cut throat trout in Colorado

Kyle with a monster cut throat trout.

How to Teach Your Child About Killing Game

If you read my articles you know that a major emphasis of my mission at Bear Miller Outdoors is to get future generations into the outdoors.  If we don’t pay attention to this now, the future of hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation will be at great risk.  People who don’t hunt or fish don’t understand the complexities of wildlife conservation and the role that hunters and fishermen play in the equation.  If this nation loses our hunters and fishermen, we will also lose our wildlife and the wild places where they live.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it is true.

100 years ago the deer, elk, bear, turkey, duck, pheasant, and just about any other wild animal or fish you can name were nearly decimated from North America because there were no regulations about harvesting them.  In the early 1900’s it was hunters and the budding vocation of wildlife biology that turned this situation around, and now over 100 years later we have populations of all of these species far exceeding what they were when this country was much more sparsely populated.  That is a true testament to the power of sportsmen and women, and the wildlife agencies that manage our natural resources.

Still, if there is no future interest in wildlife resources, that trend could take a negative turn.  If we don’t have sportsmen in the future, who will stand up for what is best for the animals, birds, fish, and the wild places that they occupy?  This is why it is so important to get young kids into the outdoors now.  But not only young kids, it’s also women, or the men you might know who have never been exposed to the outdoor life.

The one major obstacle in getting kids or new people into hunting and fishing is the fact of taking the life of another animal.  It’s a hard thing to do; I have been hunting for 40 years and I still feel sadness when I harvest an animal, it’s not an easy thing to digest mentally or emotionally.  But I have a strategy that seems to work well with new hunters and fishermen.


The Future of Hunting

First of all, I like to start beginners with fishing.  Fishing gets people into the wild places and in touch with nature, but doesn’t require killing; you have a choice, unless you have injured a fish so badly that it is going to die.  There are ways to minimize the chances of killing a fish, like using barbless hooks on flies and lures, or circle hooks if you are fishing with bait.  Fly fishing almost ensures that you can release a fish alive if you treat it well, and you should do the same with lure fishing and even bait fishing by moving the fish back and forth in the water to get oxygen over its gills, and then release it if it seems healthy.  With bait fishing sometimes the fish will swallow the hook, but if you bend the barb on your hook, you give the fish a better chance to survive.  If you catch a fish that has swallowed the hook, the best thing to do is to cut the fishing line as close to the hook as possible, and try to revive the fish.

If there is blood coming out of the fish, it is likely going to die, and this is where the “taking a life” mentality comes into play.  For a young child it can be a difficult thing to know that they have killed something, so you have to be very sensitive about how you approach the situation.  You have to assure the child, or new hunter, that you have harvested something to eat, just like you eat something every night at dinner.  My best advice for this situation is that you show the child the specific part of the fish that you will be making a meal of, and reassure him or her that they are part of the food chain; a predator gaining food for their family, just as the fish attacked the lure or bait to stay alive.

With fishing, most times you have a choice whether to take a life or not, the same can’t be said when it comes to hunting.  This is why I think it is good to start beginning outdoors people with fishing; it gives them the chance to experience the wild places, and gain an understanding of the cycle of life in the wilderness.  Once a person understands what it takes to balance human existence with wildlife populations, they can then begin to understand the value of hunters and fishermen.

All wild species of animals, birds, and fish are living in a limited world that humans have left for them to inhabit, and we continually encroach on that amount of space.  Yet it is primarily the hunters and fishermen who strive to preserve these environments for the wild animals to not only survive, but to proliferate.  For the non-hunter, they can’t understand why I will go out this fall and hopefully harvest a deer, an elk, a turkey, some waterfowl, and some pheasants, but they also don’t understand all that I have done to ensure that there will be these animals to harvest.  Hunters and fishermen are as much a part of the wildlife management system as the state’s fish and wildlife conservation programs across this country.


Dustin and kids with fishing gear donated by Bear MIller Outdoors

It is imperative to get the young kids out into the wild now, as well as the women and the men who are not outdoors people.  It’s not about killing; it’s about the wild places, the experiences and the adventures.  It’s about teaching someone how to survive in the wilderness, spending quality time together, and the value of life.  I cannot recall any event in my life that compared to the thrill and challenge of being in the wilderness, nor can I recall any moment of teaching my children that was as meaningful and satisfying as lessons learned in the woods.  Hopefully you will find some inspiration in this article and get you and your kids out there, which is where the true adventure in life can be found.