There have been volumes written and even more spoken about the positive merits of introducing children to our outdoor traditions. But aren’t we missing something? We seem to have forgotten about the opposite end of the cycle of life?
He worked hard to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. He bought you books and tried to provide for your every need. He gave you your first gun and took you hunting whenever he could. He believed in the adage “Take your kids hunting and you won’t be hunting your kids.” But most of all he believed in you! Even when there were times you thought he didn’t.
That was years ago, now it’s your turn to repay the favors, if you still can. I could be talking about your dad, but it could also be anyone who has mentored you and provided the opportunity to enjoy hunting or any outdoor pursuit. There are also granddads, uncles and family friends who may fit this mold. We owe them a lot and it may be time to start paying them back.
Indiana’s hunting seasons are in full swing so now is the time to enjoy our traditional consumptive activities from game birds to large and small game.
Make sure to have the appropriate licenses. The nice thing is even if you do go just once funds generated from the sale of hunting licenses go directly towards preserving and protecting all forms of wildlife, both game as well as non-game species.
Why should we take our dad hunting? Because spending time outdoors together keeps you involved in each other’s lives. Life is way too short to let that opportunity pass. The benefit of a healthier and personally rewarding outdoor lifestyle is also a good reason to enjoy our hunting heritage.
There are a few things to consider before hunting with your father or anyone else playing in the fourth quarter of life. The most obvious consideration is health and abilities. Although he may still be larger than life to you, age and gravity hasn’t done him any favors. Hunting can be physically demanding and as he gets older we must be aware of his limitations. Although a 65 year old man may still be capable of climbing steep ridges or ascending a well-placed tree stand, he may not want to. Choose your outing wisely.
A little planning is important. Include him and everyone else who may be joining you in the process. Whether it’s an early morning trip looking for fox squirrels or an afternoon sitting in a deer blind, let dad help. This way he’ll have some time to make preparations for body and soul. Let’s face it, dad isn’t as young as he used to be and if he’s like me, he probably has a hard time admitting it!
And for God’s sake, don’t ever treat hunting as a competitive sport. You should be at a point in your life where just being out there together is sufficient gratification regardless of birds, bushy-tails or bag limits.
Your dad has put you first when you were growing up, and probably still does, so whenever you can, put him in the best position. There can be nothing more rewarding than placing him in the location most likely to produce a few squirrels or in the best spot to take the buck. In the excitement of the moment forget yourself and remember all the times he worked hard to put you first.
Sit back and take in all the joy and reverence of the experience. It may be a fleeting moment but you can be assured it will be etched in time for both of you.
Unfortunately, too many times in today’s society, the act of sharing has become a rare gift and should not be taken lightly. Taking your dad hunting is an opportunity that will not always be there. I know, I lost my father in 2004 and not one single day has passed that I haven’t thought of him and of all the favors I never had the chance to repay. Something I will always regret. Yet each fall, as the air turns cold and the leaves begin their annual descent to the ground, I relive all those childhood hunts with my dad.
Don’t let his time slip away from you either. The more you take advantage of these opportunities the more stories you’ll be able to share with your kids when they come to you years from now and say “Hey dad, let’s go hunting!”