BRIDGEPORT — Christopher Younk wasn’t yet 2 years old when he went on his first hunting/camping trip with his family.
On Dec. 12, Christopher, now 10, showed the first- through fifth-grade classes at Luckiamute Valley Charter School photos of that first trip and many others via a slideshow during a presentation.
In the pictures of his first trip, he toddled around in the snow blanketing his family’s Eastern Oregon campsite in a red plaid jacket and sat close to the fire with his father. Other photos feature him drying off by the camp stove after playing in the snow.
“He’s still using a sippy cup,” said his dad Michael Younk, to laughter from Christopher’s schoolmates.
He was 4 when he shot his first grouse — an accomplishment his father remembers more about than Christopher does.
“Every time we would spot grouse, he couldn’t get out of the truck fast enough to shoot, so he got mad,” Michael Younk said. “Finally, he got out of the truck faster, and he got that grouse.”
Six years later, Christopher is something of an expert at hunting and tracking animals — and doing it with respect for the animals and their habitats.
Christopher shared that philosophy, learned from his father, with the students at the Bridgeport campus. Along with the slideshow, Christopher brought animal hides, shed elk and deer antlers, and grouse feathers.
“I want them to learn to do it the right way,” he said, “so they don’t shoot an animal in the stomach and just let it sit there and die.”
That outlook begins with reverence for the land, the animals, history of the region his family hunts — and leaving their hunting grounds cleaner than when they arrived, Christopher said. Oh, and finishing your homework along the way.
“Do you like doing homework?” Michael Younk asks as he helped Christopher with his presentation.
“No,” Christopher said. He paused a second and added: “But you have to do your homework if you want to go on trips like this. If you don’t do your homework and keep not doing it, then the school won’t let you go on these trips.”
Christopher said while tracking animals, he and his father hike for miles.
Sometimes they find and pick up what other people left behind — and other times they discover artifacts from a time long gone by.
He showed the school a photo in which he’s posing outside an old log cabin, the crumbling remains of a former homestead in their hunting grounds in Wallowa County.
“Here’s an old log cabin that we found when we were hiking up in the mountains. We took some pictures by it. There’s nothing in it, but it’s cool to look at,” Christopher said. “If you find a log cabin that is still standing up, but there’s no one living in it, other people shoot them up, but we don’t do that because we want to respect the property.”
Christopher’s slideshow and presentation included everything from the ample camping supplies his family takes on trips to the guns he uses to how they field dress an animal and haul it back to camp after killing it.
Some of those photos were met with gasps from his schoolmates, but Christopher took it all in stride.
He calls the killing and field dressing part of his excursions harvesting, not hunting.
Michael Younk said what the family kills on these trips is more than 90 percent of the meat they eat.
“I believe every child ought to have the opportunity to go do that,” he said. “It’s not about killing. It’s about harvesting your food for the next winter.”
LVCS Executive Director Christy Wilkins thanked Christopher and Michael for telling the students about their family excursions and the lessons Christopher learns.
“We love to bring the outdoors in,” she said. “I just really appreciate you being willing to take your time to bring this experience to the classroom.”
Michael Younk said he is eager to go back out with his son.
“I thoroughly enjoy teaching him something that he can use the rest of his life,” he said.