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General

SAFETY

The number one reason that parents do not encourage their children to hunt is a perception that hunting is not safe. This persistent impression is often based on a memorable news report of a hunter or bystander being a victim of an incident. Kentucky averages two fatal incidents in hunting each year. On the average, only one in fi ve of the fatalities, two every fi ve years, involves a shooting death. Most fatalities occur when the hunter falls from a stand or cliff while hunting.

Hunter education is required in Kentucky for all hunters born after January 1, 1975. Since it has been mandatory, the number of incidents and fatalities has dramatically decreased. Most families attend the class together, and thereby lessons are learned side by side. When the family hunts together, they are actually reinforcing the safety issues identifi ed in the course for each other.

FAIR CHASE

Books have been written to emphasize the importance of fair chase in hunting. Four simple rules are presented here that will give hunters guidelines for appropriate behavior.

  •  Always receive permission to hunt on private property. To fail to do so is trespassing and is a prime reason landowners are closing their land to hunting.
  • Do not take shots at running deer or elk. Animals at a full run are extremely diffi cult to hit in best situations. They are in constant motion in all dimensions, and as they run throughvegetation, it is diffi cult to pick an open area. They may also be running toward another hunter; this could result in a dangerous hunting situation.
  • Shoot all game at appropriate distances. Know your own capabilities and those of your fi rearm. Shooting at too great a distance will scare or wound the animal(s) and no hunter will have an opportunity for an appropriate shot.
  •  Make every effort to retrieve all game. Leaving an animal that is later found by the landowner may result in loss of hunting privileges. After a shot, mentally mark the exact spot the animal was last seen. For big game, wait several minutes to allow the animal to lay down and die. Search “the last spot” thoroughly for blood. Follow the trail and continue to search for blood. Mark each place where blood is found. If the trail is lost, go back to last blood sign and resume search. When shooting upland birds, proceed immediately to “the spot” the bird was downed. The best bet is a good retriever that will retrieve the bird. However, if hunting without a dog, search the immediate area thoroughly, then take one step at a time away from “the spot” and search thoroughly in concentric circles.

HEALTHY ACTIVITY

When we asked hunter education instructors for tips on hunting various species, nearly every list included the need to get and stay in good shape for hunting. A regular exercise program, including walks in terrain similar to what you will hunt, is important. If you travel to hunt in an area with steep terrain, you may want to plan to arrive a day or two early to get used to climbing and descending.

Food gained from hunting is very healthy for hunters and their families. Meat from wild animals is low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein. While some animals may store fat for the winter, it can either be removed during cleaning, or in the case of waterfowl, hunters can choose a method of cooking that allows fat to drain.

Hunting also develops healthy family relationships. It allows a parent to share an activity with his or her spouse and children, and it allows children to be valued as a partner in an activity. Time spent hunting together allows open communication about all subjects. Finally, the pride and self-respect each hunter gains from an ethicalhunt makes him or her special in the family circle.

One of the most common health issues involves dressing for the weather. While the results are not dramatic news, the effect on a hunter can greatly alter his or her future involvement. There are two conditions. The first is being underdressed for cold weather or getting wet. The hunter will get cold quickly, usually very cold hands, feet and face. Anyone who is cold and uncomfortable will truly question whether he or she desires to hunt again. Include some extra warm, dry clothes for your winter hunting trips to prevent these conditions.

It is also possible to have too much clothing. Dressing warmly for the morning, then forgetting to remove layers, can lead to sweating, dehydration, and an equally negative experience. Through planning, dressing in layers, removing appropriate cloths, and having water available, the hunter can avoid the “too cold, too hot” situation.

FAMILY ORIENTATION/MENTORS

A report from Responsive Management in 2003 asked young people with whom they preferred to hunt. By far, the individual’s father was the fi rst choice followed in order by a friend, a grandfather, and an uncle. This refl ects the close relationship of hunting and family traditions. If your family has not traditionally been involved, you may want to fi nd a friend from a hunting group in your community to support your family experience. The bottom line is that parents need to stay involved in hunting with their children. When they do, the family develops a life-long recreational opportunity.

Another opportunity for young adults is to reverse generations. While the person in the younger generation may not be an active hunter, he or she can provide transportation and assistance for an aging hunter in the family. Through the family association, hunting may become a part of the young person’s life as well.

Every community has some families that need mentors to get started in any activity, including hunting. Surprisingly, the survey in 2003 indicated that single-parent families that desire to hunt do not lack in adult male mentorship; however, if an adult hunter knows such a family where the youngsters desire to hunt and don’t have mentors, he or she may want to invite that family on the next hunt.

Families that include adults or children who are less than fully capable offer another opportunity for hunting mentors of all ages. Helping others overcome obstacles and demonstrating that anythingis possible with desire and practice will give the mentor and the family of the hunter a high sense of accomplishment.

MULTIPLE OPPORTUNITIES

Hunting, like all activities offered for families, will become an anticipated activity when there are multiple opportunities to hunt or shoot. Hunting begins with practice and everyone in the family can enjoy target-shooting opportunities. Hunting for multiple species will also provide more enthusiasm for hunting. One female hunter reported a family rule that no member can hunt deer or turkey until they have brought home a rabbit and a squirrel that he or she has harvested. This encourages skill development and the simple joy of being in the outdoors together.

Even after younger family members have advanced to deer or turkey hunting, it is important to return to small game hunting regularly. Here they can sharpen skills, introduce a friend to hunting, and renew the thrill of seeing many game animals in a short period.

While a good dinner is always a reward for hunting, time spenthunting together as a family is the primary goal. By paying attention to potentially negative weather conditions, knowing animal habits, and practicing together to ensure profi ciency, the family will enjoy hunting together as a lifetime activity.

BARRIERS

Perhaps the single greatest threat to hunting in the future will be loss of habitat. In Kentucky, as across the United States, cities continue to expand into areas of traditional wildlife habitat. Proper community planning includes an opportunity to provide habitat for wildlife within developing areas. This is known as “Sustainable Development”.

The result of not planning for sustainable resources is fragmentation of private land. Animals can become isolated within a small area surrounded by development. As wildlife populations grow, they naturally expand into nearby areas causing property damage to fl owers and shrubs and potentially create traffi c or disease problems. Some predators may even attack pets.

Another threat to habitat is a farming practice known as “monoculture”. Here, several hundred acres are planted to one species, such as soybeans or corn. Trees and fence lines are removed to provide easy access with machinery, and water sources such as creeks or wetlands are channelized or drained.

As hunters, we can’t fault the landowner as he or she is trying to make a living on the land. The crop pays the taxes and feeds the family. However, the Department of Fish and Wildlife stands ready to help provide habitat for wildlife if that option is in the landowner’s management plan. In many cases, cost sharing provides an incentive for such plans.

When parents are asked why they don’t hunt with their families, the most common response is, “I don’t have time”. This is inter- related with where we fi nd suitable habitat and required travel. However, each parent must decide what is important for his or her family and set priorities for activities that fi t into an already crowded schedule.

Hunting is one activity where a parent and child can share extended periods of time together relating the hunt, personal ethics, and individual views of the natural world. It also creates the background for stories that will last for a lifetime - the fi rst successful hunt, the ones that got away, and great meals that resulted from the hunt.

One barrier for adults and children alike is public perception of hunting. There are several ways a hunter might resolve these negative responses to hunting:

  •  Education. Talk with your friends to tell them why you like the idea of hunting. Invite them to a hunter education class or provide computer access, as hunter education is available in CD or on the web.
  • Ethics. Practice appropriate behavior in the field and traveling to and from the hunt. Harvested animals should be inside the vehicle, out of view.
  • Explain. Hunters have a conservation ethic, defi ned as the wise use of natural resources. People who oppose hunting often exhibit a preservation ethic. Preserving wildlife seldom works due to a concept known as chaos in nature.

The remainder of this publication is focused on several types of hunting, where to fi nd game, how to clean it, and how to prepare it for the table. If you have questions about the information here or other subjects, please contact the Department at (800) 858-1549 or by email info.center@fw.gov.