I have been blessed to be voted into the Missouri Hunter’s Heritage Federation group. We are a like-minded group of volunteers dedicated to teaching children how to use firearms safely while elaborating on conservation and positive aspects of hunting.

After the classroom work, we go hunting the next morning to further each student’s education. This program is free and we encourage you to check our website at: www.missourihuntingheritagefederation.com.

So why do we encourage our youth to shoot or hunt? There are numerous reasons that pull many of us out of warm beds on cold mornings to pursue one form of game or another.

I hunt because it provides one-on-one time with nature. I am less concerned with the kill and more intent on viewing the outdoors. I only hunt what we plan to eat unless coyotes or some other inedible critter is causing trouble on our farm. Yet, there are more reasons for introducing youth to hunting.

Hunting teaches responsibility that starts with being aware where their bullet, buckshot or arrow will fly. Where are their hunting buddies? What is beyond their shooting sight plane? Exactly when should I pull the trigger?

Marksmanship is another skill that must be learned before hunting. Shooting a beautiful animal or bird should always be about the one-shot kill. Wounding an animal and letting it run or fly away to suffer and eventually die is unacceptable. All hunters are responsible for a clean harvest best accomplished by hundreds of hours target practicing.

Firearms safety is necessary. Most people hunt with friends or relatives, so a hunting accident generally involves someone the shooter loves. Shooting a stranger is just as unacceptable. My brother and I were trained to use firearms at a young age. We have never had a close call in 50 years of hunting. We both know the other will never shoot in an unsafe direction.

The correct mindset of hunting should be taught to every hunter, young or old. Hunting is not a competition sport and it never matters who shoots the most pheasant, quail or waterfowl. Hunters that go out for numbers of dead game to brag about are best left to hunt alone. Quick-shot artists in hunting tend to make bad mistakes that often result in a human death.

I once watched a “quick-shot artist” throw his shotgun up to shoot a rising pheasant. Another hunter tackled a third hunter that would have probably lost a fair portion of his head had he remained standing. The pheasant dropped and the quick-shot artist started walking to retrieve his bird without even an apology. The almost-killed hunter tackled him and was throwing some well-aimed punches while the fast shooter bled. We quickly separated the two.

A man almost died for the sake of shooting a pheasant. That is not uncommon when someone believes that killing the most game is more important than firearm safety. I never walked in any field with the quick-shot artist again, nor did anyone who was on that trip.

Want to teach your son or daughter about nature? Teach them how to bow hunt. Bowhunters see more wildlife each year than anyone. Many cherish their quiet time and only fill their archery tag when the animal is exceptional. An early season kill would stop their time in the woods when temperatures are pleasant and wildlife plentiful.

Most hunts start before daylight. Sunrises are spectacular on cloudless mornings when you watch the woods come alive. Spider webs, common in wood lots, illuminate in sunlight when covered by frost or moisture. Leaves are turning different shades of red or yellow and squirrels are running amuck in search of nuts or other treasures to be stored for later. The woods smell sweet and clean in the fall, just another important part of hunting.

I have been blessed to hunt waterfowl all over the country and for many different species. I seldom remember the kills, but will never forget the sights and sounds – dogs making perfect retrieves, even in rough ocean water; snow squalls showering on the Atlantic Ocean while we waited in a small hunting boat for eider ducks; watching a huge cottonmouth snake slither in our decoys on a Mississippi Delta hunt with an alligator lurking nearby; or laying in a ditch with 11 other hunters on a tundra swan hunt in North Carolina. There are many other great memories.

Hunting is part of our heritage. Our current generation of children is starting to lose this time in the beautiful outdoors, and that has to be changed. Everyone should have proper instruction on how to handle a firearm correctly and our youth should be well versed on woodlore. Computers can’t provide this, just videos and pictures of others enjoying nature.

I believe we all should enjoy the good, clean outdoor experience and thankfully many agree.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.