A New York State Department of Environmental Conservation proposal to hold a live turkey shoot for youngsters ages 12 through 15 will go forward come spring, probably on April 25 and 26.
We are locals. Many of us grew up not only fishing and hunting, but also at a time when trapping was an acceptable outdoors pursuit and, in some cases, a way to make a living. Men who worked traps and sold pelts and hides made some pretty good stew and soup as well.
About a decade ago, when a dog was killed in Noyac after being caught in a trap, the debate between what we were and what we are proved intense. The fact is, dogs can go where most traps are laid these days — there has been too much development. It’s just not acceptable anymore, history aside.
We are not equating hunting and trapping. However, having witnessed the debates about when and where hunting can take place, and sensing that hunting is not a favored recreational activity in some quarters nowadays, we are wondering if holding a live shoot with youngsters pulling the trigger is a wise strategy.
A turkey hunt of any kind seems a bit premature — the county’s turkey population is only about 6000, hardly the stampede of hooves of deer unleashed during the rutting season.
We understand that younger hunters need to learn safe and responsible technique and gain the skills to become responsible members of the hunting community. But we quibble with giving 12-year-olds a chance at their first kill at the expense of a wild turkey within a few hundred yards of civilization.
It’s a more civilized world now. Kids today aren’t exposed to guns early on in life. Instead, they play video games that award points for wholesale killing — hardly a life lesson on how precious a living thing is. Introducing a youngster to hunting is important to our heritage. But maybe the gun club is the place to get comfortable, with clay pigeons the targets, as a developing mind works to process what it means to hunt.
By the way, wild turkey is an acquired taste. Youngsters who kill their prey need to also learn to dress and ingest it. We’d wager most kids today won’t find that to their liking.