"How can your full attention be on the child? It can't," Anderson said of mentors who are looking to shoot themselves. "That's how accidents happen."
For his part, Kleefisch said that many other states also open up mentored hunting programs to young children. Mentored hunting is safer than other kinds because an adult who has been through a hunter's safety class must be beside the new hunter, he said.
The statistics bear that out, he said.
"That's one of the reasons mentoring someone is so important," Kleefisch said.
The National Rifle Association, which supported the legislation, has said that only four states including Wisconsin had a one-weapon restriction on mentored hunts.
Many states allow young children to hunt, though many require a mentor and many also impose a minimum age for deer and other big game animals, making comparisons difficult. The big game distinction matters because it can take substantial strength to draw the kind of bow or shoot the kind of center-fire rifle necessary to legally take a deer or black bear.
Proponents of the legislation point to another reason to make it easier for children to hunt: most conservation programs in Wisconsin and other states rely on a dwindling stream of older hunters and anglers to fund their conservation programs.
The Senate passed the mentored hunting bill last week, 21-12, with all Republicans voting for the proposal all Democrats voting against it except for North Woods Sen. Janet Bewley of Ashland.
The Assembly, however, was more divided in its vote on the bill the week before.
Four Republicans -- Reps. Joan Ballweg of Markesan, Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum, John Spiros of Marshfield and Travis Tranel of Cuba City -- joined most Democrats in voting against the bill. But four Democrats also voted for it: Reps. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, Don Vruwink of Milton, and David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff of Milwaukee.
In a separate hunting matter, Walker over the weekend also signed Assembly Bill 323 allowing for the first time the hunting and trapping of woodchucks in Wisconsin.
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