The following is the second installment in my series outlining the seminar I recently gave on Hunting With Kids. Click here to read Part 1.
I'd like to note that this part, like Part 1, rehashes some events that I've written about in the past. The material should all be pretty fresh beginning with Part 3.
I did not get an opportunity to hunt as a child. I grew up in the woods with an appreciation of the outdoors and nature, and my Dad frequently took me fishing, camping and hiking. But my father is not a hunter, so I never got a chance to hunt until I was about 20 years old.
Unfortunately, when I finally did get the chance, I was too busy doing the things that a lot of 20-year-old kids do and didn't take it. My Uncle Tom had signed me up for Virginia's Hunter Education Course in the summer and planned to take me hunting that fall. I never made it past the first day of the three-day class.
So my early 20's passed by. I still spent a lot of time outdoors because I worked outside, and I went fishing, hiking or camping occasionally when I was a student at Virginia Tech. But I didn't really consider myself an outdoorsman, and hunting was pretty far off my radar screen.
It was only when I was about 24, and my Uncle Jim invited me on a deep-sea fishing trip, that my interest in the outdoors was kind of rekindled and my journey to becoming the passionate hunter that I am today began.
It was the night before our second annual tuna fishing trip. Jim and I were eating dinner at Goombay's in Nagshead, and he suggested that I should come deer hunting sometime with him and other members of his King William County-based hunt club.
Now, I'd never hunted. I'd only fired a gun a few times in my life. I also didn't know for sure how I'd feel about killing a deer. But I did know for sure how much I respected my Uncle Jim and how much I enjoyed spending time with him. So I decided to give it a try.
But first, I had a lot of work to do.
Later that fall, I finally completed the hunter safety course. Unlike the first time I'd tried it, this one was only one day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For me, that format worked better. There were numerous children who took the class at the same time I did, although the three-day, shorter session format is probably better for most young kids and even teenagers. Twelve hours is a long time for a child to sit in a classroom and then have to take a test.
Next, I had to arm myself and learn how to shoot.
In King William County, it's illegal to hunt deer with a rifle, and you can't even use a shotgun loaded with slugs. So the following summer I went to Loudoun Lumber in Purcellville and bought my first shotgun. I chose a Mossberg 500 Trophy Slugster, which comes with a rifled slug barrel and a regular shotgun barrel. I figured I could use the shotgun barrel and buckshot for hunting with Jim in King William and could use the slug barrel and a scope if I ever got a chance to hunt deer closer to my home in Loudoun County.
Jim took me hunting, and I had a good time. I saw one deer, running through the woods with a pack of dogs hot on its heels.
I never even considered taking a shot at it.
Jake was born the following year, and with the new baby I didn't have time to travel to hunt with Jim. But a friend of mine took me a couple times at a big property just outside Leesburg. The first time, I still didn't know for sure if I would squeeze the trigger. By the second time, however, I had decided that I was ready.
I didn't get a chance to shoot a deer that day. I didn't get a chance the following year either, even though I hunted a total of about 10 times and in three different Virginia counties. It wasn't until the year after that, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, that I took my first deer. It was a doe and not even a very big one. Still, from the moment that deer emerged from the brush, I knew I was going to make the shot, and I knew I would be a hunter for life.
So that's the very short version of my hunting journey. It was one I had to make a conscious decision I wanted to take and one that was at times very difficult.
It was also an unusual one.
Very few people who aren't introduced to hunting as kids go on to become hunters. Fewer still pursue the sport with the passion I now do and experience the indescribably joy it brings me.
It's that joy I want to make sure my kids have the opportunity to feel. I want to make sure they are able to make the choice to be or not to be hunters from an educated position. I also want to make sure that if they do decide to hunt they do it right; that they understand conservation and ethics and that they respect the animals whose lives they may take.
Above all else, I'd like to make sure that if my children become hunters they do it safely. Because I definitely don't want one of them to ever accidentally shoot me!
Up Next: Getting Kids Involved in Hunting and the Outdoors