There’s a saying we like to use around our house that goes “Teach your child to hunt and you’ll never have to hunt for your child”. I’ve never been able to find out who penned that phrase, but in our family it has proven to be true. Hunting and fishing have been a priority from day one in our marriage. When my husband proposed to me, I said yes, and then his next words to me were “But don’t ever try to stop me from going hunting or fishing!” Whoa! I knew where I stood right from the start!
When we started having children, they were used to seeing their father pack up for hunting trips. It was a different atmosphere in the house then. You could feel his excitement and he was distracted, already in a different place before he had even left us. So as soon as they were old enough the kids were eager to go along on the trips with their dad and he was happy to bring them along. It was a continuation of a tradition his father had carried on with him, just as his grandfather before him. At first they didn’t hunt. They weren’t even old enough to be in firearms safety class. So my husband wisely just let them have fun out in the field. The first trip he took them on was always a two or three day duck or goose hunting trip around the age of 8-10. They had to be quiet first thing in the morning in the duck or goose blinds which was exciting for them, but later in the morning he would let them run off steam, running around in the field with the dogs. They explored and discovered critters and got good and dirty. They always got to go out to dinner at a grown-up restaurant and maybe even breakfast the next morning, coffee included. When he thought they were ready, he would take them to sit with him in the deer stand, around the age of 11.
Once they were old enough to take the firearm safety class, they already knew all they needed to know and it was a mere formality. When my youngest son was taking the class, an instructor jokingly remarked that he could just as well let Dan teach the class. Finally the time arrived for each one of them when they could go on their first hunt. It is a rite of passage in our family and it marks the beginning of adulthood. It is a matter of pride to be able participate in providing for the family. And there is always a friendly competition going on for first buck and biggest buck, and of course, we have trophies on the walls of our house. I don’t understand why a spouse would refuse to allow a man to hang a buck trophy on the wall. It is something they work hard for and is a source of great pride. The home is not just for a woman to feel comfortable in; it is for a community of people to enjoy together.
For weeks ahead of the opener of deer hunting, it is the main topic of conversation around the house. I can’t imagine anything else that could bring a father and his sons together more so than this experience. Even through what for most people is the toughest teen years, there has never been a rebellious period with our boys. They have never acted out, showed disrespect, or found themselves in trouble with the law. They work hard and they play hard, and they are fun to be around. Our daughter also enjoys hunting and fishing, but she is a new mother now, and for the time being is not as involved in it as she used to be. However, her son Jack is learning to love going out in the boat with us already and I’m confident that his grandpa will have him fishing in no time. Two of the boys are also married with young children and fortunately, their spouses understand and support the ‘passion’. I know they look forward to passing on the tradition to their children as well. It is a way of life that gets into your blood, stays with you for life and becomes generational.
Hunting and fishing is part of the independent spirit that started this country, and it should remain ingrained in our family traditions. Outdoor sportsmen are not stupid, shiftless people with nothing better to do. We have jobs; we are well-educated, successful in our work life – all-around productive members of our community. But when we have time off, this is what we do. And we do it with respect. No animal is ever allowed to suffer, and whatever we harvest, we eat. We respect the environment by leaving it as we found it. Outdoor sportsmen and women spend a lot of money on licenses and stamps, which helps fund conservation projects. This is good for everyone, whether they hunt and fish or just like to enjoy the outdoors.
Ok, stepping off of my soapbox for now. I'll just share my favorite photo of my hubby and youngest daughter. This was a "Take your Dad fishing" Father's Day celebration. This is how we do it!