Even while the number of hunters continues to decline, I was confident this year that the deer stand was exactly where he needed to be. Here’s why:
- Hunting requires no screens. Granted, screen time is rather limited on our farm anyway given our lack of good internet and lack of devices, I still have no doubt that sending a child into the woods without any electronic devices is a good thing. Statista did a survey in January of 2018 that showed 58% of parents report children having 2 or more hours of screen time per day. Being outside is good alternative to that.
- Hunting teaches patience. It’s challenging as parents in an era of Google and Amazon Prime to find good opportunities to teach our kids patience. We built a pond this summer and after it was done our children were anxiously waiting for it to fill with water so that we could stock it with fish. After a full day of seeing no progress, our oldest said, “Why can’t you just order water from Amazon to fill it up?” While hunting, he has no choice but to learn patience. Amazon, to my knowledge, does not deliver 16 point bucks.
- Hunting gave him time with Dad. It’s not just the time in the stand. It’s the time getting ready to go. Target practice, getting guns ready, getting gear ready. It’s the time spent afterwards. And of course, the early mornings and late afternoons spent together in the woods.
- Hunting teaches disappointment. Last year, he came away from the season empty handed. I wanted to rip that disappointment right out of his little body. I would have stomped out into the woods and grabbed a deer with my bare hands if I could have made his hurt go away. But I couldn’t, and he had to deal with it. There’s value in that.
- Hunting teaches the power of a gun and the reality of a kill. On his a second day out this year, a cold, windy morning where he almost didn’t go because he had gotten so cold the day before, he killed his first deer. A beautiful 16 point buck that will find a lovely spot on our wall after a taxidermy bill that would make your eyes pop out of your head. When he fired that shot, it was different than every time he had shot at a target. It certainly wasn’t a video game. He understood in that moment the power of that gun he was holding and he witnessed the reality of life and death.
- Hunting teaches him to provide. After he killed his deer, they loaded up and went to the shop where he helped his dad harvest the meat. The next night he helped me cook the loin. Before he cut into his deer, the one he had literally put on the table, he said his prayers, thanking God for the time with Dad in the woods, and thanking God for the sacrifice the deer had made to feed us all.
- Hunting teaches conservation. He learns to love the outdoors and all the creatures God put there. But more importantly, he learns how we have to be so careful in everything we do – as hunters and more importantly as farmers - because we are blessed to be on the front lines of protecting our environment.
We are blessed to have the opportunity and resources to allow our sons to spend time hunting in a safe, responsible way. To those who argue that children shouldn't hunt, I hear you, but you're wrong.