Should we teach our children to hunt and if so at what age should we introduce them to hunting?
A memorable moment for a father and son, it was this lad’s first animal hunted.
I had a recent inquiry from an potential client from Saudi Arabia, who wanted to come on an family hunting safari and introduce his 7 year old boy and 12 year old daughter to hunting. He mentioned that he was an avid hunter who had hunted 3 of the big five before but that the main aim of his planned trip was to introduce his children to hunting. To him it was not important if he hunted any game while here, but he felt that it was time his children started hunting.This commitment from a father to introduce and educate his children about hunting forced me to think hard and seriously about the future of hunting and if the next generation will share our passion for wildlife and the great outdoors.
Mighty hunters! The fashions, cellphones and computer games are a distant memory for these youngsters.
In today’s so called civilized society, teaching a child to shoot and hunt is a difficult and contentious issue to say the least! The values and views promoted by the media, celebrities, political parties and entertainment industry are vehemently anti hunting. Civilian firearms ownership, hunting and the old world values and traditions associated with our pioneer ancestors who left Europe in pursuit of freedom, are all negatively viewed by today’s new – moralistic and humanistic society.The mass media and their financial backers are openly biased against hunting and civilian gun ownership. The public is constantly bombarded with their anti gun/hunting agenda. Hunters and firearms enthusiasts are constantly portrayed as bloodthirsty subversives who pose a threat to peace and stability. Responsible parents who spend quality time in the outdoors with their kids hunting and shooting are demonized and accused of training their children to be murderers. Ironically absent parents who allow their children to spend hours upon hours watching violent movies and video games instead of spending time with them, are not considered at fault.
This young lady proved to be the best shot of all the children to the boys obvious dismay.
We live in a world where the truly wild places are fast disappearing. Children in our ever more urbanized society are spending more and more time indoors watching television or playing with computers. Everything in the 21st century is artificial and dominated by technology. Our future generations are being brainwashed and conditioned into being a mindless slaves addicted to everything artificial and dare I say superficial. Many of today’s children do not know where the milk they drink or meat they eat come from. Children and unfortunately some naive adults believe that meat magically grows in polystyrene packets in the supermarket fridge and that nothing has to die in order for them to enjoy a burger.
Proud as punch, definately not a Rowland Ward contender but to this chap it might as well have been a Cape Buffalo with a 40 inch spread
Hunting is but one of the battlegrounds in this total war against our views and culture. Unfortunately we are losing this battle as the next generation is not being educated by us the parents about hunting and its role in conservation.
Because of our busy work schedules and the fact that hunting has become an expensive pastime, many adults leave their children at home when they go hunting. I suppose that we feel that our time to unwind is precious and hunting is too expensive to waste on children who might be too young to understand or appreciate the experience.
At least they now know that meat does not magically appear on supermarket shelves.
The problem is that if we don’t take the responsibility to spend time with our children in the great outdoors and if we don’t teach them about the safe responsible use of firearms and hunting who will? It is our responsibility because the schools are not going to do it for us.
Ourselves and our parents before us had the privilege to grow up in more sane times. In the 1950’s, 60’s 70’s as well as the greater part of the 1980’s very few adults if any in the less urbanized areas, would have thought it inappropriate to see a boy with a 22 rifle or air rifle strapped to the handle bars of his bicycle pedaling through town on his way to the woods. Children in rural areas had the freedom to hunt small game and spend time in nature. If this should happen today, the parents would end up in jail and the children in a foster home or worse. It is ironic that in today’s so called civilized anti gun and anti hunting society we have far more teen pregnancies, crime, depravity, suicides and violent murders among children than we had back in the days when kids were allowed to go into the woods with a rifle on their own.
When I grew up in the 1980’s hunting and guns were part of our lives and cultural fabric. Almost every household had a few guns. We were familiar with guns and respected them, we never heard of school shootings and shooting accidents were rare and far in-between. I myself grew up in an urban environment, but most of my friends lived in homes who owned at least 1 or more rifles or shotguns for hunting purposes. Most of my friends dads hunted and at a young age many of us had already accompanied our fathers and uncles on a hunt. We did not necessarily get to shoot anything bigger than a Guinea Fowl or Rabbit while on the hunt but at least we were along for the ride. We had the privilege to be educated by elders whom we respected, that hunting was not about the act of killing something but that hunting was about the responsible harvesting of natures bounty. Our dads and grand dads taught us that we should never kill more game than we needed and that we should always leave enough so that we could hunt again next season. We were severely reprimanded and punished if we killed something just for the sake of killing. We were taught the safe use of firearms, never to shoot at anything if you weren’t sure what was behind it and never point a gun loaded or unloaded at anything we did not intend to destroy. We always honored the game killed by eating it and nothing was ever wasted.
As a professional hunter I get to deal with clients from many different countries with different cultures and hunting traditions. Most hunters regardless of where they are from however share the love of nature and hunting as a common denominator. My experience is that the ages of hunting clients from all over the world seem to be getting older and older. Most clients and inquiries I deal with, fall in the 35 – 55 years of age group. It seems that fewer and fewer young people are interested in hunting and that there is a noticeable decline in hunters aged between 18 – 35. The uninformed view hunting as a preserve of a few rich blood thirsty elitists. The adult critics of hunting will be very hard (I feel impossible) to convert to our way of thinking. The battleground for the future of hunting lies with the youth. Children are not stupid and they can think for themselves. If our children are passionate about hunting they will influence their friends to have a positive view about hunting. Even children whose parents are anti hunting will be susceptible to view hunting in a more positive light or even to become hunters themselves, if they have friends who share their views of hunting and regale exciting tales of spending time in the bush hunting with their fathers and uncles.
Thinking back on the past hunting season, I have been blessed with some excellent hunts including hunts for Lion and Buffalo. I had some super clients who I believe left South Africa not only as satisfied clients but also as friends. But to the most memorable and satisfying hunt was a hunt with local clients who brought their kids hunting for the first time.
The fathers were also not seasoned hunters and it only transpired during the hunt that it was a first hunt for more than one of them as well. I have to be honest it was not an easy hunt and we spent many frustrating hours doing our best to get them within range of game only to have them not take the shot. We spent hours looking for a wounded Kudu which thankfully we found and dispatched. This is the type of hunt most cynical old professional hunters like me should dread. It was frustratingly hard work with very little financial return, but I ended up enjoying it just as much as the clients. The enthusiasm of the children and the dads must have rubbed off on us at some stage after we finished joking about everything including their socks being made of camouflage and complaining about how unfair it was that such expensive and state of the art rifles and scopes should be wasted on city boys.
The Kudu Bull spoken about in the text.
The enthusiasm for hunting from this group however was infectious. To see someone who spends hours practicing on the shooting range and dreaming about hunting finally get his first Kudu was great. The smile on his face and the pride on his daughters faces made the experience special and transformed a city slicker into a hardcore hunter yearning for more.
When this party arrived on the farm our first impression was that these youngsters from the city were out of place and that they would absolutely not enjoy hunting. After spending a first day riding around on the back of the hunting vehicle watching their dads hunt I could see them getting bored and we decided that we would concentrate on hunting with the children the next day. The fathers understood and gladly took the back seat while we initiated these youngsters into the culture of hunting. The children surprised everybody when it was their turn to hunt. Everybody except one of the girls bagged a springbok and although she was very disappointed, she vowed she would be back next year. The springboks were small and definitely not trophy quality but to each and everyone of these kids it was a special occasion. Posing with their trophies I saw more passion and enthusiasm for hunting than one sees in the face of many a hunter who has done it all. Those springbok will linger on in their memories for many years to come, as the day that they broke free from the confines of the modern world and got back to their roots.
The good old 22 LR remains the most useful caliber to train children or novices marksmanship and firearm safety.
If we want to see our children share the same interest and passion for nature and hunting that we do, it is our duty and responsibility to take them along and allow them to share in our memories. It isn’t necessary to force a child to hunt, the choice should remain their own. Certain children are more mature at a younger age than others and will take to hunting more naturally. Don’t pressure your son/daughter to shoot an animal, children will tell you when they are ready to do so and if they want to. All you have to do is to take them along hunting with you and spend some quality time on the shooting range practicing marksmanship. The memories from time spent hunting and shooting with their parents will last them a lifetime. The time you spend with parents and siblings in the bush, listening to the birds singing, the distant call of a jackal, the sound of a crackling fire under a starry African sky, those are the memories that last far longer than the size of any trophy.
Genesis African Safaris has some excellent family hunting safari packages in Malaria free areas like the Western Cape available for 2013 and 2014. Please feel free to contact us and book a family hunt with memories that will last you and your children for a lifetime.