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.
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.
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.
Inside EVERY man is still a 12 year old boy who wants to go on an adventure, to play in the dirt, and he wants to do that with the people he likes the most (that's you). And in much the same way that boys on the playground don't understand that pulling a girl's hair doesn't communicate affection the way they intend it to, men are not always sensitive to the fact that guys and girls tend to like different adventures. We can't fully fathom why a week in the woods chasing animals wouldn't seem like the best time ever to the woman that we love, in the same way you can't fully understand why a Saturday at a farmer's market makes him want to gouge his eyes out with a rusty spoon. It's a wiring issue...we're just built differently.
We had been in the wilderness all of 5 minutes when Hendric jumped up and proclaimed he had just sat on a cactus. Sure enough, a small prickly pear near our tent had escaped his notice, and he had literally sat on it. Of all the fun dad jobs I've ever had to take on, pulling cactus spines one at a time out of your son's bare butt cheeks is up there with one of the most bizarre. (For the record, this would be one of three encounters he'd have with a cactus over the next 24 hours..."watch where you're going" is the most repeated lesson he learned on this trip)
As I approached the trees in a surgically slow army crawl, I popped my head up to check that the bull hadn’t grown suspicious. To my horror, the bull was now standing where he was bedded and staring right at me. Haltingly, I retrieved an arrow from my quiver, knocked it, and waited for him to avert his gaze for just a moment to give me the chance to draw. He stared through me to my partner who was blowing cow calls 40 yards behind me for what felt like hours. Flinching through an intensifying hamstring cramp, I forced myself to remain perfectly still. Finally, he moved briskly behind some thicker timber, giving me the chance to come to full draw. He stopped for another cow call, just on the other side of the timber, quartered away, with his vitals inside of an 18-inch window in the trees. I took a deep breath, squeezed back on the release, and watched the arrow sail through the air…