reasons our family is learning to hunt:
We live in a region where even the people who don’t “hunt” still get their doe tag every year. ‘Round here men, women, boys, girls, grandparents, all political affiliations, they hunt.
I have stopped being surprised by who hunts. This could go back to hearing a story, years ago, from Gramma. There was a litter of wild pigs destroying a local farm near her home in Florida. The farmer had called in the local crew of teenage boys to hunt the pigs and bring an end to the property damage. It’s safe to imagine boasts of success and promises to deliver were in no short supply from these boys. They had a go at it, but returned frustrated and empty handed. My mother, also a teenager (the only child raised by a true sportsman father), was also asked to have a go. One hunt, problem solved…and a lifetime of shame for those boys, ‘cause you know everyone heard about it! I first heard the account three decades later!
Where we live “hunters” are people who travel to other states, countries and hemispheres, so they can hunt a larger variety of game. Where we live, folks who harvest a deer each year are called “residents”.
Also, we are blessed to live in a region where game is abundant. So abundant that some people can watch all year as deer walk through their property, pay attention their diet and understand what is conducive to quality meat, and when season opens, harvest a selected animal. Not all that different from selecting a free range apple flavored entree off the menu at the corner restaurant. Really, the hunters are more informed when you think about it.
Maybe it was just another moment in raising an honest, balanced human being.”
The main reason we are learning to hunt is reflected in how our family refers to hunting: “grocery shopping” and “filling the freezer”. For us it’s about putting food on the table. Get a deer and offset your grocery bill for months. Get an elk, or draw a once in a lifetime moose tag, and you can take meat out of your budget for a full year (even after sharing cuts with those who helped hunt & process the animal).
Meat Yields (average for our region)
• White Tail Deer 60 lbs x3 = 180 lbs*
• Elk 200 lbs
• Moose 300 lbs
*Three licensed hunters in our household – eligible for up to 6 tags per year. White Tail are common enough in our county that successful hunts are expected. We are using 3 tags as an average.
OG – Original Organic, Original Free Range
Not only are there monetary benefits to hunting, there are health benefits. Talk about “organic beef” or “free range” chickens to a local and don’t be surprised by the confused look. Is there anything else? Organic and free range is how it is for hunters.
Yes…obligation…At the very least an understanding of reality. If we are willing to grill up a steak, order a seared piece of fish, or bake a pork chop purchased from a butcher or restaurant, then we are obligated to (or at least allow for) the reality of hunting. For our family, this extends to experiencing every step that precedes cutting up a medium-rare steak at the dinner table. Be it scouting for animals in the wild (deer/elk/moose), or raising them domestically (pig/cow), to harvesting, field dressing and skinning, butchering and preparation, we want to be involved.
When a local family included our family in harvesting a pig it was amazing to watch the reaction of my children. My daughter was fascinated! She wanted to be involved in every step. At one point, while gutting the sow our host removed an organ from the carcass only to realized there was no container to put it in. He turned around and asked my daughter to extend her hands, placing into them, the still warm kidney. Moments later, her other palm was filled with the heart. My daughter grinned from ear to ear, fascinated by what she was looking at, what she was experiencing. Grossed out? Not even slightly. She talked about the color of each organ, the texture, where it would be in a human, the size, and the smell. She shred her amazement at the design of the heart valves and how God created the body to work.
Was a doctor born that day? A scientist, conservationist, hunter, or all of them? Pretty sure the local 4H Med-Science program is in her future. Maybe it was just another moment in raising an honest, balanced human being.
One of my sons was not all that thrilled with any of it, he spent most of his time searching for chicken eggs. Another son would have done every step all himself if he was just tall enough to see over the cutting tables! My wife does not particularly like some of these stages, but she understands and embraces the reality of them by getting her hands in the blood and guts.
Does this mean if you live in a metropolitan area that you need to schedule a trip to the country otherwise be considered deficient in some way? A great idea, but not required. Just consider how the food you consume makes it to your table, and how you think about such topics. Vegetarian? Vegan? Great! Though we would have to agree to disagree on diets, Vegetarians/Vegans have (hopefully) taken the time to consider how their food is raised and harvested and have made an informed choice; a choice deserving respect.
Because she will be old enough to hunt this year my daughter attended an Idaho Fish & Game Hunter Education course; awesome Daddy/Daughter date week! Our boys will attend the class in years to come. Beyond basic lessons on safe hunting practices, the class taught her to enjoy family hikes and camping trips even more (wildlife identification), understand and practice responsibility and ethics (firearm handling and safety, hunting law and ethics, responsibility to landowners), equipped her to handle emergency situations (survival skills and first aid) and broadened her world view (wildlife and habitat management and conservation).
Hunter Education – Graduation!
I grew up around the ocean and always looked forward to my children being Junior Life Guards. I recognized the value programs like these provide in teaching kids how to live in, survive, and fall in love with your local natural environment (oceans, plains or mountains, dive into what surrounds you!). I also observed how structured instruction of life saving skills shaped kids, equipping them to handle and think in critical situations, and fostered a servant “get outside yourself” personality trait (learning to put other’s before yourself).
Hunter or not, including our children at an early age, in structured education like Hunter Ed, taught by experienced volunteers and professionals, covering the reality of life and death topics, is important to us as parents.
Remember, hunting is not killing. The majority of hunts don’t result in filling a tag. Much like “fishing” is not “catching”. This is so true that “took my gun for a walk in the woods” is code for a recent hunting trip, and an amazingly accurate response to “so what did you do last weekend?”. This also saves the outright embarrassment of having to actually say the words “I got skunked”. To which friends will sympathizes and recall many “walks” that they too have been on…and then the same friends will precede, out of obligation of course, to make sure every human being within shouting distances shares in your futility.
Hunting requires patience, quiet and stillness; disciplines conducive to meditation, rest and even creativity. Open fields and game trails through timber can clear the mind and give great thoughts the space to grow and be realized.
Time with family
Hunting also makes for great dates, time with a spouse, son or daughter. Time to talk, one on one, about the color of the turning leaves, compare animal tracks and make goofy jokes about piles of scat (come on now! You know you do!), catch up on time missed and discuss future dreams. Walking through the woods, or sitting in a blind, on a crisp fall evening, with a loved one, is special EVERY SINGLE TIME. And if you’re lucky, ends with a lifelong memory of getting an animal or forever hearing about that shot you missed.
One last point – Conservation
One thing we learned from the recent Hunter Education class was that approximately 8% of Americans are “pro hunting” and 8% are “anti-hunting”. Let’s make it easy and round both up to 10% – this mean 80% of Americans do not hold a position, one way or another, about hunting. This post is not meant to sway opinions.
One general statement I can say comfortably about the hunters I know – they care deeply about the animals, habitat, and future of the animals they hunt…and the numbers support this for the group as a whole. Hunters are the largest contributors, of time and money, to the conservation of animals and habitat in the U.S.A. They are the largest contributors by a large margin. Every group has a fringe, and unfortunately “fringe” makes headlines, but the majority of hunters count it a privilege to hunt and involve themselves in efforts to ensure future generations have the same opportunities.
Our family, we are learning to hunt.
Want to read how our first ever hunts went? Let’s just say my 10 year old made out better than me! Read Field Lessons