Teaching Children the Importance of Hunting
Many years ago now, a boy sat against the trunk of a great white oak, his father next to him, intently watching the canopy above for movement. In between the father and son rested an old .22 single shot that had been in the family for three generations, from the father’s grandfather, and was on its way into the fourth. Countless squirrels and soda cans had fallen to the little single shot’s crack.
The woods were mostly still. It had snowed the night before and a light crust covered the leaves as the sun shone brighter in the sky and the day warmed. The father spoke softly, recounting the days he sat right where the son leaned back in the crease of the old oak. The tree was still large then, when he was a boy, though it lacked the girth it would accumulate 30 years later. Like his father before him, he sat just to the left of his own son where he could help with the rifle if needed when a shot opportunity arose though that would be unlikely as the son was already proficient as a shooter.
The father hadn’t really listened all those years ago when his father spoke into the heart and soul of hunting rather than the surface-level dialogue of good days afield. He heard him, sure. But those conversations didn’t really take hold until his teenage years when he began to understand the importance of hunting. Despite the ignorance of youth, the same messages would be applied to the young boy sitting just to his right.
The boy, now a man, smiles when he thinks back to how he perceived the outdoor world then compared to now. He “shot stuff” because it was fun. Today he kills in the name of conservation and good food. As he grew older he killed less and worked more to increase a sustainable habitat for wildlife. The feeling of watching a sawtooth oak grow to maturity with the help of his own hands was comparable grasping the antlers of a big buck at the end of a blood trail. He learned that conservation is the most important cycle in the outdoors and the only way to keep it a balanced wheel is to continue shepherding the land and those around him that are eager to preserve what the Good Lord granted.
Resting comfortably against the old oak, the father pointed to several trees and explained their significance to the environment. Some of them he had helped plant. “Those persimmon trees just inside the tree line produce a choice fruit for all wildlife,” he said. “Deer, turkey, raccoons, coyotes, you name it, will eat a persimmon all day, every day. You can spot the undigested seeds in their scat.”
“The very tree we lean back against,” he continued, “has provided thousands upon thousands of pounds of food for every wildlife specie in this area. A big white oak like this will also serve as a home for generations of squirrels. By the way, did you just hear one bark?”
The boy was learning the importance of planting trees, grasses and other plants right there in those woods though he wasn’t really aware of it at the time. The outdoor accomplishments he’s most proud of today don’t have anything to do with the mounts on his wall.
For many, many years as the boy grew older, he took for granted his given rights as a citizen of the United States. One of the most important is the right to bear arms; to own a gun such as the single-shot .22 that remains in his safe to this very day. He never would have thought that this would ever come under attack. Why would politics want to intrude on hunting, something mankind has been doing since the Earth cooled?
Even as a grown man the the boy doesn’t want to get too political though he now sees the importance of speaking up to be heard when it comes to the Bill of Rights. He’s proud to be a gun owner. Proud to be a hunter and outdoorsmen. If only those who oppose these things knew that he has given more to Mother Nature in one weekend than they would in a lifetime.
As the holidays near, a lot of us are going to spend ample time in the outdoors. Hopefully that time will be shared with friends and family. Sons, daughters, nieces and nephews are the most important people for the future of hunting. Take the time to let them know what it truly means to be a hunter, conservationist and preservationist. Even if they grow out of hunting but still have an appreciation for the outdoors, they’ll be more knowledgeable because of these early conversations.