Hunting and Responsible Fathers

(Brian Gehring /The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

Some of my fondest early memories are hunting and fishing with my Dad. It was a vital bonding activity, and in the field, Dad taught me a lot: how to find game, how to treat the taking of game with respect (emphasis on a quick, clean humane kill), how to handle firearms safely and responsibly, and our part in the great cycles of life, death and life.

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So I was saddened to read that a baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays (disclaimer: I know nothing whatsoever about baseball or any other of the various sportsball activities) named Erik Swanson was being derided for taking his young son out to hunt geese.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Erik Swanson defended going hunting with his young son after he posted a photo that showed the two in front of a handful of dead geese they shot on a hunting trip.

Swanson posted the photo over the weekend and received some pushback in the comments section.

On X, Swanson responded to a Blog Toronto post on the backlash and defended the picture.

"I am an avid hunter/fisherman and I will always be," he wrote. "For the people who are asking me why I have my son with me, I am teaching him a very important life lesson… the beef, venison, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables all come from somewhere, not just the grocery store."

I've written before of my own love for hunting, fishing, and the outdoors and will do so again, and it's true that, like so many traditional, clean, and wholesome things, hunting is under attack from misguided and uninformed people who always seem to populate from the political left. But Mr. Swanson handled the harassment properly, in my opinion; he stated his reasons, he refused to apologize, and he clearly and eloquently explained why he valued the hunt and why he was passing that value on to his son. Good for him. He continues:

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"Now when he hunts and he harvests his own food, he knows exactly where his food is coming from and what is in it. Next time you go to the grocery store or restaurant and order something, remember that it had to come from somewhere. Know what you are eating! Safe hunting to all!"

This is a guy who gets it. He knows not only that he hunts but why. It's right that he teaches this to his son. 

So why do we hunt? I'll give you my perspective; I suspect Mr. Swanson would agree. 

We hunt because the hunt is our annual pilgrimage to our beginnings, to lay hands on our heritage as members of our ecological surroundings. In the hunt, we affirm once more that life feeds on life, and life gives life to life. We hunt for the gift of a moose, a caribou, a grouse, or a goose. The game is a gift to a family, the gift of life from the earth. In hunting, we know the cost of our food and that meat comes not from clean, sterile grocery store packaging but at the cost of an animal; it is a lesson that life cannot be without other life giving way. That is and always has been how nature works, and it always will be that way.

In the hunt lies an affirmation, a recognition that we too will one day return to the earth that has fed and nurtured us, and the game will then in turn feed on the minerals and nutrients returned to the soil from our bodies. That affirmation alone is enough for many of us who hunt to send us once more out of our tents, trailers, and ranch houses, out into the freezing darkness under the glittering stars, to make our way through a cold morning into the deep brush for a chance at a moose, or into the frosted grain fields for pheasants, or into the goose blind to await the flocks. 

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Hunting has a fundamental truth that few non-hunters understand. It’s not about death. It’s about life. That’s why.

I'm glad that Erik Swanson likes to hunt. I'm even more glad he takes his son with him. I hope they enjoy many long, fruitful hunting seasons together, as father and son, in a tradition that has bound the generations together since time immemorial.

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