Is hunting good for bad kids? Does it teach violence or does it teach empathy and compassion? Would it be a more peaceful world if more kids grew up hunting?
These are some of the questions addressed in a recent book entitled From Boys to Men of Heart: Hunting as Rite of Passage.
The book’s award-winning author is Randall L. Eaton, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist with an international reputation in wildlife conservation who has been studying hunting for 35 years. While producing “The Sacred Hunt” in the mid-1990s, a documentary that received 11 awards, Eaton interviewed scores of recreational and Native American hunters all of whom used the word “respect” to describe how they feel about animals they hunt.
That prompted Eaton to conduct questionnaire surveys on 2,500 mature hunters who described their attitude toward animals they hunt as, “respect, admiration and reverence.” Over 80% of these recreational hunters claimed they prayed for the animals they killed or gave thanks to God. Eaton’s survey also asked hunters what life event most opened their hearts and engendered compassion in them. Choices included death of a loved one, death of a beloved pet, becoming a parent, teaching young people and taking the life of an animal.
Women hunters overwhelmingly chose “becoming a parent,” but most of the men chose “taking the life of an animal.” Eaton said, “These results indicate the basic polarity of human life: woman are adapted to bring life into the world, but men are adapted to take life to support life.”
The same survey asked respondents to choose those universal virtues they learned from hunting. The top three choices were, “inner peace, patience and humility.” Eaton believes that inner peace and humility are the foundation of religious and spiritual traditions across time and space.
Eaton insists that hunting is instinctive at least in boys who around the world start throwing rocks between the age of 4 and 5. His survey indicated over 90% of the men spontaneously had killed a small animal before the age of 10, compared to less than 20% of the female hunters.
“These are the same men who claimed that hunting had done more to open their hearts than any other life experience. Typically the boy cries as 8-year old Jimmy Carter did when he threw a rock and killed a robin. I consider it no mere coincidence that Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela both won the Nobel Peace Prize and both are avid hunters,” Eaton said.