You often hear the call to “take a youngster outdoors”. But few people ask why. For non-hunters, the action is apparently too ridiculous to bother with explanations. For hunters, the answer is apparently self-evident – to pass on the tradition. But this answer is not enough – we must know and be able to explain why it needs to be passed.
It’s hard to argue that not every tradition deserves sticking to. Some grow redundant as civilization progresses, like spinning – today, when we hear the word, we think of bright rotating objects rather than the art of thread-making. Others, like burning of witches, the world is simply better off without. Why, an anti would ask you, should hunting be not on the same list?
Because hunting is not just a tradition, it goes beyond and deeper into our essence. We’re not genetically programmed to spin, or to burn witches for that matter. But we’re programmed to hunt. And as any psychologist will tell you, an instinct, if not channeled properly, can do lots of harm.
Here’s one example from a book by Anatoly Kochnev, a biologist focused on walrus, polar bear and other maritime mammals of the Russian Arctic. One of the issues he studied was illegal harvest of polar bears. Russia is a member of the international convention for protection of the species, but unlike the USA and Canada, it doesn’t allow indigenous peoples a quota for traditional lifestyle harvest. Hunting is simply banned, period.
Yet, as studies showed, the indigenous people of Chukotka never really stopped harvesting bears. Of course, when the Soviets were able to enforce the ban, only a few bears were killed, and when they were, hunters didn’t bother with rituals and such – they simply took the best pieces of meat and dumped the rest. Much traditional knowledge has been lost – including the fact that polar bear liver is poisonous. When the USSR collapsed, and people were left to survive as they could, they began to hunt polar bears for food on a large scale again – and a few people paid with their lives for the loss of this knowledge.
But the bears paid an even higher price. The ancient rituals were acting as built-in harvest limits; without them, people killed many more bears than they actually needed. Thus loss of a hunting tradition backfired to both hunters and prey. Of course, people of the so-called “civilized” nations don’t have to hunt for a living now – but neither did the Chuckchee before 1991. The world is changing fast, and who knows where it’ll take us a few years from now.
From this stems another reason to pass hunting on. It’s true that the world is changing, and changing too fast for us. There’s a problem in that – the older generations’ knowledge often becomes useless for the new ones. This destroys the links between the times, stops the seemingly endless cycle of passing knowledge and culture from one generation to another, and makes both generations feel useless and redundant.
Thankfully, there are still fields where an old gizzard’s wisdom is as valuable as in the Stone Age, and hunting is the first of them. Perhaps even more so, as in a hunter-gatherer society a child soaks the chase in with the mother’s milk, while modern kids are almost totally isolated from it. Even hi-tech is not quite what it is in other areas: a laser rangefinder and a tackdriving rifle make long shots easier – but isn’t a stalk within the range of a vintage .270 and a snap shot on the old mix of a flat round and intuition so much more impressive?
So, hunting with the younger generation remains one of the few ways left to feel part of the general flow of humanity, that includes not only passing the genes, but also passing the culture, the way of doing things, the positive and negative values attached to them. Humankind can change its attitude towards entrepreneurship and race, war and social security. But a good shot is a good shot, and a game hog is a game hog, and the cost of a bad shot on a dangerous animal is the same no matter how many times the third stone from the Sun revolved around it.
The last thing I – a hunter, a father and a former teacher – want you to do is to jump out of your pants to make your siblings hunt. Hunting is one of the things that you can push someone from, but not force someone into. Try too hard, and you’ll end up with a traumatized sorry little creature that hates the very thing you want them to love. If you want your kids to hunt, your best bet is to keep in constant contact with them, so as not to miss the moment when they show a slightest hint of interest to the chase. Then you grab on it and nurture it best you can.
The moment will come – if not with children, then with nieces and nephews and grandchildren. The urge to take part in passing the knowledge from one generation to another is there in every generation, along with the hunting issue. The only thing that makes the present generation a bit different is that they’re much less likely to accept a person’s authority just because the person was born a few decade earlier. They’ll need first to see the evidence that the person has got something to learn from – all the more reason to be a better hunter, and a person they can trust and love, too. In essence, it all comes down to love.
To find a destination for your next hunt with the younger generation, tick “family friendly” box on BookYourHunt search page.
And if your family hasn’t shown any interest in hunting just yet, check out tips how to combine a hunting trip and a traditional family vacation.