Elliot proudly lines up 18 ducks after a day of hunting in Arkansas.
I received an email back in January from Jordan Brown of CA, who is a reporter for the Palo Alto High School Voice online publication. Their sports magazine recently published a feature article about PAHS students who hunt. He thought the story might be interesting to me or something I would like to post on my site. Today, I would like to do just that....
Palo Alto High School sophomores Elliot Beckstrom, Cory Valenti and Alex Zarem are not your typical athletes. They are not exempt from P.E. for their sport and they do not have coaches. They do not belong to a team; their only uniform is their camouflage and they do not have an opponent. They are hunters.
Beckstrom, Valenti and Zarem discovered the Southern-dominated sport through friends and family. They hunt as often as they can, including occasional after-school trips to nearby hunting areas. Traveling as far as Canada and Georgia to hunt better game, they are like any other Paly athletes; they are incredibly committed to their sport.
For Beckstrom, Valenti and Zarem hunting is more than a sport, it is a tradition. Originally a means of survival, hunting has evolved into a sport and a passion passed down from generation to generation. The appeal of the outdoors reels young people to the sport.
For Zarem and Valenti, their families originally introduced them to the sport. Zarem's father hunts and took him to get his hunting license when he was eight years old. Valenti first started hunting at age 12 and grew up in a family where the sport has always been prevalent.
"The tradition of hunting is something that is passed down," Valenti said. "People in America have always hunted the same animals that we hunt now. It's cool to know that it's been passed down through the centuries. Also, almost my whole family has done it and so it is a good opportunity to have something in common with my family and extended family."
One of the most common ways to get involved in the sport is through family tradition. Valenti's family is originally from the South, where hunting is much more common. Because of this family history, Valenti grew up with constant exposure to hunting. However, without the introduction to hunting through family, the sport is often seen as a more non-mainstream activity, and young people are often never exposed to it.
Around Palo Alto, there are very few public lands in the area where hunting is legal. The restricted hunting options make it even more difficult for young people to get involved in the sport.
Although less common, there are ways to get involved with hunting in California without a hunting family. Beckstrom is the only one in his family that hunts. Jordan Middle School industrial technology teacher, Hal Roach first introduced Beckstrom to the sport when he was 13 years old after recognizing potential for interest in the sport.
"Elliot was into paint balling and I was talking to him one day about how much he enjoyed shooting and things just moved from there," Roach said. "I think he was interested, as he was an avid fisherman before taking a hunter safety class."
Beckstrom's love for the sport grew despite the lack of family ties.
"Hunting is one of the oldest activities humans have exercised," Beckstrom said. "It is usually passed from father to his children and it's a family oriented activity. In most cases the whole family hunts, there are very few cases, like me, where I am the only hunter in my entire family."
According to Beckstom, Valenti and Zarem, the best part of hunting is being outside and close to nature. Although there is no winner or loser and no score is kept, hunting is just as much a sport as anything else.
"It's a very different sport," Beckstrom said. "It's less competition and more physical contact. It's about being outside and keeping the tradition of hunting."
Hunting is a painstaking sport, with a long process of preparation for all types of game.....
Elliot wields his gun and a recently hunted bird while out hunting in the Baylands near Palo Alto.