There is perhaps nothing as elemental in life as teaching your child to hunt.  It is a sacred ritual that connects your offspring to the fundamental nature of life and death, and when done properly, instills in the young a respect for nature and for humanity’s role as a steward of the earth’s resources.

Let it be stated at the outset that your author is in no way an expert hunter, having only come to it as an adult.  I am, however, as comfortable with firearms as it is possible to be, and in the last few years have become a more knowledgeable hunter than I was when I started.  Most importantly, I respect the power of a firearm, and place the utmost importance on the safe handling of one when in the woods stalking game.

This is the first lesson one must impart to a young boy or girl who takes up hunting.  They must learn to respect the weapon in their hands, and how to safely use it while carrying it, loading it and firing it.

You must next instill in your offspring a respect for the animals he will hunt.  You must teach him proper shot placement to drop an animal humanely.  You must teach them to approach a hunt as a conservationist doing his or her part to maintain the healthy population of whatever species you are hunting.  Human hunters play an important role in the conservation of nature, and they must understand this role and embrace it.

Once those lessons have been learned, your child is ready to enter the woods as a responsible hunter.  I have been taking mine into the woods for a couple of years now, getting them used to the principles of stalking, patience and maintaining silence while awaiting the prey.  This fall it finally paid off for my youngest son, who killed his first deer.

We traveled roughly 15 miles north of our town to a friend’s wooded property to do our hunting.  We had scouted a location the day before and settled upon a field ringed by different locations showing signs of deer.  We found tracks, antler rubbings on trees and flat spots where deer had laid down in the grass.  We picked a location under a tree that gave us a good view of the field, a sufficient field of fire and that provided a decent bit of concealment in which we could sit and wait.

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We were downwind of the direction from which we would fire, and we settled in before sunset to await our prey.  Patience is not generally a virtue imbued abundantly in the young.  After only about a half hour had passed, my sons became anxious to move to a new spot, or to begin stalking on foot.  I cautioned them to wait a bit longer before we made a move to a secondary location we had picked out, and to give it time.  We had not been in place too terribly long, after all.

Our patience was eventually rewarded as a doe and her young buck came out of the field not 50 yards from us.  They approached slowly, picking their way through the small shrubs and grasses that dotted the field.  We were well-concealed and they did not seem to notice us at all.  My son saw the deer first and with subdued excitement pointed them out to me.  I handed him the rifle, and told him to get a good sight picture in the scope.

My boy trembled as he got to his feet and held the rifle in a standing position.  He looked through the scope and held the stock flush against his cheek.  I wondered if he trembled at the thought of the rifle’s recoil, the excitement of realizing he was about to fire the weapon, or at the prospect of shooting this white-tailed creature of God not 40 yards away.  I worried slightly that the shot would be difficult from the standing position, but he needed to be on his feet to get a good view of the deer.

He hesitated for the briefest moment and I worried that he would wait too long and the deer would move off.  I gave him a quiet “go ahead,” and he pulled the trigger.  The shot was perfectly placed and the deer dropped not 75 yards from where we stood, after it bolted upon first being struck.

The shot was true and the deer did not suffer.  It dropped and died quickly.  The look on my son’s face was one of triumph and a need for some sign of approval.  I gave the latter with a “great job, you got him,” and we basked for a moment in his successful exercise of this ancient ritual.  He had for the first time fulfilled the role of hunter, bringing down one of God’s creatures as man has done for millennia.

My son entered the fraternity of the hunter that day, and I could see the sense of accomplishment on his face.  It was as if he had set out upon a task the accomplishment of which he doubted was in his capacity to realize.  Upon seeing that he could do it, it dawned on him that he had reached a milestone.  His triumph was complete, as if he was again a small child walking for the first time.

I have written before about taking your kids to the woods to experience God’s creation in all of its glory.  Hunting takes this experience to another level, in which a boy or girl fully realizes their role as a custodian of God’s dominion.  We field dressed that deer there in the woods, then butchered it.  It has been feeding us ever since, and we give thanks for the opportunity we have to play this important role. 

Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.