
The Lemeronds harvest and process all of their family’s meat and fish themselves.
“It’s part of our instincts, part of our culture, part of our heritage, it’s part of us,” Joe Lemerond said. “There’s nothing more natural than that.”
Linde says her “favorite part about hunting is that I get to sit with my dad and just wait around until a turkey comes.”