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Start Her Young

Photo by Kathy Etling

Hunting has no gender or racial barriers. Introduce your daughter to the outdoors now.

By Kathy Etling

A parent interested in raising her children to be good, solid citizens, with productive, happy and healthy lives should consider teaching them to hunt.

A child who learns to hunt will soon discover few things come easily. The first game bird or animal, even a 1-inch group, takes time, energy and usually more than a single trip to the woods or rifle range. The child who hunts becomes a productive adult because she learns that she gets back, in almost direct proportion, what she is willing to expend in effort.

A youngster’s first taste of hunting success may be bittersweet; after all, she has ended a life. Such a feeling is normal, but don’t miss an opportunity to teach a lesson. Explain how all creatures live for a purpose, and how that purpose has now been fulfilled.

Discuss food and where it comes from, and how every living thing will someday depart this world. Explain that wild animals have no old age homes, hospitals or doctors, and that many die young. A cottontail rabbit, for example, lives about 6 months in the wild.

A child should be taught that it is our human duty to steward the land, the water, the air and even the wild animals to benefit all living things. Explain how if no people were alive, large predators like grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes and mountain lions would end animal lives but while inflicting more pain than a bullet or broadhead. Tell your youngster that humans are predators, too. A child who understands that her own life has meaning within the natural world will find happiness and satisfaction in hunting.

A successful young hunter already has passed a test of outdoor knowledge, ability and skill. Mastering the patience, fortitude and perseverance required to succeed will increase confidence. Praising a young hunter who exhibits good judgment or outstanding woodsmanship will further increase her confidence. That confidence, eventually, will spill over into other facets of her existence.

Children who hunt are healthier. Hunters must spend at least some time outside in nature. While some forms of hunting require intense expenditures of energy, others are more laid back. Let your child sample whatever strikes her fancy. If she finds hunting interesting, she has taken the first step in a lifelong quest for good health.

Getting a child interested in hunting should begin in her infancy. Hunting has no gender, racial, religious or physical barriers. And while the blind or lame child may need extra help, it’s important to understand that game animals do not discriminate. A diligent female can bag a world record whitetail; the bookworm or geek can become an extraordinarily competent outdoorsman; and the delicate girl will find a bow or rifle that she can handle.

Photo by Kathy EtlingMy husband and I introduced our daughter to the outdoors when she was nine days old. We drove 400 miles from home on a blazing July weekend to go fishing. When we arrived at the river’s access point, I placed Julie in a car bed, covered it with mosquito netting, and started fishing.

I was 19 – dumb as a rock about children – but I understood innately that an infant loves listening to her mother’s voice. When she’d awaken I’d cradle her and point out the sky or the clouds, the river, birds or fish. She didn’t need to learn about hunting; she needed to discover the wonder and the beauty of God’s Earth.

Bob and I bought a baby backpack. We invested in a passenger van, one with a crude, so-called customized interior where I could better care for Julie during our adventures. We drove that van to our first bowhunt. I didn’t get to bowhunt much – Julie was just 3 months old – but 40 years later I can still conjure up the sharp taste of frost on the morning air, the musty smell of fallen leaves and the bark and chatter of foraging squirrels.

Bagging a deer wasn’t important; being outdoors together was.

Julie grew up to love everything about the outdoors: deer, turkeys, birds, squirrels and waterfowl hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing and horseback riding. She’s become an accomplished outdoorsman, married Rick, a great hard-working guy who’s also a skilled and dedicated deer hunter, and together they’re raising Shelby, 4, their own outdoors child.

That’s why I find it difficult to understand those who say they want to raise an outdoors child, but who won’t sacrifice even a single afternoon of their time to do so.

Subscribe Today!A childhood passes by quickly; the window of opportunity slams shut before you ever realize it was open.

Take your child on a woodland scavenger hunt, teach her to identify birds, take photos of wildflowers, draw in a notebook the many animal tracks you find together during a walk. Plant a butterfly garden, or sit on a hillside and watch for deer. Pack a lunch to make it more special. Do it together; do it NOW!

You’ll be glad you did when your own precious gift to the world becomes a proficient and ethical hunter.

This article was published in the July 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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