By Shane Reynolds
Hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation have been a way of life for many Texans since the beginning of this great state. With each new hunting season, hunters flock to the fields and forest in pursuit of their favorite quarry. Whether you hunt to put food on the table, for the excitement of the chase or for the relaxation and pleasure of being in the field on a crisp autumn day, hunting continues to be a popular pastime for many Texans.
“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”
I grew up in the Piney Woods of East Texas, hunting with my father and grandfather in a renewable pine forest planted by Kirby Lumber, where my father worked. As we ventured from our vehicle into the pine forest on a cold winter morning in search of whitetail, my father would plant me at the bottom of a pine tree in a creek bottom before day break and say, “Son, don’t leave this spot until I return for you.” For a young boy, this was a challenge. To sit, wait and hope for a deer to cross my path was a life-learning experience that I didn’t realize at the time. I certainly learned patience, perseverance, self-control and many other qualities that hunting bestows upon a youngster.
I also vividly remember running through flooded timber with my father and his friends after an evening of roosting wood ducks, which was and is illegal. We were running from a game warden. He was not as familiar with the property as us, and found himself chasing ghosts in the dark as we headed for a vehicle left at a conspicuous location for this exact scenario. This was yet another experience that began my transformation into a lifelong outdoorsman and the development of my own hunting ethics and traditions.
Unfortunately, in today’s society fewer youngsters and adults experience these memories and the enjoyment associated with the hunting experience and our wonderful outdoors. I have read many studies over the years that indicate the number of hunters across the United States has declined significantly. Although much of this decline is likely associated with our state’s aging population, decreased interest by our youth may also be contributing to the decline.
Youngsters and adults are involved in numerous other activities which compete for their free time and interests. Expansion of youth athletic programs, video games and the Internet craze are a few of the activities which occupy a large portion of our children’s time today. State fish and wildlife agencies across the nation have reported significant declines in the number of youth hunters.
Here is my call to action! Please consider taking your son, daughter or grandchild on a hunting or fishing excursion this year. Texas Parks and Wildlife has implemented special seasons or hunts to provide youth hunting opportunities. The primary objectives of these special seasons are to encourage youth to participate in hunting and to develop an interest and appreciation for the outdoors and our state’s natural resources. In addition, special youth seasons provide an excellent opportunity for adult mentors, while not carrying a firearm, to provide one-on-one instruction to the youth on various aspects of hunting such as proper gun safety, hunter ethics and the development of hunting skills. All of these seasons are established during times when kids are out of school and when ranches are not crowded with other hunters.
As the Outfitter for The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch, I have access to a myriad of resources to arrange hunts. From a network of ranches through the Texas Deer Association to personal relationships with ranch owners and guides for dove, duck and goose hunts, I can help arrange native or exotic hunts in Texas. Most importantly, I’m available to take your children or grandchildren on hunting trips. If life is too busy or if the thought of organizing a hunting trip is daunting to think about, this is a service offered to our members with the Club.
After living in California for 11 years and constantly educating others on the hunting lifestyle and heritage passed on to me through my family, I often struggled to find the right message to convey. Each fall, I would search to find the source of the feelings that arose as the crisp morning air and the changing colors of the land and sky stirred something deep in my soul. The most often challenge I had when defending my hunting heritage was “why.” The books below will help in understanding the “why” of our hunting heritage and our obligation to pass along hunting traditions. They are not a collection of “how to hunt” publications; they’re explorations into the things we know — in our souls — about hunting, but cannot always find the right words to describe them. After reading one or two or three of these you may find it easier to explain why you hunt.
“For us hunting wasn’t a sport. It was a way to be intimate with nature, that intimacy providing us with wild unprocessed food free from pesticides and hormones and with the bonus of having been produced without the addition of great quantities of fossil fuel. In addition, hunting provided us with an ever scarcer relationship in a world of cities, factory farms, and agribusiness, direct responsibility for taking the lives that sustained us. Lives that even vegans indirectly take as the growing and harvesting of organic produce kills deer, birds, snakes, rodents, and insects. We lived close to the animals we ate. We knew their habits and that knowledge deepened our thanks to them and the land that made them.”
– Ted Kerasote
Written by Kerasote in his book Merle’s Door: Lessons From a Freethinking Dog, the above passage is something that far too few hunters will ever read because it doesn’t come from a book that is specifically about hunting. In my opinion, this magnificent paragraph is a perfect encapsulation of why hunters hunt in the first place, and why they view hunting as a morally acceptable pursuit.
A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold
The Sacred Art of Hunting James Swan
Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, and Wildness in America David Peterson
Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting Jim Posewitz
Inherit the Hunt: A Journey into the Heart of American Hunting Jim Posewitz
If I can be of any assistance to our members, I am always a phone call or email away.
Shane Reynolds is the Outdoor Recreation Director. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210.616.6051, or the Cordillera Ranch Outfitter Center at 830.336.4823.