However, I feel compelled to argue that there is one "right" that is missing from all the Outdoor Bill of Rights documents I have read. My question is: What happened to hunting? Included in any official Outdoor Bill of Rights should be the statement that children should have the opportunity to hunt. I am not talking about hunting for seashells, butterflies or sea glass (though those activities rank high on my list) but hunting wild animals with a bow and arrow or yes, even a gun, if they are of the age, accompanied by a parent or other acceptable mentor and have taken a hunter safety course if required to do so.
Oh, the horror! How can sending children out in the woods to kill animals be something all children should have the opportunity to do? There are a number of reasons why hunting should be part of the Outdoor Bill of Rights. First, it's part of our heritage. In the past humans hunted for food. Period. We needed to eat, so we hunted. Of course, now there is such a thing as factory farms and grocery stores, which have virtually eliminated our need to hunt. But with that, they also eliminated our basic human connection to nature. As a result, most children grow up thinking our food comes from the grocery store. They don't even realize animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, farm-raised buffalo, ducks, etc. etc. are killed everyday to supply us with the food we eat. They do not have a clear understanding of the circle of life and how living creatures survive.
Second, hunting teaches important life skills and lessons.
Lastly, when humans hunt, they play a key role in managing the ecosystem. Because there are fewer natural predators such as bears, wolves, mountain lions, etc. (due to lack of suitable habitat because of loss of land from human development), populations of many animals could explode beyond manageable and healthy levels. Hunters help manage populations of deer, ducks, squirrels, quail, and many other species, which keeps nature in balance.
I am not suggesting that the only way a child can learn life's lessons is by hunting. Nor I am suggesting that every child should hunt. It's up to the parents to decide what is best for their children. What I am suggesting is that we keep an open mind, don’t forget about or ignore hunting and its rightful place in the Outdoor Bill of Rights, and that children should have the opportunity to hunt if it interests them. Even experts, such as Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods, acknowledge the role hunting plays in connecting children to nature.
This Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day. In recognition of this occasion, I challenge you to teach your children about hunting. Explain to them how the predator prey relationship works and why it is important. Help them understand that food doesn't just come from a grocery store. Teach them that there are alternatives. Take it a step farther and take them to a National Hunting and Fishing Day event near you. If they express an interest in hunting, keep and open mind and allow them to take a hunter education course --- even consider taking it with them. They are offered in all 50 states by your state fish and wildlife agency. And most of all, try not to balk if your child wants to take it a step further and go on a hunt.