Answer me a question:

How in the Sam Hill are we supposed to get young people involved in hunting if we then turn around and trash them when they don’t do it exactly the way we would do it?

Fourteen-year-old Madeline Hodges might well be asking that question right now. She bagged a deer during the early days of the Missouri archery season and caught holy hell for it.

It was a young deer. Quite small, too.

In fact, it was a fawn that hadn’t completely lost its spots.

Pictures of her with the fawn turned up on social media. Almost instantly, the blue-nosed Arbiters of All Things Proper in Whitetail Hunting came after her.

She killed the deer legally, but that didn’t satisfy her critics. From hundreds of miles away, protected by internet anonymity and suffused with keyboard courage, they fired indignant salvos at the young hunter:

The deer was too small!

The deer was too young!

The deer still had its spots!

The deer didn’t have trophy antlers! Heck, it didn’t have antlers at all!

A few keyboard warriors even accused Madeline of degrading hunting’s good image by killing a deer so young it might offend the vast, faceless public’s innate sense of goodness and propriety.

Gimme a break.

She’s a kid, for crying out loud! She had an opportunity to kill a deer, and she killed it!

She didn’t break any laws. Yes, the deer was young, but Missouri doesn’t prohibit killing young whitetails, spotted or otherwise.

That didn’t seem to matter to the Great and Mighty Hunters who, they’d be happy to brag, ONLY kill bucks 4 years or older, or “management does” that are past prime fawn-bearing age.

They, and only they, have been enlightened in the sacred science of Trophy Buck Management. They stand alone atop the pinnacle of hunting achievement, breathing rarefied air only they and their acolytes are qualified to inhale.

They’ll tell you they earned that qualification only after season after season of selfless food-plot management (“It’s for the deer, not for me!”), passing up shots at eight-pointer after eight-pointer that “need another year to grow,” and delivering trophy-management lectures to fellow barbershop biologists.

And, at the proverbial drop of a hat, they’ll go out of their collective way to shame anyone who strays off their sacred True Path to Deer-Hunting Nirvana.

Anyone.

Even a 14-year-old kid.

What are we allowing ourselves to become? Hunting should be a pleasant diversion from the bitter, divisive world we live in nowadays. People who hunt legally and ethically should be allowed to enjoy the pastime, even if it doesn’t meet some glorified ideal we’ve been programmed to embrace.

If we truly want youngsters to become lifelong hunters, we should let them have fun.

Live and let live, people. It’ll be good for everyone’s blood pressure.

Reach John McCoy at

johnmccoy@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1231 or follow

@GazMailOutdoors on Twitter.