Taking Aim

This article was first published July 18, 2018, at sportingclassicsdaily.com.

Every other article I read these days first prophesies the death of hunting and then offers easy to follow instructions how to interest your child – or someone else’s – in the great outdoors. Until recently, I’ve paid little attention to these articles.

Nearly three years ago, I was named the winner of Blaser’s and Sporting Classics’ Short Story Contest. The contest’s writing prompt was, “Hunting has a future because . . .” and I answered it with, “Because I have a son.” I detailed in that short story some of the plans I had for sharing with my son a love for the outdoors, plans my own father had shared with me, never dreaming that he wouldn’t be excited about the prospect.

Truth is, my son would much rather play video games all day. Not that he’s allowed to, mind you, but that’s what he’d rather do. In fact, that’s the best leverage I’ve got nowadays. If I promise him an extra fifteen minutes of game time, I can generally get him to check trail cameras with me.

Today, I told my son I’d give him a little extra game time if he’d go with me to retrieve a blind I’d forgotten in the deer woods and on the way, I let him know that I intended to show him his way around a centerfire rifle this year. He’s shot a BB gun like most kids his age and he’s snugged his cheek into the stock of a .22, but he’s never pulled the trigger on a centerfire rifle. I told him this was going to be the year.

He responded with a ‘no thanks.’

I let him know that I wasn’t asking him; I was telling him what was going to happen as far as that rifle instruction was concerned and when he asked why, I shared with him that I believed the world in which he’s growing up would unfortunately necessitate such knowledge and familiarity. He then asked if we could wait until he was a teenager.

It finally struck me that my son is finding his way in a world that is actively pressuring him to steer clear of the very things I hold dear. I realized, maybe for the first time and hopefully not too late, that I’m going to have to work to interest him in what came so naturally to me – a love for the outdoors. So on a hunch, I began to talk about the anatomy of a rifle, working from butt plate to bolt handle to barrel and back again. His curiosity clearly piqued, I ducked indoors and described firing pins and primers, guessing that the centerfire rifle’s mechanics would appeal to his Minecraft-obsessed mind. It worked. Our conversation eventually petered out, but my own thoughts were racing, planning and plotting my next move.

By the time we got home, he was itching to play video games almost as bad as I was itching from the chigger bites I’d gotten collecting that blind. I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t pestering me to go ahead and pull a rifle out of the gun safe, but I felt almost hopeful as I punched in the security code to unlock his game console.

We may not have that rifle sighted in yet, but we’re taking aim.

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