It was in September 2008 I had a column about the youth hunts in West Virginia. I emphasized that responsible adults must try to show the youngsters proper hunting ethics, firearm safety, and outdoor sportsmanship associated with this noble sport.
About two weeks ago, I was talking to a lady on the street who I had known for several years. She told me that her grandson is now learning how to hunt. The young boy's father passed away about two years ago. This past deer season his uncle took him deer hunting. Several times they would see a deer on another person's acreage, and the boy would want to shoot that deer.
His uncle would reply, "we can't because that land is posted and we do not have written permission to hunt on that land." The youth would quickly reply, "my daddy would shoot it anyway. This is how we got five deer few years ago."
According to the boy's grandmother, his now deceased father would shoot the deer from or near the vehicle, the boy and another young adult would jump out to drag it back to the road after he quickly drove off. A few minutes later, the father would return, and the three would load the deer in the back of the vehicle and drive off.
This boy's father was not teaching the youth one thing about hunting ethics and/or outdoor sportsmanship. He was only teaching the boy how to be an unethical or irresponsible shooter. The father was not only breaking the law by illegally road hunting, he was also contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
When I was growing up, I can honestly say that I was indeed fortunate to have good parents or teachers when it came to hunting and fishing. My father was always complying with the laws of sport hunting. He not only expected his children, but anyone else who may be hunting with him, to do the same. Dad would often refuse to go hunting with some of his very close friends or relatives because he knew some of them would not be complying with the game laws or what is now considered the "rules of fair chase."
To make a long story short, dad was constantly striving to set a good example for young people to follow.
This has to be one of the greatest needs in America today. There are too many people in the nation's prisons who do not know the difference between right and wrong. The reason for this is because this is something they never learned when they were growing up. This is now a social problem that can only get worse before it gets better.
I have said several times that the state's youth hunts are vital for the future of sport hunting in our state. However, if too many adults do not teach our youth the proper way to go hunting, all of the time, work, and money going to this program could end up being for little or nothing.
It was about twelve years ago I took a young teenager squirrel hunting in the national forest out Files Creek.
The boy had completed the hunter safety course in Kanawha County. This was during the Mountain State Forest Festival, and Ruth told me we could go hunting instead of watching the Grand Feature Parade and the band competition.
I was a little skeptical of taking the boy hunting at first; but the teen was very careful how he handled his .410 single-barrel shotgun, and he was considerate of others. I was using an old bolt-action, 20-gauge shotgun that I purchased from Sears in Charleston in 1958 with money I saved up from my paper route.
The two of us got three gray squirrels each. This teenager is now an adult.
I just hope he is still the ethical and responsible hunter that he was in his youth.