I often take the opportunity in February to reflect upon the bigger picture. My step-daughter, Amanda, recently shared a story with me and, once again, I’m inspired to reflect on how fortunate we are to be citizens of this great country.
Amanda spent the holidays in Europe, visiting her cousin in France and some girlfriends in Germany. While in Germany, she stayed with a host family, which provided her a great opportunity to visit casually and get to know the people and their culture.
One evening the conversation touched on holiday traditions and celebrating the incoming New Year with fireworks. Apparently, this is common in Germany. Fireworks are available for a short time in in many stores and folks can set them off anywhere. When asked if this occurred in the U.S., Amanda reported that the sale of fireworks was highly regulated, could only be purchased and ignited in restricted areas and tolerated over a limited period of time during our celebration of Independence Day.
Later, Amanda’s hosts asked about her parents. She told of my involvement with MHHF and how we introduce youth to hunting. They thought this very strange. “You mean, your country strictly regulates the use of fireworks, but you teach children how to hunt animals with guns?!” Amanda had to laugh but acknowledged, “Yeah, that pretty well describes it.”
Two things come to my mind immediately. First, the number of burns treated at hospital emergency rooms during any given Fourth of July is numerous and (thanks in great part to hunter education) cases involving treatment for hunting related firearms injuries is very few over the course of an entire year. Statistically, you are much safer in the field during season than you are igniting a roman candle.
Secondly, I’m reminded that there are aspects of our culture and laws that are not common in other parts of the world. Early immigrants landing on the shores of this continent and later the frontier families settling this country had to learn to hunt game in order to eat. This tradition has been handed down through generations and is part of American culture. Not so in all other cultures.
In many places, outside the U.S., there aren’t public hunting spaces. Wildlife is generally considered part of the land and therefore the property of the landowner. Historically, landowners were wealthy (often “royalty”). The commoner needed permission from the landowner to harvest game. If game was harvested without permission there could be consequences, potentially deadly.
When our nation was very young, it was determined that the wildlife was the property of the people and was managed in trust for the people by the state (to learn more, do a search for Marten v Waddell 1842 or North American Model of Wildlife Conservation).
Today, Missouri residents can go online, purchase a $17 deer tag and head out to the family farm or State public land and bring home dinner. Folks from most other lands have never been able to do this. For them, the idea of us teaching our youth woodsmanship, sportsmanship and marksmanship must appear very strange indeed.
Perhaps a little bit of the spirit of the Frontier; the self-reliance, the connection to the wild, is still with us. I like that. We are fortunate.
As always, to our sponsors, members, volunteers and participant families, thank you for your support of MHHF and for all you do to keep our great hunting traditions alive for future generations.
See you at the Business Meeting March 18th!