Many of us can still remember shooting our first rabbit or catching our first bluegill. I recall the feeling of sneaking under under a bridge to shoot a pigeon, as well as the time I accidentally hooked my grandpa’s ear while bass fishing.
But, could we be over-emphasizing success and rushing kids into hunting big game too early? Shouldn’t our focus be to build confident, determined kids that have an appreciation and maybe even a passion for the outdoors?
A Fixation With Success
Today, the most common approach for getting kids to love the outdoors seems to be ensuring success. By getting kids to catch a fish or harvest an animal, we hope they will feel that same rush of emotions that we have fallen in love with.
But, it’s the context surrounding that success that is so rewarding, not necessarily the result. The rush should come from the hours we have put in developing our craft and the time we have spent thinking about what it will be like to finally hold a big fish or a set of big antlers.
Recently I went bass fishing with my sister, her husband, and my nephews Jack and Collin. I let the boys cast the whole time, and eventually the lures were getting far enough from the boat that I thought we might not get skunked.
Jack turned to me and said, “I thought we were going to catch more.” I told him, “That’s fishing Jack. I’ve been on a lot of good fishing trips where I didn’t catch anything.” If we had caught fish after fish it would have been more exciting, but the boys likely wouldn’t have seen the bigger picture. Failing teaches lessons that I don’t believe success covers.
Which develops better skills: passing a rod to a kid with a fish already on the line, or letting them struggle to cast far enough for a few trips before finally catching a bluegill? Which option makes them think things should be handed to them and which one leads to self-confidence and a determination to succeed?
We don’t want kids to think our sports amount to just killing animals, the way it is often framed by antis. As a hunter, I experience success and failure depending on how well I prepare and perform (of course, a little luck doesn’t hurt!)
We should focus on having kids take part in the whole process and understand that success is anything but guaranteed.
Rushing Kids To Hunt Big Game Too Early
As a bow tech in Utah, I often meet parents wanting to increase the poundage on their kid’s bows to clear the threshold for mule deer hunting. But, what’s the rush to hunt big game?
What I loved about hunting when I was younger was getting away from teachers and parents telling me what to do. I loved the unforeseeable outcome of the hunt and the challenge to outwit the game.
Today, we escape bosses and spouses to hunt larger, more demanding species, but the feeling of freedom and solitude in the woods is the same. That’s what I want my nephews to experience. I want to give them the opportunity to overcome obstacles through hunting and come to have a better understanding of the outdoors and what it takes to succeed.
The species should meet a kid where they are at. I don’t believe an eight-year-old can reasonably piece together a deer hunt without quite a bit of hand holding. But they can run around the backyard shooting rabbits and squirrels. Those hunts give kids the maximum amount of responsibility and decision making power.
Additionally, if a young kid shoots a big buck, will he ever enjoy shooting pigeons under a bridge? If a kid catches a marlin, will she get excited about catching a ten-pound carp?
Taking small steps to bigger game and more challenging hunts allows kids to learn more about hunting as well as themselves. In my opinion, when a kid gets excited about a hunt, puts in effort, and overcomes obstacles, that’s a success.
It’s Really About The Moments
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
– Henry David Thoreau
I once spent a few days guiding a father and his seventh-grade son fishing for salmon in Alaska. It was clear the kid wasn’t mature enough to comprehend that the trip represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people. Instead, he fixated on catching one salmon and proving himself to his dad. Unfortunately, the dad didn’t do much to get away from that fixed mindset of success.
What happens when they return home and the kid doesn’t want to go catch bluegill in the quarry because he won’t receive the same praises as for a 40-pound king salmon? Does it really build a love of fishing, self discipline or humility to have a paid guide hold your hand throughout the process?
By comparison, that
same summer I guided a 70-year-old man and his 40-year-old son. When I stood in
the river with the son he would say, “I just really want my dad to catch
one.” And, when I walked over to his father at the other end of the bend
he would tell me, “I’m really glad to see he’s having a good time.”
These were two guys that understood it wasn’t the fish they were after. They
wanted each other to the enjoy experience and weren’t fixated on their own
So, don’t worry so much about success or big game. Focus on providing an example of dedication and respect for the outdoors. You either get bit by the bug or you don’t. Some kids are wired to love the sport and some are not.
Fishing and hunting provide an opportunity to challenge kids and make them learn valuable lessons. It would be a shame to miss those opportunities by focusing too much on antlers and scales.
We are all wounded. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. The wounds remain. In time, the mind covers these wounds with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But, it never disappears; it is never gone. Sometimes, you’ll have good days, and in the midst of silent moments, it hits you: everything. It hurts to talk, to love, to remain above water.
Simply existing is difficult. No one cares; no one wants to hear about the days you spend lying in your bed, hoping to never wake up. You wish you could be anywhere or even in a time other than now.
“I love that which is invariably beautiful. Everything is beautiful where trout lie.”
We all have our ways of coping with these wounds. We have
our own acts of survival; our own ways of staying alive, even when life isn’t
life anymore. Your soul knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to
silence the mind.
Silence. The disappearance of white noise and chatter; the disappearance of people. Bubbling water, flowing from the snow melt, down the river and over stream beds of smoothed pebbles. Nothing but you and the reverie of what lies ahead.
I love that which is invariably beautiful. Everything is beautiful where trout lie. I hate that which is invariably ugly: people, television, iPads, and assorted social stigmas that come with living in a modern society. Doctors prescribing you a new prescription to dull your senses; to numb what you hope to one day feel.
In a world where most people spend their lives doing things they hate, my escape is the endless source of solitude. On the water, wading in a stream, or strolling through woods, I find solitude without loneliness. I fish because I love to; because fish do not lie; they cannot be bribed or impressed by power, but respond to humility. They respond to a patience only true fishermen know.
Patience. It is something I know. Mastering the art of fishing takes time. Taking that experience and portraying it on canvas takes even more time. But why? Anyone can paint a fish but where there is no emotion, it is just that: a picture of a fish. Channeling that feeling of excitement, the sweet fragrance of evergreen trees, or the repetitive song of a marsh wren into a visual work of art requires total immersion into the moment.
When I paint a fish, I’m painting the moment; I’m reminding myself that this is my refuge. A refuge where my lesions of life can heal; where my mind can drift like the dry fly on the Gros Ventre River. You watch your line or the reflection dancing and nothing more; somehow, you unconsciously grasp the sweet scent of summer, the memory of mountain bluebirds singing, and the wind gently sweeping the tinge of hair on your face. This is the calm; this is the silence your soul mediates with your mind.
“Trout… what fly fishermen are after. But are they really? Maybe it is the attainable sensation of hope that the next trout will be bigger, prettier, a challenge.”
Calm. At ease. I sit down and close my eyes, taking myself
back to a western seclusion. It’s like I’m sitting there on an exposed rock,
watching the sunset dance on cottonwood leaves. The towering Teton Mountains
are behind me. I’m watching time stroll by, sweeping in the last of the snowmelt.
Little did I know that this is where trout lie.
Trout… what fly fishermen are after. But are they really? Maybe it is the attainable sensation of hope that the next trout will be bigger, prettier, a challenge.
Me? I borrowed my husband’s rod, practicing the dance between rod, line, and water. Gently coaxing the fly back and forth then sorting the landing among the ripples, rocks, and current. I pick it up as it makes it way down river, ready to try again. Same movements, easing the line like I’m painting in plein aire.
I’m aiming at this swirl in the river, lessening the chance of a bite. I don’t care. I’m not fishing, or at least I didn’t think so.
I was immersed into the meditation of fly fishing; the flouncing elegance of casting and presenting my fly.
I start to bring in my line as it sweeps down river, but something happened. Something is different. My line is weighted. Then it moves upriver, unnaturally against the current.
My hands stay steady but my mind is still processing the thought that I have a trout on the end of the line.
How? Why? I wasn’t ready for a fish.
This uncontrollable feeling of pure excitement swept over me, and I couldn’t help but yell, “Holy Moly! I caught a trout!”
I still wasn’t sure if what I said was true. I reeled and hand-lined the trout in. Oh, indeed, it was a trout. It was a fine-spotted Snake River cutthroat.
I somehow caught a trout that fishermen go years trying to obtain but yet, always eluded.
“Pain is a part of life. Sometimes, it’s a big part. And sometimes, it’s as small as a nymph. But either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep waters, the great catch.”
In my excitement, I felt this peace overcome me. Contradictory, I know. I wasn’t after the trout. My soul knew the existence of what was there; a sense of healing and a chance to release.
All of this happened so fast, but my consciousness took in every millisecond, hyper-vigilant on my surroundings and emotions. I honestly could not process the disbelief and how an incredible moment was presented on my road to healing.
I’ve learned to control my outward emotions, but inside, I was weeping. I needed this. I looked down at this trout. It’s beautiful colors and spots matching the golden light that backlit my excitement.
Oh, how this trout unknowingly helped me; how the simple act of fishing helped me. I was releasing what pain and confusion my mind had warped into suffering. I gently supported the trout for it’s release.
For the release wasn’t just putting the fish back in the water. It was free; but was I? I had to let go. In doing so, I started to release the hurt. I released the fear. I started to heal. I have refused to entertain the old pain.
Pain is a part of life. Sometimes, it’s a big part. And sometimes, it’s as small as a nymph. But either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep waters, the great catch.
Pain does two things: it teaches you; it tells you that you’re alive. Then the reality of it drifts away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser. Sometimes, it leaves you stronger. That strength is hidden in the depths of weakness and despair. Either way, pain leaves its mark and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.
So take that rod, find water, and cast. You just might let something go.
And that’s what makes moments outdoors so special… sharing them with friends and family.
Thank you to those who read and watch our content and purchase and wear our apparel. We hope you have a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and a Happy New year. We hope 2019 is your best yet, and remember… where the moments happen…. we’ll meet you there… we’ll see you next year.