It is not about shooting. It is not about killing. It goes so much beyond the act of hunting. This is a small percentage of what hunting constitutes. It is a time to teach your child so much more.
I do not know where you all stand on the act of hunting. You are against it. You do not know about it. You do it. You are very experienced in it. You have never experienced it personally.
It may be a controversial topic to some. I humbly ask you to walk with me a bit as I try to depict how much hunting means to me, my family, and what I am trying to pass on to my children.
I was around nine years old. My father and I were about to embark on a pheasant hunt. I was standing in a pre-hunt commiseration circle with my dad and my uncles. These are many of the men I respected most in the world, then and now. I was casually flicking my safety on and off on my Spanish 20 gauge shotgun. I committed a high sin in firearms safety. I knew better. I was taught better. I not only was flicking the safety on and off, I then applied pressure to the trigger. I at least was pointing my barrel to the ground, I opened a hole in the dirt no more than 6 inches from my foot, and 6 inches from my dad’s foot.
The world froze. I realized my potentially life altering mistake immediately. Then the shame, fear, and sadness about put me to the floor. I almost dropped the shotgun, but I held it tight, fully pointing to the ground. I slowly looked at my father.
He could have done a lot of things at that moment. I deserved almost all of them. What he did do was take me away from the circle. He spoke to me in a quiet but stern voice. He told me to get a hold of myself.
He asked what happened, I told him.
He said what should you have done, I told him.
I said I do not want to go hunting anymore.
He said “Jerod you are going hunting. You are walking with us. You made a very big mistake, but you are going to learn from it now and never make it again.”
I walked the east Nebraska hay fields that day as I was instructed. I pulled the remaining unspent shell from my shotgun, I never raised my gun through the rest of the day. I cried for most of the walk. It was something I will never forget. I approached firearm safety with extreme attention from that day forward.
Stress changes us, it can be good stress or bad. I am not sure what I would categorize that day, but I will say the experience taught me more than just proper firearm safety. My dad pushed me that day. I made a grave mistake. He taught me to live with my mistake, learn from it, and become a better person because of it.
Hunting can be looked at in a very primal way. We as homosapiens would not be here in this form if not for the act of hunting. It is ancient, and it has classified us as apex predators for over a millennia. I do not want this article to be solely about the act of taking a being’s life. This does occur, and this act demands respect and honor to the animal that is sacrificing their time on this earth for the betterment of the hunter. We live in a very different world that does not particularly demand hunting for survival. I am one to give thanks for that, but it is a skill that should not be allowed to become extinct. Give thanks for the luxury of a bountiful table, but that may not be available for the continued future without end.
I do want this article to focus on the depth of what hunting means beyond the singular shot.
It was an important way that I bonded with my father. I spent time with my dad, my grandfather, and my uncles. I heard and was enthralled by their hair-raising stories in the woods, the mountains, and the prairie to find the elusive game they sought after.
They brought happiness, zeal, and love to the table when hunting was discussed. They did it as friends and family. They made stories that were told for years after. They experienced something real and visceral, not in a book, movie, or video game. It was a right of passage, it was a way to prove themselves, it was a way to challenge their mind and body to greater heights above the regular day to day efforts.
They taught me how to hold a rifle, shotgun and pistol. They instructed me not only on the physical object I was holding but on the meaning of it in a philosophical form. I was to hold this as a tool, not a weapon or a toy. I was to hold this with honor and intelligence. It was a legacy as I was given a hunting rifle from 1903. A rifle my Grandfather purchased and held, a rifle my father held, a rifle that I have carried many a mile to date. A rifle that one day I will give to one of my children. This act and responsibility carries so much gravity to me.
I was humbled very quickly by my stated experience regarding my negligent discharge. My uncles and father could have held this against me, but they immediately used it to teach me the seriousness of what I was holding. Most importantly how their instruction was to be attended for dire circumstances could occur if I did not improve my attention. Spanning from that pheasant hunt, I was able to reduce my fear of my shotgun. I was able to advance my weapon safety and my maturity surrounding when a firearm was in my hand. I feel this is a vital component when teaching a young individual about firearms. They should not fear them, they should gain knowledge in proper usage, and respect them. My children have already heard of my mistake and the clear correction that they must make when their time comes.
I followed in my paternal role models footsteps and I am an avid hunter. I use this act for multiple purposes. I use it as a time to get away from other humans. I relish the time I do not speak an English word for hours on end. I enjoy listening to the sound of nature unmolested by man. I am thankful for the hard work hunting takes, the gear, the logistics, the sweat, and effort it requires to gain an opportunity to fill your tag. It pushes my senses, my body, and my mind to a different place. This is an enjoyable challenge that I am bettered by, even without one shot taken. I am thankful for the opportunity of a shot, it is a duty that I hold to to make a precise shot, and end the animals time respectfully. I abhor any hunter that beats down nature, leaves trash in the wilderness, shoots recklessly, and with dishonor to the animals involved. They are a poor representation of what hunters stand for.
My family has instructed me to respect nature, respect the sacrifice of the animals we take. We hearken back to Native American spiritualism and give thanks that the animal may pass so that we may live.
These lessons have already been iterated to my children. They hear my stories, my challenges, my efforts, and the meat we bring back home. I call them little meat monsters as they chomp away on the meat sticks and dehydrated jerky from elk, deer and goose. They are interested in the animals, what they ate, what they were doing, how they reacted in their environment.
I am careful to show them the respect we give our game, our land. They see and hear the respect we give nature and what it provides. I am already supporting my children in knife and firearm safety. It is a time I gladly spend with them and I am able to educate them on family history, hunting stories, their own legacy to carry forward with the object in their hands. My sons and daughter use my BB gun that I had as a child. They are learning with the knives I carried as a child and young adult.
We have started slow with a BB gun, the process of loading and shooting. We talk about being safe, how firearms can be dangerous and the difference between toys and tools. They must show me their attention, their recognition, and their safety for us to go forward. Rest assured they have no open access to firearms, a standing rule is if any firearm is found they are to find an adult and to not touch it. It is good to give children responsibility, it assists them in maturity and builds their self confidence when they earn respect in an adult-like form.
I have stated prior that my family and I have found such happiness in nature. Hunting has been a continued extension of this. I have been able to share a hunting cabin with my oldest son multiple times now. He has relaxed on the pull out couch with his father, and grandfather nearby while listening to cowboy country and the crackle of a wood burning stove. He played checkers with his uncles, and giggled at his Grandpappy’s wild mountain man stories. He was given a task to be quiet, mindful and aware of his surroundings that doesn’t occur in normal kid life situations. He was given many a instruction on how hunting occurs.
He woke in the dark of the November morning with his long johns on getting ready to partake in the hunt. He has seen me take the shot on a Western Nebraska white tail deer, and assisted in the field dressing and meat processing. Around the same time, I was a happy Dad when my little three year old twins were making millimeter cuts as we were skinning a deer, they were not going to get anywhere fast, but dang it they were helping. They all were enthralled how deer innards could be so “boingy”.
I want to give them as many hunting and outdoor experiences as I can. I am so excited to have them sit in a corn field or waterfront goose pit. Push through berry thickets in search of a black bear. Hike the hill and dale of many a mountain to find a Colorado elk or deer. Long walks in Midwest clover or wheat, waiting for a pheasant to explode from the grass. We will try to shake hands with many a high plains fleet flying dove or a corn fed white tail deer. I see it as an all important stimulus to connect them to something ancient, primal, and natural. We will do it together.
It is more time spent as a family. It is time to talk about the world. It is time to get to know your children. You can hone your craft and build theirs at the same time. It is a shared experience that makes you focus on the moment and the quiet of the world around you.
Hunting is not about the shot. It is about the effort, the ideology behind it, and it is about who you share it with. Challenge your children, challenge yourself. Go hunting gents.