Why do I hunt? That question has been asked to me many times over the years. I've never really put any thought into it before, but one day last week someone asked me the question, and I thought to myself, why do I really hunt. Is it out of necessity? No. Is it the thrill of the kill? No. I think the real reason is that it gives me a greater appreciation for what I have and what those that came before me had to do to survive.
I started hunting when I was about 8 years old. Before we ever went out in the woods, my dad took me down in the pasture and taught me how to handle a gun correctly. Unknown to me, he had been watching me even before this when I would be outside with my bb gun to see if I was handling it in a safe way. So we go down to the pasture with his 16 guage shotgun. He showed me how to load the shells into the magazine tube and how to get one in the chamber. Then he showed me the way to click the safety off. The main thing, he said, was not to put my finger on the trigger unless I was ready to shoot whatever that gun was pointing at. I can still remember how much that old Remington kicked when I squeezed the trigger the first time. After I had regained my composure, he told me to look at the target to see if I had hit it. I was shooting at an apple core that was sitting on top of an old fence post. The apple core was gone. You would've had to sandblast the smile off my face when I realized that I had hit the target. After this, my shoulder didn't hurt at all. We scrapped up some more targets like old buckets and cans to shoot at.
Little did I know but this was a test. He had told me that if I had a good report card, that something good would come of it. I did my best at school and came home with straight As. When my dad got home from work, he told me to come out to the truck with him. There on the seat was my prize, a brand new 410 double barrel shotgun. The next weekend squirrel season opened, and I got to go hunting with my dad for the first time. He got a few that day, but I struck out. He told me that the only way to get better was to practice. So practice I did. By the end of the season, I was able to get my first squirrel and rabbit (the seasons run at the same time in the part of the state I live in).
To be honest, I had mixed feelings when I took my first animal. I was so glad to get it in my bag, but at the same time, I had just ended it's life. My dad explained to me that it would keep living in spirit since it would be eaten by us. I had just learned that food did not always come from the grocery stores.
Since then, I've been hunting more times than I can count but not as many times as I wanted to. My dad has slowed down since the days when I was an eight year old kid. No longer do we go squirrel or rabbit hunting all day, but we still go deer hunting together whenever we can. I still count the days until we get to go out in the woods together which is a few times every winter. Now my middle one is my squirrel hunting buddy. Last fall, I took him down to the bottom of the same pasture and gave him the same safe gun handling training my own dad had given me over 25 years ago. My boy was able to take his first squirrel last year with the same old double barrel that I used on so many great hunts that I had with my dad. He had the same mixed emotions that I had all those years ago. He received the same story I got when I got my first one.
It gives me great pleasure in being able to hand down what was given to me by my own dad to my kids. My oldest son still doesn't want to go, but my daughter is showing interest. I've taken all three with me at various times although the middle one has gone the most. Hunting has made me appreciate what it takes to put food on the table. It makes me appreciate what those that came before me had to do just to survive. Most importantly, it makes me appreciate the bond between a father and his child.