I cut my hunting eyeteeth on the stock of a Model 97 Winchester shotgun. It was my grandfather's gun that he purchased at the ripe old age of 21 in 1900.
He said he paid $12 for the gun that sported a full choke and a 32-inch barrel. Granddad delighted in showing me that he could roll a dime down the barrel of the shotgun and it would stick out just at the end of the barrel, showing that it sported a full choke.
He told stories of downing his first snow goose with his new shotgun. He spotted a flock of the high flying geese heading south one November morning and proceeded to throw a shot at the flock. Surprising to him, he had aimed at the lead goose and the last goose in the flock dropped.
A farm neighbor living a mile away saw the goose drop and drove up to see who had harvested the wild fowl. It was Gramps and his Winchester. A sort of neighborhood legend was born. I listened to this story in my granddad's bedroom in the evening and dreamed of the day when I might make such a shot.
I write of this history because lately we have been reading of the slow deterioration of the hunter numbers in Minnesota and other places. It would seem by these writings that if things don't change, hunting as I've known it may pass into history.
The number of young hunters has not filled the void left by hunters of my age who are retiring from the sport due in part to age and physical issues. I have an artificial hip. I can't walk as far as I used to. Enough said about that.
My theory about this seeming lack of young hunters' interest is that our country has over the years turned from a rural oriented society to a more urban setting. People nowadays get their hamburger and turkeys at a grocery store. That is much simpler and easier than sitting in a deer stand or sitting in a camouflaged duck blind.
Growing up on a farm, we knew that some critter had to meet its demise for us to eat. That knowledge is not as personal as it was to me and my siblings growing up in that agricultural setting.
I don't blame Department of Natural Resources officials for trying to find ways to get young people more involved in hunting or fishing. That is their job. In fact, their jobs depend on that very fact. Who do you sell a hunting of fishing license to if no one shows up at the counter?
I don't believe the recently imposed "youth hunts" are the answer. Hunter families already invite the young people they are related to to join their hunting party.
I brought my brother and his kids and my daughter into hunting camp. I told them the exciting and interesting stories of the hunting camp beforehand. I instructed them in the proper use of a firearm and they got their hunting certificates.
They still hunt after all those years. It isn't rocket science. People who hunt just need to invite their relatives, friends or acquaintances to experience the outdoor experience that hunting provides.
I got the taste of hunting from my granddad in his bedroom as he told of his harvesting prairie chickens from a buffalo wallow. He told of taking jackrabbits for food in the Depression years. He told me of the first pheasant he ever saw and brought home to the dinner table.
He made me want to experience the same thrills and work that hunting entails.
Those who hunt owe the younger world that knowledge and lore. I doubt that any government program can provide that at any cost. Thanks to those who continue the hunting tradition and pass that on to the younger generations. It is up to them to create this new audience.
Good luck in this year's Minnesota deer hunting experience. It is important to keep that tradition alive.
See you next time. Okay?