Hunting is in decline in most states, as well as in Michigan. However, a new generation of hunters is carrying the torch of conservationism, and the youngest of them is an 8-year old girl.
A Beacon of Hope
Braeleigh Miller was thrust into the local and national limelight as she became the youngest hunter to bag and elk at the age of 8. Hunting with her father, Gunnar Miller, Braeleigh used a full-sized .308 hunting rifle to bring down a 400-pound cow elk. Her achievements, as well as her cheerful personality, serves as a shining beacon that leads young kids like her into the sport. Youth hunting in Michigan and the rest of the USA is in decline. Michigan is taking steps to continue its tradition of hunting and conservation through mentorship programs and the recent pheasant hunt at Shiawassee River State Game Area. Studies have proven that a child who starts hunting early will have a bigger chance of continuing the practice throughout his/her life. The cheerful Braeleigh is a testament to this, continuing her father’s tradition for the past two years.
Hunting and the Environment
Social media was immediately lit with outrage once the story of Braeleigh’s achievement hit the news. Environmentalists and animal welfare advocates were quick to judge, deeming the practice (of hunting) cruel and harmful to the environment. However, both these statements are wrong. Hunters do more for the environment than actual environmentalists. The revenue from hunting stores in Michigan, and others around the nation, account for 60-75 percent of every state’s wildlife agency’s annual budget.
Even with the decline in hunting, hunters have contributed more than $1 billion towards the nation’s conservation efforts. Instead of harming deer and elk populations, hunting is ensuring they remain at healthy levels. Left untouched, deer populations will explode, depleting their food supply and damaging their habitat. Aging deer and elk are also more vulnerable to chronic wasting disease (CWD), a condition that can lay waste to whole herds of deer. The decline in hunting in Michigan has led to increased instances in CWD in the deer population, and state officials have taken several measures to prevent its spread.
Starting Kids Early
Michigan’s Mentored Youth Program allows children younger than 10 to hunt with a licensed mentor. Most kids usually start hunting pheasants and smaller game, but deer and elk (if they luck out in the lottery) are also possible targets. Prioritize your kid’s hunting experience every time you take him/her hunting. Your child’s actions and safety are your responsibility, so make sure to keep an eye out every time. Teach your kid about hunting safety, whether it’s regarding rifles, crossbows, bows, or traps. Make sure your kid can handle the equipment or choose a junior version if he/she prefers one. Kids are kids, so pack some snacks and get ready for more than a few bathroom breaks. If your child enjoys the experience, he/she will be clamoring for more hunting in the following years.
Hunting is a great way to teach kids about conservation. It also shows them the value of discipline, hard work, and perseverance — values that would serve them well for the rest of their lives.