Amongst a growing concern over the drop in hunters, and even those interested in the natural resources, it might be good to think about why.
By Ray Reilly for Press Pros
You hear it all the time.
Why aren’t more people hunting? And why aren’t more kids even interested in natural resources, even to discover what’s out there, or why nature’s important?
That question, I think, would take a book, not a column, to explain.
The short answer…is culture. We don’t have enough dads now who take the time to take their kids hunting, teach them how to handle a gun safely, or the ethical practice of harvesting a wild animal for sake of a clean, healthy supplement to our diet. Mention hunting to most Gen Xers and they turn up their nose like you’re an urban gang-banger.
The long answer is…that appreciation for hunting and conservation is a learned experience, a way of life centered around the reality of the cycle of life itself. Wild animals were put on this earth to feed human beings. It’s Biblical, where it says in Genesis that man is have dominion over the beasts of the earth.
But even if you’re a person who believes that, and practices support for natural resources, we’ve dumbed it down like many other cultural practices to where we don’t really appreciate such a bountiful gift. Instead, we seek ways of shortening the outdoors experience and making it as efficient as possible. I assume, so we can get on to what’s next on the contemporary bucket list.
Here’s a few examples.
When I was learning to fish, forty years ago, there were no fish finders. It was all trial and error. Look for a promising spot and see if it produces. Crappies usually hung out around submerged brush piles, a sure tip-off for success. If it didn’t work, you moved to another spot. Today, we have depth finders in boats that show you everything underwater, including the fish, themselves. There’s is no exploration, or trial and error. It’s flip a switch and drop a bait, like a living room light letting you know that someone’s home.
When I was learning to deer hunt there were no trail cameras. My uncle and my dad taught me to look for animal trails, and physically take the time to scout those trails early in the morning and late in the day, to verify that deer were moving about, and when they moved. We took the time to hang out at the local gun store – like Olde English Outfitter – to learn about the latest guns and ammo, what you read about in Outdoor Life and Field and Stream.
Now, we strap a digital camera to a tree and surveil the woods while we sleep. We don’t even go to the woods to check the camera. Instead, we watch on a computer with a cup of coffee, while the camera sends the pictures to your office with wifi. And this we call….hunting!
It’s lazy hunting, if it is – easier and less time-consuming. And if there’s one thing that we’ve learned about humans and human nature it’s that activities that are easy and predictable become taken for granted, and eventually vacated. When it becomes boring and routine it’s set aside for something new, different, and more exciting. A few of my friends growing up still hunt and fish, and a token few, at that. But it’s interesting that none, or few, of their children do.
As I write this it’s squirrel season, and as I wrote recently, one of the most anticipated times of the year during my adolescence. And one of the things that I learned was that squirrel hunting was a constantly changing process. What’s good one week can entirely change in a matter of days if the food source is depleted. Squirrels are nomadic, and constantly move to find new food source. And that becomes a fascinating part of squirrel hunting…discovering where and what they’re eating, and their daily habits to feed.
Today, I hear that someone went hunting, spent a half hour in the woods, and came home because they didn’t see anything, or even any sign.
Even deer hunting has become such that people bait them with an attractant. Instead of taking the time to discover good habitat – getting a landowner’s permission to hunt – they pour out a pile of grain infused with sorghum and salt to draw the deer to you, like the scene from the Godfather where Michael Corleone traps and shoots the crooked cop. An entire industry has sprung up over this because it’s justified on the Outdoor Channel.
And out of all of this hunting numbers continue to drop, except for the privileged few who can afford to travel, hire guide service, and get in and out with their deer, or elk, in a week or less. We call that hunting, as opposed to taking the time to actually…hunt!
Fishing is no different. We have to know where the fish are biting, rather than learn when the fish are biting through trial and error. Nobody has the time for that!
In northeast Ohio it used to be a popular spring activity to hunt morel mushrooms – no guns, no shooting, no one offended. Now, I can’t think of the last time that someone actually took time – or a long weekend – to walk the woods looking for one of nature’s true delicacies.
When you lose that kind of appreciation for the outdoors, you lose a lot more than the fact of dollars spent on hunting licenses. You’ve lost the indispensable act of dads teaching sons the meaning of life, and life renewal.
And answer me this. Is that not the most conspicuous thing missing from modern culture?
If your answer is no, check the headlines in the morning news.
‘Til next time….I’ve got a trail to scout this weekend!