Hunting has a way of changing people.
It surely changed me, as well as several of my friends during our first hunting season. We went through this transition together when we were in sixth grade.
After taking our hunter safety courses, all we could talk and dream about was hunting. Unfortunately we were excited for all of the wrong reasons. I realize now that it wasn^t the thought of hunting that excited us; it was the thought of killing an animal.
These thoughts quickly changed on my first squirrel-hunting trip with my Dad. On this trip not only did my father teach me how to hunt squirrels, he also taught me how to enjoy observing nature, not just shooting it. He taught me the importance of ethics and safety, and inadvertently taught me about life. These lessons continued throughout the season and I have never forgotten them.
Throughout the school year, I noticed a change in my friends too. I^m sure that their fathers passed down this knowledge to them as well.
This is only one way that hunting can change a person. Hunting can also teach people to be more attentive. You will learn that the more time you spend in the woods, the more things you will hear, see, and smell.
This change does not come quite as quickly or easily as the latter. It takes time, experience and a passion for the outdoors before this change can occur. Although it will not come overnight, you will notice the difference and will be a much better hunter for it as well.
Hunting can also change your views on life. You will feel more passionately about logging, land development, road construction, and other things that can harm the environment. This passion can lead you down career paths such as conservation, outdoor writing, wildlife management; the list goes on and on.
Hunting can also entice interests in other fields such as science, film-making, photography, or even art. The beauty of nature will further compile with these interests. This change however, only occurs with years of experience and a passionate love of the natural world.
A final change that many hunters experience, is passing down the tradition of hunting to their children. This is one of the most important aspects of hunting because it encourages the next generation of hunters to help preserve and protect the outdoors.
By teaching your children to hunt, you will not only have many enjoyable years of hunting enjoyment with them, you will be continuing a tradition that has been carried on for thousands of years. In doing so, you will give back to the outdoors what it has given you in the past.
Wherever you are in your metamorphosis as a hunter, you must remember to enjoy it. Do not expect to make these changes quickly, and do not force them. Let nature take its course and you will too.
Editor^s note: Author Ian Smith, age 15, of Natrona Heights, is a freshman at Highlands High School. He plans on becoming an outdoors writer some day. This piece, Ian^s first published article, was published in the Valley News Dispatch as a reult of communicating with the V.N.D. Outdoors Editor Karl Power in the OutdoorWriter Forum on Outdoors Network.