New book on kids and hunting

"When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered 'yes,' — remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education — make them hunters…"

Henry David Thoreau penned those words in his 1854 classic, Walden, when kids grew up a lot closer to nature.

Unfortunately, modern philosophers have few such kinds words about hunting. And in fact, kids these days grow up being bombarded by anti-hunting messages, which overshadow the fact that 80% of the public does not disapprove of ethical hunting.

The vociferousness of those opposed to hunting sways mainstream media, and scares Hollywood from serving up modern feature films about hunters being good guys, which deprives upcoming generations positive role model images to shape attitudes and behavior. The vocal opponents of hunting assert they are helping kids grow up with the "right" attitude. They speak with passion, but do they have the facts?

Behavioral scientist Randall Eaton, Ph.D. has just come out with a new 336-page book that provides badly needed facts to back up Thoreau's philosophy — From Boys to Men: Hunting As A Rite of Passage (OWLink Media, 2009, $24.95, 40% discount for hunter education instructors) — that sets the record straight on the value of hunting in socialization of boys and girls.

Drawing on his own research with numerous adult hunters, Eaton finds that the majority of hunters describe their attitude toward the animals they harvest as "respect, admiration and reverence." Eaton makes a compelling case that hunting is instinctual in man, a position that Freud, Jung, Erich Fromm, Karl Menninger, Rene DuBos and many others agree with.

Eaton's research is backed up by contemporary psychologist/author Michael Gurian, educator Don T. Jacobs, psychologists Dr. Helen Smith and Dr. Jim Rose, and Dr. Wade Brackenberry, who for 13 years led groups of delinquent boys on wilderness retreats where they learned to hunt small animals for food.

These experts help Eaton make a compelling case that when children are deprived of the right to learn to hunt, a major component of their psyche is being ignored. And, they are being shortchanged of the opportunity to cultivate what Aldo Leopold called "The Ecological Conscience," which is what moves outdoorsmen to become such ardent conservationists.

In Eaton's opinion, "Not only are hunting and fishing better for kids, kids who hunt and fish are better for the environment." No major behavioral scientist of the 20th century disagrees with this, and now hunters have a book that shows how and why the great psychologists and educators feel this way.

This is a book for every parent, teacher and most certainly for every Hunter Education instructor. It should also be read and seriously studied by the environmental movement, for as Eaton points out, the people who founded the conservation movement like Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and Aldo Leopold, were all hunters. When environmentalists lose touch with their roots, they run the risk of being blown all over by the winds of thought generated by the media of the Information Age.

This book is about roots — roots of the love for nature in the human soul and how to help human souls grow into healthy trees.

James Swan — who has appeared in more than a dozen feature films, including "Murder in the First" and "Star Trek: First Contact," as well as the television series "Nash Bridges," "Midnight Caller" and "Modern Marvels" — is the author of the book "In Defense of Hunting." Click to purchase a copy. To learn more about Swan, visit his Web site.