For most hunters, myself included, the hunting season has drawn to a close. I walk away very satisfied with the fall of 2008. It was memorable, not just for me, but for my children as well.
One of the highlights was shooting my first fall turkey ever. Actually, I almost got two. I have been trying for several years to bag an autumn bird, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, this year, I tried a new strategy and succeeded in just two hours in Minnesota. In Wisconsin, I took a shot at a bird and missed.
The Minnesota bird came less than a week after my son, Andy, shot his first deer ever, a whitetail doe during Wisconsin’s youth deer hunting weekend. Then, I shot a buck in Minnesota and my son, Joe, added a doe to the harvest. Finally, Joe and Andy each shot bucks in Montana.
As a reflected on these hunts, I came across an article in Field and Stream talking about the declining number of hunters and what’s causing it. A number of factors were examined, then a heavy finger pointed at parents who are deciding not to take their kids out hunting.
I’m happy — and a little relieved — that this is not the case with me. In fact, I have thoroughly enjoyed the five falls in which I have hunted with my two oldest boys. It was an adjustment, at first, from hunting just by myself or with other adults. But, the rewards have been great, especially when the boys have been fortunate enough to get something. Of course, that’s not all there is to hunting, but it is thrilling to be there when they see an animal and take a shot. And, I have experienced the added thrill of taking their picture when it’s over.
It’s a joy I wish more dads could experience. And, yet, I acknowledge that it can be very difficult to take a child out into the field if you have done little or no hunting yourself. Frankly, there are lots of activities that are easier to help your kids do than hunting.
Still, it is worthwhile when you make the effort. Kids are losing their connection with the outdoors and this a great way to reestablish that link. Plus, passing on the tradition to our youth will help ensure the future of hunting. The number of people opposed to hunting is growing, plus the amount of land available to hunters is shrinking. We should not sit idly by and let those trends continue.
I have taken steps to try and put the future of this great sport into the hands of my children. My No. 3 son, William, is 10 and on the cusp of his first hunt. The Minnesota DNR has created more opportunities for kids his age to get out into the field. Turkey hunting is now legal for kids of all ages and the state has created the chance for 10- and 11-year-olds to deer hunt. I may start him out next year with a fall turkey hunt. That strikes me as a great way to begin.