A reoccurring topic you’ll see from me is getting kids out into the woods or water. It is absolutely necessary for the continuation of our sport and heritage as hunters. I feel very strongly about setting future generations up to enjoy the blessings I have been able to experience through hunting and fishing. Not only do I support various conservation/hunting organizations, vote, buy the appropriate licenses and pay other fees, but I do what I can to make sure that someone will actually be interested in these things after I’m gone. However, this weekend and a few weeks prior, I was reminded that maybe I’m a little selfish and take my kids hunting for my own benefit too.
I didn’t realize it at first but when I asked my youngest daughter if she wanted to go squirrel hunting her response played right into my own hand. The exuberant yes I received clearly brought tremendous joy to her but not so evident was the satisfaction her dad felt. That pride only grew as the weekend neared and she continued to speak of upcoming adventure. See, while she was jubilant for a trip to the woods I was reaping the all the benefits of instilling a lifestyle of hunting, the outdoors, and albeit extreme, self-preservation. I wanted to teach her to be confident and patient, along with the fact that if you want something you have to go out and work for it. These things were not for her immediate benefit, they were for mine. I was taking a lot of solace knowing I was doing the right things that a father needs to do to ensure the success of his child in the future. I suppose it could be looked at as a bit of paying it forward although technically I was getting paid for it now.
The morning of the hunt I was so proud when I woke her up before daylight with a gentle shake and put my finger over my lips giving her the universal “be quiet” so she didn’t wake her sister and she quietly, without further urging, slid out of bed with a smile. Wait a minute, I was proud? That is generally considered gratifying isn’t it? Who’s taking who squirrel hunting now? Not many would be so eager to be drug from a cozy bed, but again, if you want it you’ve got to go get it. From that point on the smile never left her face and I’m not sure she took a breath as we (or more so her) talked about shooting some squirrels. The morning was beautiful and that is something we both truly delighted in. Birds, falling nuts, and a few squirrels were making noise as we entered the woods. She was entertained but I was savoring the moment. Stingy, I know. How dare I offer up a chance to go squirrel hunting as a way to show my daughter that there is more to life than an iPad and loved every minute of the fact that she was buying it hook line and sinker? While we ultimately did not get any squirrels we amassed quite the collection of nuts and leaves. Most importantly, for my own personal benefit, I got to live the picture below. The sun was shining so brilliantly on my little hunter it was almost a shame I took so much satisfaction in that moment while all she got to do was spend some time in the woods with her dad.
I wasn’t done yet though. Youth weekend (allows kids to hunt deer with a firearm during the usual bow season) was upon us shortly thereafter and my oldest daughter was coaxed into thinking she wanted to go deer hunting. I practically had to beg her by asking just once if she wanted to go and felt greedy as I took so much pleasure that she gave in to my request. Again, before daylight she happily and quietly hopped out of bed to take our morning stand. Usually it’s a severe struggle to get this one to eat breakfast but not this morning. Darn it, there I go again, pushing healthy behaviors on her for my own benefit. “You’ve got to fuel your body if you expect to perform at your highest level” I told her, so this valuable lesson really made me feel bad as it apparently sunk in. Then the selfishness really hit home as we sat in the darkness excitedly whispering as to whether or not any unsuspecting deer would walk by. She was all too eager to be there with me while all I could think about was how awesome this was. Then when she curled up next to me for warmth and comfort I realized how bad a father I was for bringing her along just so I could have this juncture in my life. No deer were spotted but her enthusiasm was unwavering to give it another go that afternoon.
As we hiked to our afternoon spot we plotted as to what it would take to find some deer this time. I took her to what I thought would be a good perch for the evening and while she only lasted for about an hour before she was ready to move we managed to whisper and bond in ways only a child and father can in the wilderness. I’m sure she was totally aware of the relationship we were strengthening, or maybe she wasn’t, but I certainly was. Again, shame on me for dragging her out there on that gorgeous afternoon so we could spend some time together. Reluctantly I caved to her suggestion that we try a new location. As we silently crept through the woods we noticed things that we would have otherwise ignored. I angrily immersed myself in the wonder of introducing a child to hunting realizing that it was simply to propagate a historically significant part of life to a young mind knowing she was having such a great time. Eventually we stalked up to a group of 3 does and while shots were fired in all the excitement I’m not the least bit surprised none connected. But what happened next really disappointed me. She told me that this was “the best day ever”. How could I feel good about the fact that by forcing her to go hunting, she was all smiles, and felt that she had just experienced the climax of her short life? In reality she had actually given me the best day ever.
So I warn you parents out there or even those who may have the opportunity to take a youngster hunting, you are selfish and inconsiderate. By giving them that opportunity, enjoyment, valuable memories, and life lessons you are only thinking about yourself. Shame on you. Shame on me. Ya right. Grab those kids and improve both your lives. Good luck this fall!!!!!!