Thursday, October 25, 2012

We call it "hunting"???



     When I’m sitting high up in my tree stand, sometimes my mind wanders…I think about serious issues and other times, nonsense. This will come as no shock to my friends, but lately, my thoughts have been about hunting and the direction we as hunters are going in today’s world.

     It’s often been said that hunting is just a generation away from being “extinct” and I’d have to say that I agree with that. Most people no longer hunt for sustenance and the rural lifestyle that surrounds hunting and the outdoors seems to losing ground in our fast-paced, hectic society. For hunting to survive in this day and age, it’s critical to recruit new hunters into the fold. Things such as hunter’s education classes, youth hunting weekends and ladies in the outdoors seminars have done a great job to get new blood into the mix.

     But, in our zeal to get younger hunters involved, to get the kids into the woods, we’ve diluted the “hunting” experience. “What’s that supposed to mean?” you might ask…Here’s how I see it. We have eliminated failure for our kids in almost every aspect of their young lives. Hunting Dad’s today are akin to the soccer moms of 10 years ago. We have become helicopter parents, hovering around our kids until they are young adults, trying to ensure their success and fighting all their battles. We have raised an entire generation that doesn’t know what it means to fail, to lose, to be defeated or challenged and I’ve been guilty of it too…

     We no longer keep score at kids’ youth basketball games, every child in soccer gets a trophy and the same can be said for hunting. We as hunting parents or mentor’s have removed the chase, the challenge and the “hunt” from hunting…We have cleared overgrown pastures and replaced them with food plots, especially planted and designed to attract deer into range of our budding “hunters”. We have built elevated, enclosed, comfortable “shooting shacks” or blinds, some even with padded, easy chairs and all the creature comforts of home! We’ve created a generation of hunters that think that there ought to be a trophy buck behind every tree and along with it, an undeserved sense of entitlement.

     We have turned hunting for our kids into something that resembles shooting fish in a barrel…No real chance of failure, no real challenge. Rock solid shooting rests, no shivers from the cold as Dad lines up the sights on the buck for Junior to pull the trigger and ‘”boom”, it’s over… The buck falls dead in the food plot and we drive our ATV or side-by-side to the fallen animal and load him up…
   
       We are turning our hunting kids into “shooters”, but there sure isn’t much “hunting” going on. We’re foregoing teaching time honored skills and woodsmanship in exchange for quick fixes and the path of least resistance. We have made “hunting” too easy for our young hunters today…We’re not instilling a passion and a love for the outdoors and the animals we pursue. We’re not building on tradition and heritage. There’s no longer a connection to the land… What’s wrong with teaching a kid how to slip around a hickory grove with a .410, honing his or her skills chasing squirrels? Hunting behind a brace of beagles or kicking fence rows and brush piles for rabbits used to be rungs on the hunting ladder. Dues to be paid…Today, it’s all about getting a trophy buck in front of our 8 and 9 year old hunters…We don’t start kids off fishing the open ocean for blue marlin, so why is it now that we expect our youngsters to be ready to take a deer before they are mentally and emotionally able to understand all that goes along with taking the life of an animal? It’s all part of the instant gratification, “mine, mine, mine”, “gimme, gimme” attitude that is so prevalent today…

      There is something to be said for losing, for defeat at the hand of Mother Nature. Challenges are good in that they help us know our place in the world and where we fit in. We need to have our mettle tested from time to time… It builds character. It’s good for our “new” hunters to know how it feels to have cold toes. To miss a deer or two…To blow a stalk, to feel the adrenalin rush of having a deer 10 yards or less. To know what it means to take an animal. To grab that downed buck by the antlers and use the quads God gave you to drag it out rather than your  4-wheeler and to feel his weight against your own.  To learn the way of the woods and to build memories, to have shared experiences. That’s what we should be teaching our young hunters today if we want this sport and lifestyle to continue. If we want the next generation of outdoorsmen and women to pass on our legacy, they need to have their hunting roots planted deep in fertile soil, not in the shallow dirt that passes as hunting today…Now excuse me as I hop off my soap box!