I LOVE sharing my passion for the outdoors with my family and seeing my son have some great first-time experiences, but there are those moments where the hunt is impeded, where whining is the order of the day, and where I am just ready to start a full-fledged dad-rant! So, how do you do it? How can you create awesome memories and raise your kids with a love of the outdoors without going insane? Well, I’m certainly still figuring it out, but here are five things I’ve learned that help everyone have a much better time. There will still be periods of frustration and “teachable moments” (translation: those times when you might just leave your whining son on the side of the mountain), but these ideas can help mitigate the worst of it.
So, I had now accepted I was not fully prepared physically or mentally for the rigors of western mountain hunting, but what was I to do? I still had years of research and practical experience telling me that extended cardio sessions only serve to break-down muscle tissue, that total body strength was better than balancing on a ball while holding a 5 lb. dumbbell in a strange pose, and the simple fact that I like being strong and didn’t want to go back to being lanky and weak (what can I say, my wife is now very attached to my big, squatting butt). Well, as is often the case, it seems the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I didn’t need to swear-off barbells and start running marathons, but I also didn’t need to just keep pushing for new PRs all the time.
So, let’s say you’re ready to head to Amazon or your local gun shop to pick up a pair of sights for your carry pistol of choice. Surprise…there are 9,000 different options in the night sight game, and for every three people in the room, you’ll get five opinions on “the only ones any person who doesn’t want their whole family to die would ever carry”…it’s one of the biggest debates in the pistol world, second only to Glock vs. All-Things-Not-Glock. Some are designed to be super quick, some are designed for more precision, one dot, two dot, three dot. And of course, laser sights and holographic red dots are becoming increasingly popular. But which option is best for YOU???
I just got back from a bear hunt where absolutely everything went wrong. Between getting eaten alive by mosquitoes the first evening (seriously, it was bad), and the moon being so obnoxiously bright that I couldn't sleep, it was already off to a rough start. Add to that the fact that I hiked and glassed multiple drainages, stared at countless prickly pear cacti brimming with perfectly ripe fruit that hordes of bears SHOULD be eating, and yet turned up absolutely zero wildlife. It was actually eerie...every other step I was walking through old elk, deer, antelope, and even some bear sign, but I never encountered a single fresh piece of evidence that any other living creature was currently in this part of the wilderness. It was as if aliens had come a year before and abducted every four-legged creature in this canyon, leaving only their dried and sun-baked poo as a reminder that they once roamed the landscape. Traditionally speaking, the hunt was an absolute failure.
We built our fire, ate some camp staples (all roasted over the open fire, of course), told a few hunting stories, and turned in for the night. Of course, the five year-old I was worried about most (who was spending his first night ever in a tent) fell fast asleep and stayed that way all night. Then, just as I was drifting off for the first time, I awoke to, "Dad! Dad, wake up...do you hear that? Something is breathing outside our tent!!!" Somewhat delirious, I popped my head up and listened closely...sure enough, there was a steady, growling, breathing noise that sounded extremely nearby. As I listened, trying to remember if I had, in fact, put every scrap of food safely back in the truck so as to not attract bears, I realized the sound was coming from directly in between us. I breathed a sigh of relief and whispered, "go to sleep - it's your little brother snoring."
Every hunter knows the agony and anticipation of draw day. You've done all your research, triple-checked your applications and credit card info, and have the day of the official Game & Fish draw marked on your calendar. That day comes, and you spring out of bed to check your bank account...no hits yet. You come back a little later...and a little later...hit refresh a couple times...still nothing. Then you start seeing social media posts popping up with ecstatic dudes proclaiming their card just got hit and they are going (insert your dream animal) hunting this year. When the dust settles, your account remains untouched by your local Wildlife Management Bureau, and you accept the horrifying truth that you did not draw a tag this year. You now have the option of putting all your gear into long-term storage and giving up, or adapting and finding ways to still get into the field and put meat (of some sort) in the freezer this year.
We've all been there: miles from civilization, weather and/or darkness moving in, the animal just stepped into range, and it's the moment you envisioned when you chose/purchased/packed that one piece of gear. You go to set it up, or take the shot...and you realize it doesn't work! Or, doesn't work like you thought it would, and you're going to have to improvise. Or, you miss the shot opportunity and never see that bull or buck again. It's almost part of the outdoors initiation process, but it's also one of the easiest situations to avoid...just test your gear beforehand!!! In this article, we will look at three key pieces of gear that we often don't test (at least not as rigorously as we should), and hopefully identify some things to look before before even making a purchase so we end up with better, more effective gear in the first place.
So, you've decided to carry a gun because you realized the world is a dangerous place, crazy people do heinous crap, and you couldn't bear the thought of something happening to your loved ones because you were not prepared to stop it. Great! Now, because you're a frugal man (or woman), you picked up a Gen 3 Glock 19 because - let's face it - that's been a tried and true daily carry weapon for eons now, and you can snag one much cheaper now that Glock is all the way up to Gen 5. Man, you're a friggin' genius!!! So, you take all your new fancy gun paraphernalia down to the range to start training, and you are loving it! The gun performs flawlessly, it's nice and accurate, your groups are tightening up with every magazine downrange..."man, this is the best decision I have ever made," you think to yourself. And then, you decide it's time to practice some emergency reloads. And that's when the first negative thought about your new favorite gun appears in your mind: "Could this mag release button be any smaller/hard to reach/impossible to find under pressure?!?!" You realize that if you're fumbling around with your thumb, adjusting your grip on the gun six ways 'til Sunday just to release the spent mag while at the range, there is little chance you're going to find it in the middle of a life or death situation when your adrenaline spikes and your fine motor skills take an inconvenient vacation. You're gonna need to remedy that small flaw in an otherwise "perfect" weapon.
Then it happened - my wife delivered our third child, I looked down as the doctor cradled the gooey infant in her arms, and I blurted out "it's a girl." I was wrecked!!! I knew instantaneously that there is something wildly different about a daughter to the heart of a father. Don't get me wrong: I love my boys more than anything, but that little girl has melted my heart in a way I never thought possible. From the moment she entered my life, she has been slowly destroying me in the best ways possible.
I have known for years that I needed to get around to shining my favorite boots before they were worn and dried out beyond repair, but didn't have the supplies and was afraid of ruining the most expensive shoes I own. As it turns out, the process was remarkably simple, required a very minimal investment, and the boots look far better than I thought a simple shining would accomplish. More than that, I found it to be an incredibly gratifying and therapeutic process. It forces you to slow down, focus, and connect with generations of men long past that engaged in this task on a regular basis simply because they were men and that was something men did. I plan to shine my boots regularly now, just because it brings me joy. Alright, enough shoe philosophy (sholosophy?), here's how to shine your boots!