What I’m about to tell you may seem controversial or even outrageous. It’s inspired many a heated discussion with friends and opinionated Facebook acquaintances and will no doubt continue to raise questions, but I wanted to let you know something.
I’m a normal, suburban-dwelling, Target-shopping, polka dot-loving wife and mom…and I hunt. I am just like you AND YET I’m a hunter.
I come from a hunting family, so hunting has always been a part of my life. I’ve hunted animals across the globe, and I’m a better person for it. For that reason alone, I will be sure my daughter grows up to be a hunter. There is an undeniable set of life skills that one acquires through the process of hunting: a deeper understanding of self, nature, and the precious gift of life. Here are the lessons my father passed to me and I hope my daughter learns through hunting together:
- CONSERVATION AND ECOLOGY
Hunters are conservationists by design. We research and understand the delicate balance of giving and taking from the flora and fauna. We only harvest what the habitat can give and our family can consume and no more. By managing animal populations through hunting, we can make sure entire herds aren’t subject to starvation. Because we respect the animals and their habitats, we preserve the wild as best as we can for future generations.
- CONNECTING TO THE OUTDOORS
There is a peace and harmony in nature that can’t be experienced through any other means than by being deep in the heart of it. Tracking and hunting is a way to communicate with the natural environment unlike any other. This is one of the many ways I’ll show my daughter to make a deep and lasting connection with the great outdoors.
- DISCIPLINE, PATIENCE, ENDURANCE, STRENGTH
Hunting is not easy. Anyone who tells you it is isn’t hunting—they’re waiting. True hunting requires steadfast patience, intrinsic discipline, and sometimes mental and physical endurance. A two-mile trek through African brush tracking game or an hour wading through marsh lands isn’t easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding.
Experiencing the disappointment of a missed shot, waiting all season to see “the one,” or letting impatience get the better of you can be rough. Through hunting, I’ll teach my daughter how to deal with those feelings, overcome, and get “back in the saddle.”
- GUN SAFETY
Guns are scary (and for good reason), so I want my daughter to know what they look like, how they operate, and what to do if she encounters one. Live ammunition and guns are no joke. It is important to be well educated in gun and hunter’s safety, which includes a healthy respect of the life-taking capabilities of the tools we use.
- RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY
There are so many elements of hunting that originate in respect. When you are hunting, you’re taking a life—a life that is to be honored. Hunters also show reverence by leaving the area better than when they found it and preserving the unique habitats they visit. A vital part of being a true hunter is to understand the etiquette and sportsmanship of hunting—skills that carry to the boardroom and family dynamic.
There is nothing pleasant about field dressing a buck, cleaning a dove, or breaking down a wild turkey, but the combination of hard work, patience, and skill is a powerful confidence builder. Knowing that you can provide for yourself and your family is an amazing feeling. I hope it will add to my daughter’s self-worth and confidence for life.
- RITUAL AND GIVING THANKS
We do not make light of life-taking. Whether she follows my lead in a silent prayer of thanks or her granddad’s simple “thanks for your life, old boy/girl” out loud, I want my daughter to be thankful for the life-giving contribution of each animal she harvests. Whatever ritual she chooses, I hope it inspires her to make thankfulness a part of her daily life.
- FOOD KNOWLEDGE
I want my daughter to understand where meat comes from. Let’s not be coy about this: it does not magically appear in the meat case at the grocery store. Every package of chicken, cut of beef, or turkey at Thanksgiving started as a live animal. Some are kept in horrific conditions and some are free range, but all lose their lives for our consumption. I want her to feel a connection to her food and a thankfulness for it that comes from understanding food sources.
Occasionally, because of responsible ranch/game/herd management we take more than our families can eat in a season, through selective culling, and we use those extra resources to feed people who need it. Hunters all over the country participate in voluntary donation to those who would care to receive it.
There are many out there who consider hunting to be barbaric or unnecessary, and I will respectfully disagree. When you’re mindful and aware, hunting is more than a sport—it’s a series of important life lessons, character-building exercises, and, for us, an important family tradition. I know that someday my daughter will look back on our trips together and reflect on all the good things she’s learned from hunting, and maybe even choose to pass them on to her children. If she chooses not to continue hunting, I’ll rest assured that she still had the experiences and lessons.
A lifetime of confidence, discipline and family togetherness—what more can any parent hope to give their child?
By Amanda Raba Gentis
Reprinted with permission from Alamo City Mom’s Blog