Do we need more teenaged hunters? My former boss Mel Rothenburger asked that question in his column here Thursday. It was a rhetorical question, I suspect; I'm not sure he really wants an answer.
But I'm going to give him one, because I have one to give.
No, we don't need more teenaged hunters, anymore than we need teenaged hockey players or young swimmers or youthful piano players.
Despite the fact all the activities I just mentioned are healthy productive endeavours that build better people, we don't need anyone to do any of them.
A better question to ask, in my mind, is do we want more teenaged hunters. To that I say yes, because the values and lessons learned by teens in the bush about life, death and nature are important and will make them better, more well-rounded people. Really.
B.C. politicians are concerned about the falling number of people who choose to hunt. To help promote the sport, the Liberals have proposed to make hunting easier for youth hunters to try out. Kids between 10 and 17 years old will be allowed to obtain a $7 youth licence and hunt under the watch of a licenced mentor.
In almost all cases, that will be their father. Yes, Mel, I suppose it is possible an 18-year-old teen could "mentor" his 17-year-old friend, allowing both to "traipse" about the woods shooting things, but that's an unlikely scenario. Far more likely is that a whole bunch more 14- and 15-year-olds will get out in the bush this fall with dads and uncles and get the chance to try something new. Something that doesn't involve staring at a screen. Something that teaches kids real lessons about the environment and the place of humans and animals within it.
Yes, Mel, I suppose we could set teens loose with cameras instead. Taking pictures is a wonderful activity that also teaches much. I've spent as much time in the bush with a camera over the years as I have a rifle or shotgun, and shot many deer with a camera. Only trouble is that you can't eat a photograph. So for two months or so every year, I make the effort to fill my freezer instead of my photo albums. Taking care of my needs in such direct fashion has always brought me a measure of satisfaction.
Let's get to the heart of Mel's objection. It's not about new hunting licence measures. My former boss, a man I continue to respect, simply does not like hunting. He never has and while his opposition has softened greatly over the years - there was a time when he vehemently denounced those who hunt - it has always been an activity he frowns upon.
So be it. Ours is a free society and Mel is fully entitled to express his opinion. I came to enjoy the occasional mix-up with Mel in the newsroom about the virtues of hunting. It's healthy and necessary for us to engage in this kind of debate; it's how we shape and evolve our society.
I'm glad the B.C. government is working to make the activity more accessible to beginners. I know it will make it easier for me to take my own daughters hunting more. I have friends in similar position.
By introducing newcomers, it's possible some will find a new passion of their own for hunting, an activity that I and many other respectable citizens have found to be a worthwhile and rewarding pastime.
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