Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rural children and guns (Part V): Hunting as a sport

"Those guns were initially designed for killing but we've turned them into a recreational sport here in the United States." - Boo Boo, the son of the owner of Lock N Load gun store

"Hunting is something that lives in my soul." - from "Who We Are"

The Rural (and American) Tradition of Hunting

Hunting is often considered to be a rural activity, or at least an activity with roots in the rural. For many rural individuals, they grew up in a community and with a family that had a long tradition of hunting. While hunting was historically primarily a male activity, which served as a male bonding experience and was often considered to be a rite of passage, in modern times more and more women are getting involved in this activity (while I personally do not want to go hunting I am always happy when my fellow ladies start breaking gender stereotypes). One writer even compared the rural hunting tradition to religion as both are often inherited, both have a community of shared values, these values are reinforced by community and family activities, and both have expectations of behavioral conformity. Additionally, even President Obama stated that he had a "profound respect" for America's hunting tradition.

Rural Children and Hunting for Sport

While there are obviously some individuals, both adults and children, who hunt to eat (as seen in my last post), there are also those who hunt as a form of recreation. Hunters and sport shooters have said that shooting is a good way to spend family time outdoors, allows children to lead less sedentary lifestyles, and helps to teach children responsibility and safety in gun handling. While some states do not have a minimum age to hunt big game, most states do have some sort of age requirement for young hunters, especially when they are unsupervised. Additionally, most states require a hunter education course and/or firearms safety instruction before children may legally hunt. However, there appears to be a worry in the hunting community that not enough young hunters are "replenishing [the] aging ranks" and therefore, there are a truly impressive amount of lists available across the internet about how to get children interested in hunting and there are many stores out there about parents attempting to get their children interested in hunting or sport shooting.

JD Williams, a father, a US army veteran and a triple amputee, discussed how being able to spend quality time with his four-year-old daughter and teach her everything about hunting was one of the purposes he found in life after suffering his injuries. In keeping with the family's tradition of hunting, JD stated that the first "William's life skill" was the learn how to shoot. Indeed, at one point in the documentary he even said that his daughter was "going to learn how to shoot whether she like[d] it or not." However, toward the end of the film, he acknowledged that he made a mistake pushing her to hunt before she was ready and decided that if his daughter did not want to go hunting, he was not going to make her do so.

In one of the more unique stories I read about children hunting, nine-year-old Gia would go "Zombie hunting" with her dad (which involved them going into the woods and shooting at targets hung on tree trunks depicting zombies) and used her Barbie dolls as target practice. Her father, who she lived with in rural Texas, taught Gia about the four rules of gun safety by the age of five. To those who question whether children should use guns, Gia's father stated "Tough shit. That's what we do." Her father also shared "an expression [from] Texas: 'If you know how many guns you've got, you haven't got enough.'"

What many of these stories I read or saw have in common is the importance that parents often place on teaching their children how to take care of themselves and how to safely use a firearm. Indeed, for many parents who enjoy hunting and shooting, taking their children hunting is "the most rewarding opportunit[y] in the field." They remember their child's first kill and what guns their children used. Hunting and shooting is a way for these parents to spend quality time with their children while "educat[ing] them on natural resources." Indeed, Wide Open Spaces "10 Reasons to Teach Children to Hunt" has "Bonding time," "Making a tradition," and "Teaching conservation" as the top three reasons to take children hunting.

However, there are also instances in which parents acknowledge and accept that their children are not interested in hunting or shooting. Multiple parents have stated that hunting is not for all children and that if its not for them, then there are other activities parents can engage in with their children to spend time with them.

I think by this time, any person reading my series of blog posts knows that I will not be purchasing a gun nor will I be going hunting anytime soon. I also doubt I will ever teach any of my children how to handle a gun (given that I currently have no children though, all of this is incredibly hypothetical as my posts have likely made clear I know little about guns and even less about child rearing). However, I also readily acknowledge that these statements are based on the fact that I will probably always live in a city or suburb and I would personally rather read Harry Potter with my children than go hunting. What I do wonder about though is what will happen if I ever have a child who is interested in hunting and shooting. Will I try to be supportive of their potential passion or will I not allow them to pick up a firearm while they are in my house? While currently I believe the later is more likely, I guess only time will tell.


Courtney said...

This was an interesting end to your series. I feel like I echo a lot of your feelings and this is more of a response to the last two articles (Hunting to eat & Hunting as a sport). I just can’t wrap my head around the logic in placing a gun in the hands of a five year old. No matter how rural you are, I don’t think there is an appropriate time for a child to be handling something that is so lethal. I also think recreational hunting has blown way out of proportion. There is a difference between “population control” or “conservation” hunting and hunting for sport. (But even that claim has some faulty reasoning, see: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-hunting/). Many sport hunters travel to certain locations to kill certain types of animals for…. a reason I cannot actually comprehend. I see a profound difference between teaching your child that you hunt for sustenance vs. hunting for sport. Either way, I don’t think there are many families that could not survive without their children hunting. If a family lives in a food desert or is “food-insecure” I imagine there are other options than placing a rifle in their child’s arms, such as growing their own food, raising livestock, or just simply having an adult do the hunting.

Anne Badasci said...

I've really enjoyed following your series this semester! Guns and ideas about hunting are for sure a huge part of the rural identity and mentality, at least from my perspective of growing up in a small farming town. Students at my high school would frequently roll up in their lifted trucks with a gun rack in the bed (and sometimes would get in trouble with school administration for not taking the guns out before coming to school). If you had made it to the age of 18 without learning to shoot a gun, you were an anomaly. I find myself accordingly conflicted about issues of gun rights, because I grew up around lots of gun use and discussion and know that it's such a huge part of life, and a hobby, for those that like to hunt or that value self-protection in an area where the cops might take half an hour plus to make it out to your place. When things happen on the news related to gun abuse, though, I tend to lean more towards much stricter regulation (which would have me in big trouble back in my hometown!) I think too that guns can sometimes be "representative" of the larger rural/urban divide, and it is often the issue rural voices hang their hats on when arguing why they are different from urban folks. Strong articles all around, very thought provoking!