Leave No Child Inside: For children, nature’s lessons can come through hunter education

The Four Rivers Environmental Coalition, in concert with the national Leave No Child Inside campaign, is committed to ensuring the children of this region will grow up with a strong connection to nature, and, as a result, be healthier and motivated to become its caring stewards. This column is one of a bi-weekly series contributed by Four Rivers Environmental Coalition members to raise public awareness of the importance of access to nature for healthy childhood development, and to encourage families to explore our member organizations’ wondrous places and programs, such as camping, learning projects, and programs for schoolchildren. Visit www.fourriver.org.

By Richie Wolf

Superintendent of Education and Recreation,

Byron Forest Preserve

I am writing as the fall hunting season is upon us. Since the beginning of humankind, we have hunted and gathered from nature to support and feed our families. Over time, our traditions have changed quite a bit as it pertains to our dependency on the wild for food.

At one time, hunting was reserved for kings and their relations in Europe. As the New World was settled, hunting was a necessity for the common man.

Hunting was also unregulated by laws or regulations. It was thought that the wildlife populations were so vast in America that they could never be ruined. However, settlers soon realized that the uncontrolled killing of wildlife would result in their complete downfall.

So it happened. The most common bird in America, the passenger pigeon, was made extinct by market hunting. The large herds of bison were also decimated by the act of uncontrolled market hunting. Also, bear, elk, beaver and others were totally extirpated from parts of their original range.

This was overwhelmingly seen as bad. It was the hunter who actually stepped up and asked for regulation. It was realized that we could no longer go uncontrolled in the taking of game.

By the hunter’s request, laws and regulations were made to help protect the wildlife. Taxes were collected, and still are today, on hunting equipment and licenses to go back into the protection of habitat and for hunter education.

Given the proper protection, game was remarkably restored to healthy populations. In fact, now there are more deer, turkey, and other game animals than ever before.

In conclusion, we no longer depend on wildlife for food as our ancestors did. However, hunting is still a valuable aspect of our heritage. Millions of men, women and children throughout the United States enjoy hunting as a pastime. The values, ethics, and appreciation for nature it provides allows us the ability to connect with nature on a level most non-hunters will never realize.

I personally have learned so much about nature and our outdoor environment through my time in the field hunting that I can actually credit it with my career today. Hunting has helped make me what I am, both professionally and personally.

I hope you have the opportunity to take a child hunting with you, as my dad did with me, so you can teach the value of wildlife and all that nature provides. Not only does it provide tasty table fare, it also provides food for the soul.

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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