I guess it would be safe to say I am like the dinosaur. The difference being that the big lizards are gone and I am only becoming extinct.
Tradition tells me that deer season should start on Monday not Saturday and that Sunday should be a day of rest. Not just rest for the landowner, but a rest for me and the deer. Of course, these ideas are just the thinking of an elderly (almost extinct) gentleman and this gentleman admits it. Those two are but the tip of the iceberg when the future of hunting is the subject. As I wrote in the past few weeks, I believe there are other things to look at when the absence of young people in the field are considered.
I have always said that I would lose at least 10 pounds during deer season, so there must have been some work involved in hunting. However, there was also fun or I wouldn’t have done it. After all, me and hard work were never partners. But in all fairness, one has to look at all the aspects of the decline in hunter numbers, especially among younger people.
Allowing hunting on a traditional day off from work might help and there are many other factors. I touched on a very important one just a few weeks ago when I wrote that it all begins at home and we need to look inward. A problem must be identified before it can be solved. I am sure that along the way, some of what we did and enjoyed as kids has slid by the wayside and there is no turning back. Maybe the fun part of shooting is gone.
When I was young we played pick-up games of baseball. While completely unorganized, we had a lot of fun. Now the games are organized and taken seriously. Mom and pop stand on the sidelines and not only cheer their son and daughter on but also chastise them when they make an error. Is it as much fun as it was? This can be compared to some of our ideas on hunting.
For instance, one of our regular hunting forays was a trip to the local garbage dump. Here we would use our 22 rifles to shoot rats. Of course, most dumps are long gone and we live in a more pristine society that would cringe at the thought of a garbage dump with rats, let alone kids trying to shoot them for fun. Many times while writing an article I cringe at writing about our rat hunting for I know someone out there will accuse me of being cruel to the rats. While it may have been hard on the rat, it sure was fun for boys with rifles. Today, the rat hunters are replaced by trips to a rifle range, where a paper target is stapled to a back board and the younger shooter sits and punches holes in paper. I would bet you the shooting of rats was more fun.
Another summer day trek that we enjoyed was a walk with the .22 along the railroad tracks, looking for a groundhog. Our walk would lead us along what is now Arrow Head Trail in Lawrence to Peters Township Dairy bar. Here we would buy a popsicle and hunt our way back home. Try that today and you and your kids would be in big trouble. But it was something we did and enjoyed on a regular basis.
In all of my travels and among the many hunters and shooters that I know, only one takes the time to allow the younger hunter to enjoy shooting a rifle. Instead of paper targets, the young guest to his house shoots at milk jugs full of water or tennis balls rolling across the yard. On the weekends before deer season, there will be 20 youngsters shooting in his yard. There will also be adults keeping an eye on things and keeping safety a high priority. There is one big thing different in the paper shooting at the club and my friends shooting in his yard. The yard shoot is fun. As adults who worry about accidents, we have removed much of the fun associated with the shooting.
No, I am not saying we should create garbage dumps or allow indiscriminate shooting, but we need to face reality of the facts that we have removed much of what made shooting fun. It’s like telling a youngster to go out and play in the mud but stay clean.
Perhaps in the near future, I will bring up another factor in the loss of young hunters. The loss of places to hunt. When I was young, a favorite place was in Peters Township. Think about that.