When are kids too young to be trained for firearm usage? Maybe this story from the Houston Chronicle will change the way of thinking of a lot of people!
By CINDY HORSWELL Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Sept. 30, 2009, 9:52PM
Michael Paulsen Chronicle
At age 5, Simon Hughes is no stranger to hunting. His first big trophy — a 12-foot-6, 800-pound alligator, may be hard to top, though.
There are hunters who go a lifetime dreaming of that big kill. Then there's Simon Hughes, who helped nab a beast of an animal on an East Texas hunt — while still in the first grade. The 5-year-old boy from Goodrich was part of a hunting crew that recently killed an 800-pound, 12-foot-6-inch alligator that has wildlife experts shaking their heads.
The reptile, whose size is at a state record level, is now at the taxidermist waiting to be mounted. Simon's family, meanwhile, is fielding calls from CNN and Good Morning America to feature his exploits.
Simon learned to drive all-terrain vehicles and shoot firearms when he was only 4. So he was primed and ready to go on an alligator hunt this past weekend with his father, Scott Hughes, a sixth-generation rancher, and hunting guide Chuck Cotton.
Simon had a new junior-sized .410-gauge shotgun. His first gun had been too big, having a recoil that opened a small cut below one eye after he fired it.
Neither his father nor mother worry about Simon using firearms, because he has been taught gun safety since he was big enough to walk and stand in a deer blind.
“That's the way it is in rural areas,” Scott Hughes said. “We don't think of guns as playthings or something used in videogames.”
By the time of the alligator hunt, Simon could shoot clay pigeons.
Polk County Sheriff Kenneth Hammack, a former Texas Ranger, has been bird hunting with Simon and said he shoots pretty well for his age. “Of course, you always keep an eye on children,” said Hammack, “but he's learned a lot from his father.”
Scott had obtained a state permit to kill two of the 40 alligators populating his 5,000-acre spread near Lake Livingston because he knew something “real big was out there” and driving small alligators from the swampy areas and into his stock ponds.
State law requires alligators be caught on a baited hook or shot with a bow and arrow. So they baited a hook on Saturday with some “smelly armadillo roadkill,” which apparently alligators adore.
When they returned the next day, the line was taut. Something had been snared and was resting beneath the dark 4-foot-deep waters.
‘Never afraid for a second'
The hunters soon discovered their catch was an alligator. They attached it to an all-terrain vehicle with a sturdy line, but the gator proved so strong it almost dragged their vehicle into the water.
Finally, the animal, after thrashing and rolling, surfaced a second time, and Simon, poised 5 feet away, fired the first and what proved to be fatal shot. Cotton, just to be sure, fired one more shot at the giant reptile, which had managed to rip the hook out of its mouth.
Simon said he screamed “holy moly” when he saw the catch of the day. “I was never afraid for a second,” he said of the gator, which is 20 times his size.
Taxidermist Stephen Moye said the head of the 12-foot- 6-inch reptile weighs 104 pounds by itself.
A state wildlife biologist estimated the gator's weight at more than 800 pounds. Finding an alligator of such size is rare, state officials said. Although the record length for a Texas alligator exceeds Simon's kill by 1 foot and 8 inches, the record weight for a gator killed on state property is only 690 pounds, records showed.
Simon, meanwhile, has shown pictures of the gator to his classmates in Goodrich, near Lake Livingston, but that won't be nearly as impressive as when he can bring the mounted head to show-and-tell and display its ferocious 12-inch bite.
“My friends were proud of me, and I was proud of myself,” Simon said of the photos that show him standing alongside the monstrous gator. “It's humongous!”
If we are choosing sides, I want this kid and his Dad on my team, ya know? Just goes to show that, with proper training, firearms can be safely handled by very young kids, but they should be properly supervised just like his Dad says...!
Now , my friends, let's get some coffee and sit outside before the rain starts, OK?