I did not grow up in a hunting family. My dad, to the best of my knowledge, has never owned a gun or hunted in his whole life. So it is not surprising that hunting was always a pretty foreign subject for me. I spent my childhood in Iowa where pheasant hunting is quite popular. There are deer there, but I don’t even recall anyone going deer hunting. I’m sure they did, but it had such little impact on me that I have no memory of it.
It certainly isn’t like it is here in northwestern Minnesota. Everyone hunts – well almost everyone (with the exception of yours truly). Restaurants open early and offer hunting specials. Everywhere you look you see orange. Area stores and bars host special events. The main topic of conversation is hunting. You would have to be dead not to notice the arrival of hunting season. Some kids even miss school to hunt. My kids don’t skip school, but they do go hunting with their dad over the weekends. And, they love it.
My 13 year old enrolled in gun safety class a year or two ago. When I took him to the class at the school I couldn’t believe the crowd. There were more people at that class than anywhere else in town — girls and boys in equal amounts. It appears that most, if not all, kids take gun safety here in our rural town — a rite of passage just as driver’s education will be in the future for them.
Both my boys expressed excitement at the advent of hunting season this year. I asked my ten year old what he liked most about the experience. He struggled to narrow it down to one thing, but he did say that he especially liked the spirit of it. When I asked him to explain what he meant, he told me that all the hunters have such a good time and they are all so happy. Interesting. He’s too young to shoot at a deer, but he does like target shooting with his BB gun. And, he loves being outside in the wilderness.
I’m thrilled that the boys are spending time walking in the woods and the prairie together with their dad and their friends. I am most thankful that they are gaining an appreciation for the outdoors. Hunting provides a chance for them to bond with each other but also with nature – a practice that is all too uncommon these days.
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.