DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter from "Concerned Grandpa" (Feb. 11), regarding his son-in-law taking his 4-year-old grandson hunting. I'll bet you were inundated with mail from both sides of this issue.
I fail to see how a 4-year-old can comprehend the safe use of a firearm, or navigate through the terrain to locate prey and return safely home.
Before the industrialized age, people were forced to hunt to put food on their tables. Today, whether they consume the meat or not, the majority of hunters (I use the term very loosely) are not "hunting." They are camouflaged, hiding in blinds or in tree stands waiting for the prey to wander by. Some even put out bait to lure the animals to their location.
There is no skill in hiding, waiting for an animal to wander by to be shot. These people are animal snipers. A true hunter would stalk prey using a bow and arrow for the kill. That son-in-law would better serve his son by staying home with him and teaching him real life skills. -- WALTER M. IN FLORIDA
DEAR WALTER M.: You are correct that my office was inundated with letters from readers on both sides of this issue. The comments ranged from child endangerment and cruelty to animals to the proper use of guns. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I started hunting with my dad and grandpa at the age of 4. It forged a bond between us that lasted until their deaths. Learning to be a hunter is also learning responsibility -- specifically gun safety, game laws, and a deep respect for the animals and nature.
Even though you referred to hunting as "killing for sport," please remember: License fees help to pay for game habitat and management. Habitat and proper management assure a healthier game population and the survival of many species through conservation efforts. Also, children schooled in the safe handling of firearms at an early age aren't as likely to be involved in gun violence. -- CARING HUNTER, WALTERS, OKLA.
DEAR ABBY: I was a preschool teacher for several years, and the children who were the biggest bullies and least socialized were always -- and I mean ALWAYS -- the ones graphically exposed to the killing of animals. These children were aged from 3 to 5, the same age as the grandson in South Carolina.
The gentle, studious, most popular children never spoke of hunting, but the bullies would talk at length about killing, guns and blood. It affected their emotional stability and ideas about death.
Please urge Grandpa's son-in-law to wait until his son is old enough to understand death before allowing him to participate in it. The bonding and skill-building experience will be more meaningful and less traumatizing if the family waits. -- LOVES CHILDREN -- AND HUNTING -- IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: If the boy's parents are responsible hunters, they may be teaching their son gun safety, nature and wildlife conservation during these expeditions. Grandpa should thank his lucky stars that the boy has a father who cares enough about his son to spend time with him. Many fathers just can't be bothered. -- GAL HUNTER IN N.Y. STATE
DEAR ABBY: We can't trust our political leaders not to injure others while hunting. How do you trust a 4-year-old to abide by the rules and understand the consequences of breaking them? I can't even get my 4-year-old son to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom! -- CONCERNED MOM, MARSHALLVILLE, OHIO