I learned to love and appreciate hunting, fishing, and nature from my father. He was an avid outdoorsman, and took great pride in the fact that he never missed a deer season, not even the year he had open heart surgery. He loved to fish, and would keep every single possible fish he caught. I still remember watching him on the riverbank, nailing a catfish to a tree so he could skin and fillet it while it was fresh. He never really got crazy about lots of lures, or fancy poles or tackle. A worm, a minnow, or maybe a black and silver Rapala was all he needed to be content.
Now, I wish I could fill the rest of my space with what an amazing, accomplished hunter and gatherer he was, but I am not going to do so; perhaps you will see them in a future article. I have been thinking a lot about the many times he took his 4 young boys, with competing interests and dramatically different personalities, out into the woods for a day, a weekend, or even an entire season because giving them that experience was important to him.
You see, Dad did not necessarily grow up in a sportsman household. He had parents who owned and operated a successful business, but who had to work seven days a week to keep that business successful. His dad, my Grandpa, liked to fish after he retired, but only occasionally fished before then. Most of that fishing was either at a family cottage on Long Lake (not saying which one) or on the river that flowed along the west boundary of his farm. And hunting? Grandpa didn’t really do that either.
So how did my father learn his sportsmanship? After he met my mother, he started hunting with her dad. He was the consummate outdoorsman, a lumberjack who learned how to hunt from the Chippewa while living and working in rural Shawano County before moving south. This was a man who duck hunted on Lake Michigan, deer hunted in the Northwoods, and used live frogs on harnesses to fish for muskellunge. He had one son and three daughters of his own, but it was clear that my uncle was never as interested in hunting and fishing as my dad became. His children all loved nature, though. My mother still loves to fish!
As I grew up, I heard many amazing stories from my dad, many of which were about my grandfather. It was clear that Dad had the greatest admiration for the man who taught him to hunt and fish. Unfortunately that grandfather died in a vehicle accident when I was very young, so I never got to hunt with him—but I got to hunt with Dad plenty. Even after his health began to fail, I made every effort to get him out deer hunting to keep his record intact. As Parkinson’s set in, I would park in the woods in a spot where he could have a chance of seeing a deer within sight of the truck. Then I would take a walk back toward him, hoping to kick a deer to him the way he did for me so many times before. Upon arrival, Dad would not be on the stump—he would be fast asleep in my truck, engine running, heat on high, and oldies music blaring on the radio. But Dad was the one that took me out, at the expense of his own time, so I could learn to love nature, and I was glad to have the opportunity to so. Now, I have the opportunity to carry on his legacy by taking my own children out hunting and fishing and giving them that experience that is so important to me. It is one simple way I can carry on Dad’s legacy.
Parents, there are a lot of interests and activities competing for your children’s time. Don’t forget to schedule some unscheduled time in nature, like you had growing up, so that their wild connections can develop with the natural world.