“I’m freezing, I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m hot, I want to go home, my feet hurt, I’m bored, etc.” We have heard these comments many times while taking youngsters hunting, fishing, and camping. While such challenges our patience, our response should be simple; just keep at it. Positive reinforcement during these times will provide them with knowledge and skills for a lifetime. Why is this topic worthy of an entire page in a magazine? Because those kids are the future of what we are so diligently working towards now: to strengthen conservation efforts, and to preserve our individual human rights as hunters and outdoorsmen. We see, sometimes on a daily basis, opposition to our rights, and sometimes multi-million dollar efforts to disrupt our rights by those who do not understand the importance of what we do. That is why we must make an impact with our individual family members first. If we strengthen the family and raise them in the way of true conservationism, we will be on the path to maintaining and strengthening our rights. That is my soapbox speech; get on board and further the reach of conservation while you still can.
One season my brother, Brandon, and I had turkey tags. So, we loaded our car and headed out at 4:00 a.m. to our honey hole. However, this time we brought Brandon’s son, Braden, along. I think he was four or five at the time, and this was his first hunt. His dad is a big-time hunter and Braden had hunting in his blood. He always wanted to go on previous hunts but was too young. He was finally old enough that year. We arrived at our spot and hiked up the trail in the dark to set up our decoys. Unfortunately, the birds did not cooperate and the morning was very slow. Luckily I had my video camera, so when it was slow I looked back to see Braden asleep on my brother’s chest. I was able to capture the moment on film, and even though we were not successful in filling our tags that experience alone made for a successful day.
We make a yearly Canadian trip to chase Canadian geese and ducks. We live in Utah and always drive so it takes us around 18 hours. Typically we have four to five drivers, which enables us to make the trip without stops. Last year we brought Cole, my oldest nephew, along for his first trip across the border. Although he could not help us with the driving, he did get some pretty good sleep! Such ultimately was beneficial because we awoke at 4:00 a.m. the next six days. He did really well getting up and helping with the decoys the first few days, but as the week progressed we often found him sleeping in his blind or in the truck. One particularly memorable from that hunt occurred when a big flock of geese flew in close to our blind. We all jumped up and started shooting. Geese were dropping everywhere! Then a single green-headed mallard flew in amongst all the geese. Suddenly a single shot rang out and that mallard dropped. I yelled, “Who shot that duck?” Cole, with a huge smile on his face, replied, “I did!” He was so proud to have accomplished that feat by himself. We all laughed and that provided the most memorable moment of that hunt. During that hunt, Cole also learned much about the management of geese and how they can affect the farmer’s crops in the region. He also learned a valuable lesson about service when we were able to visit a local food bank and donate our processed meat to them.
My dad, brothers, and I built a boat together to fish the Teton River where my dad once guided. Previously we often borrowed someone else’s boat, but we finally put in the time and effort to build our own, and it actually floated! The next summer my brother and I took it out for a test run to make sure it was still working. We decided to take his two kids and the bow fishing setup along with us. His boys were young but they were way excited to go out with us on the new boat their dad helped build. We moved around the local lake for some time, which gave us many opportunities to shoot at carp. It was our first time trying bow fishing, so we struggled. We ended up getting several, but the highlight was having the kids net the fish. They loved it and wanted to pictures with every new fish.
Experiences like these are so impactful because they provide opportunities to teach our children by example. The fact that we didn’t get a turkey hunting with Braden, or that Cole shot his first duck all by himself, or that Max and Griffin were able to net and take pictures with fish were only a small part of the big picture. More importantly, these experiences offer us an opportunity to be a part of nature and to enjoy all that it has to offer. To spend meaningful, quality time with family is so much more meaningful. To learn the true meaning of conservation and sportsmanship on a first-hand basis, and to learn the importance of respect for all animals is so important. Such will keep the sport strong and healthy for years to come. These are the things we should strive for as outdoorsmen. These experiences will ensure that our legacy will live on with the next generation.