New law lets ten and 11-year-olds join Michigan hunt

Starting next year, children of any age will be legally allowed to hunt deer with a firearm in Michigan if accompanied by a parent. / Mike Horne

Tuesday was the first day of firearm deer season in Michigan and the minimum hunting age has been lowered to 10 as a result of Michigan's Hunting Heritage Law. In fact, that is just a bridge to where the law will ultimately lead in 2012, no minimum age at all. Children must still be accompanied by a parent, with the goal being to produce safer hunters later in life.

Not everyone thinks that is a good idea.

NBC25 spoke to numerous hunters and hunting instructors today and while many of them like the idea of starting kids out early learning about firearms and hunting they aren't so sure about kids 11 and under going into the woods and firing weapons. One mom says she wouldn't even feel safe with her youngster going out in the woods with her husband. "I think it is scary," said Janelle Jaynes of Bay City. "I think they should be old enough to get their license and go themselves."

Young Lexy Gower shot her first deer today at the age of 13. But she says she was about 8 when she first became interested in hunting. She says she first held a firearm at 10, the same year she took hunter's safety. She says if the law would have let her, she would have been ready to hunt then. She says the years of training by her dad to respect a firearm along with her hunter's safety course made a difference in how she thinks about safety now. "Accidents can happen so I make sure to always think about it if I'm holding a gun making sure I'm doing everything I have to be doing to make sure I'm safe and people around me are safe," she says.

Another mom, Amy Witzgall of Auburn, says it's great. "My 9 year old is out with his older brother in the blind watching and we wish he could be hunting right now," she says.

A Michigan DNR officer tells NBC 25 that it is all about evaluating the maturity and readiness of your own child, and knowing the weapon yourself so you can teach them how to be safe.