From Lee's Desk, February, 2016

It’s Missouri’s Hunting Heritage

When we speak about the Missouri Hunting Heritage Federation people will sometimes say, “no one in my family hunts or ever has. There is no hunting tradition in my family. How can I be a part of something that has never existed for me?” 

Personally, my father was raised on Long Island, New York. He knew very little of country life. My mother grew up in Washington. Kansas. I remember my grandmother enjoyed fishing. My mother spoke of her father and uncles hunting for quail when she was very young but those hunting traditions were not passed down. 

The hunting heritage of which we speak is not in reference to the heritage of particular families, any ethnicity, social class, income level, or religion. It is in reference to the hunting experience which has occurred here, in Missouri, for thousands of years.

Today, most of us live in the city or suburbs. We know from our hunter education class that only about 5% of the population hunts. The last time people hunted for subsistence was during the Great Depression of the 1930’s when unemployment was staggering, crops failed and people often had to hunt to feed their families. Two hundred years ago the vast majority of Missourians lived in the country. They grew up farming, hunting and fishing. Before Missouri was granted statehood in 1821, the people who migrated from the eastern US and settled in Missouri hunted.  The land that became the state of Missouri was part of the Louisiana territory, purchased from France in 1803. Trappers and frontiersmen hunted here.

The Illinois, the Missouria and the Osage Indians (and others) hunted here hundreds of years before the first European settlers. There are petroglyphs near Kirksville that date back 1,500 years. A park in Riverside (just north of the Kansas City downtown airport) marks a place where Indians lived 7000 years ago.  At Graham State park (25 miles East of Kingdom City) there is cave that was inhabited more than 10,000 years ago. All of these people who passed through or lived on the land that makes up present day Missouri hunted.

When we go to the woods in the Spring, trying to call in a turkey to harvest and consume, we are living an experience that has occurred here for thousands of years. In the Fall, when we hide in a tree near a path where we know deer will walk in the hope of enjoying venison for dinner we are participating in a practice many, many generations of Missourians have known.  Much changes over time but the sights, smells, sensations, the emotions we associate with hunting in the wild are the same today as they have always been. We are not only hunting but we are in very fundamental ways connecting with people of the past through this pursuit. And that is Missouri’s hunting heritage, one we can all enjoy!