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Growing up hunting

Some families pass down tradition among generations

Some families pass down tradition among generations

September 23, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

When Dick Knight reflects on his 66 years of life, his fondest memories surround his family, his rifle and his time in the woods.

Knight is a lifelong hunter who says, "I pretty well cut my teeth on firearms." He was raised as a hunter, raised his daughters to be hunters and is now passing on the sport and pastime to his grandsons.

For many families in the Tri-State area, bringing kids up hunting is as natural as teaching them to play golf or the piano. Learning about a rifle and how to handle a weapon is as important as tying shoelaces.

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"To our kids in our shooting program, a gun in their hand is the same as a tennis racket in the hands of another child," says Norris Diefenderfer, president of the Chambersburg (Pa.) Rod and Gun Club and coach of the Antietam Junior Rifle Club.

Still, teaching kids to hunt isn't just about managing a firearm, says Knight and many other parents who raise kids with the sport. Hunting is about creating family time and sharing the beauty and bounty of nature.

For Knight, it all started when he was about 6 years old. He remembers sitting on his father's lap learning how to hold and fire a small rifle.

"I grew up hunting with my dad and brother," says the Hagerstown resident. "Back then, we hunted more or less for food."

When Knight became a father with three girls, it seemed only natural for him to pass his skills along to his daughters.

Vicki Fisher, Knight's oldest daughter, now 43, says tagging along on hunting trips and learning about gun safety isn't what she and her sister Susan remember about growing up hunting.

"For me growing up, my dad worked all the time," she says. "(Hunting) was time for my sister and I to be around with my dad. The family time was more important than anything else. That was our connection."

In some respects it still is. Fisher's son Colby, 15, is now learning how to hunt with his father and his grandfather. Since Knight, Colby and another grandson, Alex, often spend time together practicing at the range or going out hunting, it brings the entire family together, the Fishers say.

It also gives Knight a chance to share some life lessons with his grandchildren.

"I teach them never to take more than they can use," he says. "I try to teach them, 'If you kill it, eat it.' That's the way I was brought up."

Fisher feels the time that her son has spent learning how to hunt has given him other skills and values.

"It has made him really respect his grandfather," she says. He also works hard in school so that he is allowed to take one day off to hunt during deer season.

Knight looks forward to the hunting season even more now that he has grandchildren to share it with.

"It's so nice when you're outdoors with them," he says. "You can sit and talk to them, explain things to them." He enjoys watching his grandsons' hunting successes more than making a kill himself.

"To see the look on their face is worth a million dollars," Knight says.

Tim Stahl's children are a bit too young to be harvesting their own deer, but when the time comes, he will enjoy passing on his love for hunting to his daughter and son.

Stahl, who owns Keystone Sporting Goods Inc. in Hagerstown, feels hunting is a good way to educate children about life.

"They can see the real side of life," he says. "Meat just doesn't appear on the table. They understand where it comes from."

Stahl's 4-year-old daughter has already shot a .22-caliber rifle "under strictly supervised conditions" and plays with a small bow and safety arrows. While that might sound like a young age to start learning about weapons, Stahl says it is important to him and his wife that their children are familiar with weapons and their capabilities.

"My daughter sees (guns), understands them and has held them and she's not that interested," he explains. Introducing and socializing children to weapons takes the mystery and intrigue away from the firearms, making kids less likely to "play" with guns, he says.

Doug McAllister II of Cearfoss agrees.

"Learning about guns is gun control," he says. He started introducing his son Doug III, 17, to weapons when he was about 9.

At that age "he was getting to the point where he could listen to what you were saying," McAllister says. He taught his son "basic responsibility and knowing what the rifle can do."

Doug says he enjoys hunting with his father, which he got into because of his dad's influence.

"I'll probably be hunting for a while," says the Clear Spring High School student. "My great-grandpap, he's always been hunting, and he taught my grandfather and then my grandfather taught my dad. I guess if I ever have a son, I'll teach him too."

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