By the time I was old enough to say the word “fish,” my Dad was taking me fishing with him (yes, that’s us in the picture above).
And, those trips with Dad turned out to be much more than fishing lessons.
Fishing lessons = life lessons
Fishing was always something I considered fun. I loved the challenge of casting in just the right spot. I loved the feel of that first tug on the line. And, of course, who doesn’t love reeling in fish?
As I’ve gotten older, those memories of going fishing as a kid with my Dad have become even more special. That time with Dad doing a fun activity has impacted me in profound ways.
Lesson #1: Good things don’t always come to those who wait
It’s no secret that fishing is a great way of learning patience. As a kid, if that bobber didn’t go under soon after I casted, I wanted to throw to another spot! Dad would tell me to be patient and just wait.
Of course, many times, my patience paid off and the fish would bite. But, I learned something else that was maybe even more important than patience.
Sometimes, it didn’t matter that we had a great fishing spot (no, I’m not telling you where). It didn’t matter what bait we were using. And it didn’t matter how long I waited. The fish just weren’t going to bite.
I loved going to the spot my Dad and I used to fish (no, I’m still not telling you where). There were just so many places along that creek bank to catch fish.
As I got older and graduated from the red and white round bobber (I still love it though), I would cast my lure to what looked like the perfect spot. Sometimes I’d catch fish, and of course, sometimes I wouldn’t.
But, there just always seemed like a better place ahead to try.
So, I walked a few steps and casted. Then I walked a few more and casted. Before long, I’d look back and realize that I had wandered far from where I first started. I was lost in the moment and couldn’t believe how far I’d gone.
I have learned that life provides you with many opportunities to “drift” in a similar way. Something catches your attention and you chase it. After all, it seems like such a great opportunity. Now, let me say here that I’m all about dreaming big and giving things your all. But, sometimes we are prone to chasing dreams at all costs. We sacrifice precious time with family and friends for the sake things that leave us empty in the end.
I’m learning that I don’t want to be that guy.
I’ve learned you have to be intentional about making sure you don’t drift too far from where you should be. You have to surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth about yourself, good or bad. And, you have to be willing to heed wise advice, even when it’s what you don’t want to hear. In doing so, you can prevent yourself from drifting too far from where you should be and save yourself a lot of heartache and from hurting those you love.
Going fishing with Dad is still helping me learn these lessons many years later.
Lesson #3: When you catch a big one… celebrate!
Catching fish is fun, no matter what size the fish. But, I’d be lying if I said catching a big fish isn’t just a little more fun! It’s amazing how just about anyone can muster up a big smile after they reel in a heavyweight. It makes the fun just a little more fun to celebrate.
Life gives us many reasons to be sad or upset. After all, bad things happen to good people. But, good things also happen to good people. So, just like when you catch a big fish, be sure to celebrate the good times in life!
Call me a neat freak or obsessive compulsive, but I hate a messy tackle box. The fishing supplies have to be organized.
The night before I knew we were going fishing, I would always be certain that all my fish hooks, fishing lures and supplies were neatly tucked away in their designated compartment. (Of course, after a day of fishing, they were right back to being unorganized!)
But, as orderly as I wanted things, I learned there’s one thing a neat tackle box can’t help you with… and that’s not having enough of the lure you need for that fishing trip.
Sometimes on a particular day, the fish just like what they like and nothing else. Hopefully, they like what you have in your tackle box. And, hopefully you have enough of it!
Don’t get me wrong, this is not about neat people being better than messy people. But, I’ve learned that doing your due diligence ahead of time is better than being unprepared.
This applies to just about anything. Of course, you can’t predict the future, and sometimes unexpected things can happen no matter how much you prepare. But, just like with fishing, be as prepared as you can possibly be in all situations. Something BIG just might happen!
Lesson #5: Control what you can control
When I was first learning to fish with Dad, I started with live bait and a fishing bobber. I would watch the bobber intently, hoping to see just the slightest movement or ripple in the water.
But, I am a competitor at heart, and sometimes I would sneak a peek over at my Dad’s bobber. It seemed that every time I did that, I would look back and mine would be nowhere to be found, with a fish on the line! (I guess if the fish aren’t biting, this is a viable strategy. But, I digress).
It’s easy for us to get distracted sometimes. We worry about what others are doing. We worry what they think of us. And, we try to fix others and make them who we think they should be. The problem is that when we do that, we put our focus on things we can’t control.
As I get older, I am learning that I can do very little to change other people. I can’t become exactly like someone else. God made one of me (and one of you). And, while it’s great to have role models and aspire to be strong in areas that others are, we must understand that we are uniquely made. We are custom designed. There will never be another one exactly like us.
So, don’t excuse your weaknesses. Work on them. But, also work to become better at your strengths. You will make much more progress on you than you ever will by trying to change others. And, who knows, you might inspire someone else to be a better them!
Don’t let the lessons end
With all the life lessons I’ve learned from fishing lessons with my Dad, it would be a shame to keep them all to myself. I am inspired to use teachable moments like these in the outdoors to impact the lives of my kids as well. I hope you do the same.
So, whether you hunt, fish or just love being in the outdoors, there are so many great lessons to be learned in the simplicity and wonder of the outdoors.
Deer dogging has been around for many years, and deer hunting with dogs is a tradition in my family that has been passed down from generation to generation.
From a passion to a business
I started White Water Kennels, in Elba, Alabama, in 2014. In the beginning, it was simply a name for my personal hunting dogs kennel. But, over the next several years, it grew into a well-organized group with several members in several states. We take our love for hunting with hounds very personal. We try to develop a dog through a process of training techniques, with very strict guidelines.
A dog is born with a natural instinct to use its nose and to hunt. We simply help the dog reach it’s full potential. And, while there is no perfect dog, we train deer dogs to be the very best they can be. We take pride in what we do and pour countless hours, days, weeks and months into training dogs to become well-developed and experienced hunting and running machines.
Our decision making is based on careful studying of our packs. We have what we call brood males and females that we breed according to what we are wanting to gain in the packs. For instance, if we are wanting to add more trail dogs, then we have certain dogs we breed for that. The same holds true for running dogs.
When puppies are born and ready to train, we put them through a series of training techniques that we developed to see what each dog has to offer. In addition, we determine what areas we need to spend the most time in correcting shortcomings.
The way we look at is, a dog is only as good as it’s owner. The time you spend training a dog will show, as well as the time that is not spent. Because laws are getting very strict in our area on dog hunters, we collar break, whistle break and horn break every dog we produce to a guarantee.
Investing in the dogs = memories waiting to be made
I enjoy watching how well all the guys work together for the benefit of the kennel and the work each one puts in to make White Water Kennels the best it can be. We love each other, the hours spent together, the memories made, and watching young hounds develop and progress through our training techniques.
I strongly encourage anyone who has never hunted with hounds to try it. And, when you do, I believe you’ll feel the thrill that we do every time we dump the boxes. To us, it isn’t about the kill. It’s about the sound of the hound and the race between the dogs and the game. Its’ in our blood, and we’ll love hunting with dogs till the day we die.
This barefoot buck was a moment that I would have never have imagined I would ever experienced in my lifetime.
(Not) Growing up in the outdoors
For people who know me, they know how unconventional my outdoor story is. Growing up, my parents did not raise me hunting or fishing, and being involved in the outdoors wasn’t something I knew much about. In fact, all my life I was classified as my family’s “girly girl.” I was a ballerina, then a cheerleader, and on the dance team in middle-school. Oh, and I absolutely loved fixing my hair and dabbling in makeup.
Luckily for my poor dad, who has a wife and FOUR daughters, I played basketball, mainly because, against my mom’s wishes, he convinced me to at the age of eight (fortunately, I truly loved it and stuck with it every year until I graduated).
Being called “girly” all my life and not being introduced to the outdoors definitely forced me to label myself as “unworthy” of ever trying to fish or hunt. So, I never did. I had several friends growing up that hunted, but most of them were pretty unethical and egotistical. There were many disheartening moments I had witnessed because of them, and unfortunately, it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth toward the outdoor industry. I started to hate seeing photos of successful hunts and fishing catches. I unfollowed people on social media that expressed their love for hunting. And, I even blocked hunting pages so Instagram’s algorithms would get the point.
But luckily for me, I met someone who was patient enough to challenge my reasoning for hating outdoor sports and the so-called conservationists. And after I realized that I did not have any solid answers for him, I figured out that the reason I did not “like” hunting was because I did not understand it… not even a little bit.
As time went on, Cody finally convinced me to at least try it. So, I did… and I have been hooked ever since!
And just when I thought hunting could not get any better than what I had experienced over the last year and a half, I got to experience this incredible N1 moment.
I had sat in this same spot for two weeks straight. I watched and passed over 100 deer in the thirteen days that I hunted this area. The majority of them were does, but I did have the opportunity to watch several small bucks chase during my hunts. I was starting to get discouraged. So, I mentioned to Cody that I may need to try a new spot if things didn’t start picking up.
Instead of encouraging me to try a different spot, Cody decided to come with me to the same spot, once again.
Big buck and barefoot stealth
We sat there, as usual, and watched several does graze and play, and then the occasional spike or young buck that would run them off. But shortly after we got settled, Cody said, “oh my gosh, big buck! Big buck, Alyssa!” He says this same phrase, A LOT. He loves to get me excited only to tell me that he was “just kidding.” So, naturally, I didn’t believe him. But when I was rolling my eyes at him, I spotted what he had already seen… a beautiful eight point that we had watched in this field the previous year. In fact, it was the same buck that Cody has missed in the previous year (just saying ?).
Anyway, the buck was well over 300 yards away. But that wasn’t going to discourage us from doing our best to get a shot on him. We quickly grabbed our guns, ditched out spot, and made our way to the wood line so that we could walk through the trees until we were close enough for an ethical shot. Cody insisted that we take our shoes off to be quiet, and I was too in shock to argue with him, so we made the 240-yard trek barefooted.
Once we got within 60 yards, Cody decided that we didn’t need to test our luck, so we didn’t go any further.
As both of us were trembling all over and praying to the Lord (not even exaggerating), Cody allowed me to prop my gun on his shoulder so I didn’t have to free-hand my shot. I swear, it didn’t make it any easier. The adrenaline was rushing through my body and I couldn’t quit shaking to save my life. It took me over ten minutes to shoot the deer, and because of the anxiety during the moment, it felt like it was taking a stinking hour for me to get steady and make the shot.
Finally, the buck forced me to pull the trigger. He looked up at a snorting doe that was down wind from us, and was just about to take off running when I got the guts to pull the trigger.
The N1 Moment – The Barefoot Buck Goes Down
He ran, which was super hard to watch because that left me wondering if my shot was accurate and fatal. But instead of worrying, I hit my knees and cried. I was so thankful, so excited, so anxious, and so completely overwhelmed. But mostly, I realized how rare and unforgettable this moment was and how lucky I was to experience it with my best friend.
We both sat there smiling, shaking, and laughing as we replayed the whole thing over and over. After we let some time pass, Cody decided it was okay for us to go look for some blood… which we never recovered. After frantically searching the area for just a single drop of blood or a strand of hair, and coming up with NOTHING, we decided to just move on to where we last saw him in the wood line.
Once we got there, there was no need to search any further… he was right there.
I can honestly say that moment was one of the best moments I have ever experienced; excitement, adrenaline, fear, and thankfulness… all N1.