“If we don’t hook them at an early age, we lose them.” ~ Safari Club International lobbyist
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, a Republican, is a busy man. He is the author of two bills that were the subject of a Nov. 17 hearing: AB 411, which liberalizes the rules for mentoring potential hunters and trappers, including dropping the current 10-year-old age restriction, and AB 415, which drops the requirement that hunters wear back tags.
At the same meeting the Assembly panel voted to pass out of committee AB 448, another bill that liberalizes the requirements so more new hunters can be mentored. They also reported out AB 433, which criminalizes nonhunting citizens who “intrude” on hunters running packs of dogs, baiting, and killing our wildlife. Both bills were co-sponsored by Kleefisch.
AB 411 would allow children of all ages to be to be indoctrinated into inflicting violence, without government restrictions. This is child abuse.
Hunting is declining in popularity, so the main targets now are women and children. Pink guns. Pink camouflage. No doubt, next up are camouflage diapers and strollers designed as blinds on wheels. Toddlers could be wheeled out to kill wildlife like old men in wheelchairs continue their killing. Cradle to grave.
The death “culture” of the good ol’ boy patriarchy was the dominating presence at the Nov. 17 hearing on AB 411 and AB 415 — mostly men in their 60s and 70s.
A Families Afield lobbyist testified in favor of AB 411. Their flyer states the group “was established by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation in 2004 in an effort to reduce and remove unnecessary barriers that impede the next generation of sportsmen and women from joining our ranks.” They are supported by the NRA (and countless weapons manufacturers).
Much like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which designs model bills, Families Afield designs bills to deregulate hunting and recruit hunters, trappers and hounders to shore up their flagging form of recreation. If they indoctrinate children early, they are likely to keep them killing all their lives.
The group has been successful. Since 2006, it has added 1.5 million apprentices and passed apprenticeship bills in 38 states. Fifty percent of those recruited say they would not have hunted at all if not for the program. Retention is also high. And whereas 11 percent of hunters are now female, 28 percent of apprentices are female.
Wisconsin became a Families Afield state in 2009 by passing AB 672, which allows a child 10 years old to be mentored with a limit of one weapon between mentor and apprentice, who must be at arm’s length from each other during the training. AB 411 is stage two, dropping those safeguards. The mentor could have additional weapons and the age restriction would be dropped entirely.
Hunter education instructors testified in opposition to AB 411, without exception. One after another instructor described failing 8- to 12-year-olds for unsafe use of a gun. One instructor told the representatives that he commonly has guns pointed in his face by children 25 times a session. Another described a child panning toward 15 adults standing near a building, and he had to react immediately to push the gun toward the ground. These instructors said that the mentor should have all his attention on the apprentice and that having other weapons (so the instructor does not miss out on hunting too) is a distraction. They described parents pushing their children into hunting classes when the children do not have strength or maturity to manage a gun. Parents are filling out online courses for their children. People are licensing children to get more tags for themselves. One instructor said he would not allow his 24-year-old daughter to hunt without his presence.
Those instructors want the age to stay at 10.
Surprisingly, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, comprised of organizations that promote hunting, trapping and fishing, lobbied to put the issue on the Conservation Congress questionnaire at the annual statewide election April 11, 2016. However, that “public” election and vote, the sole advisory to the Legislature on wildlife and public land use, is dominated by hounders and trappers.
What was not discussed at the Nov. 17 hearing was the immorality of indoctrinating children into killing wildlife as recreation. This is about not the welfare of children, but about “saving hunting.” This is about increasing killing of fast-dwindling wildlife populations as recreational target practice. This is about entrenched power.
Children, and really all those mentored into killing wildlife, should have a required parallel opportunity to get to know wildlife. They should be required to volunteer with wildlife rehabbers, zoos or farm sanctuaries. They should be empowered to make an educated choice.
The other bill addressed at the hearing was Kleefisch’s AB 470, which would do away with hunters’ back tags. These tags were the only concession granted when the Legislature, disastrously, legalized running packs of dogs on wildlife. Dogs are radio-collared and run far ahead of their hunters to exhaust the animals for an easy kill, or are encouraged to kill wildlife for human entertainment (not legal, but common). Dogs do not read trespass signs and eager hunters do not want to miss their chance to kill a trapped animal. Wisconsin’s 178 wardens, monitoring millions of acres of public land, are not authorized to enforce trespass laws. If landowners cannot use field glasses to identify a trespasser with a back tag — they are unwise to confront armed men and women with dogs — they are unlikely to get a sheriff to show up in time to arrest the perpetrators.
I left the hearing in despair. We are in a race between acquiring wisdom and courting catastrophe. Get involved.
Citizens can find their Senate and Assembly members’ contact information in the upper right-hand corner of the Wisconsin Legislature home page to comment on this legislation.
ACTION ALERT: The U.S. Senate will vote on gutting wolf protections and blocking courts from protecting them (the only protection they have had from state trophy killing). Sen. Ron Johnson is supporting this. Please contact Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson against these efforts: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ “