Young Blood

James Schneider looks at the importance of introducing young people to deer stalking and the need to better inform children about conservation and deer management.

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(Above: Free from negative stereotypes)

Deer stalking has been a tradition in my family for literally hundreds of years. It is part of my identity and the framework through which I view the environment and approach the conservation of our rural places. And critically, it is a tradition that is to be commemorated when passed on from generation to generation, thus preserving our heritage.

I recently had the privilege of taking my 8 year-old son with me deer stalking for the first time. I say it is a privilege because in addition to an exceptional bonding experience, the outing provided an opportunity to introduce my son to the natural world on my terms, free from the negative stereotypes that all forms of shooting routinely receive in modern media and society.

youngdeerstalkerModernisation makes us reliant on its conveniences, and we slip farther away from the natural way of things. I see this daily and it places strain on that bond that I value with my heritage, making me determined that my children understand the natural world that we depend upon with open eyes.

(Left: Local, sustainable and free range, it is crucial to help the young understand that the source of their food is not the supermarket) 

We set off early on a fresh, bright morning.  Every aspect of the countryside was highlighted as part of a living engine all working together; how hedges lining the field provide cover, how when the wood pigeons alight it sends a warning ahead, the interactions all around that make the ecosystem work. After a lengthy stalk we were able to locate a roe doe which I cleanly dispatched, demonstrating how the very real experience of ending an animal’s life and preparing it for the food chain is undertaken with efficiency and respect. The beast was honored and my son “blooded” before being encouraged to assist with the gralloch. “Remember, your food doesn’t come from the grocery store.”

Finally, hard work equals reward as the carcass is taken to the butcher and sold with the monies used for hot chocolate. What profound satisfaction seeing friends and neighbors share in the bounty, as they purchase the venison for their Sunday roasts from the local butcher! A happy village in autumn and my son very much a part of it, warm memories made that will last a lifetime.

young blood

(Above: A job well done, father and son share a cup of hot chocolate)

Stalking with a young person teaches the cycle of life, and death and how we are a steward for our natural heritage and surroundings. If we are to teach “conservation” and “environmentalism” to our children, then this is surely the way to do so. I am very blessed to have continued my family tradition and introduced my son to the world of the hunter. If you are new to deer stalking or have done so for ages, I encourage you to start your own tradition as well and take a young person with you for a very rewarding and educational experience.

If you'd like to read more articles by James Schneider follow this link: 'a-mid-winter-trough'

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