My favorite time of the year is looking forward to what I get to do next with my kids in the outdoors. When it comes to this time of year, I love walking out the back door, sipping my morning coffee as the kids practice shooting their bows before school. It’s all the little things that gets me excited for what awaits in coming weeks before the snow flies. I can sum up all these things into three core activities this time of year hunting, fishing & campfires. On a good day this time of year all three activities happen on the same day.
As a parent, this time of year is special and I look forward to seeing how it strengthens my relationships with my kids as much or more than the excitement of what we bag or catch each day. When you’re enjoying the outdoors with your kids, they are free of all of the day-to-day distractions that typically get in the way. On an early, foggy morning in the blind or a starlit night around a campfire, as parents, we get the opportunity to listen to them and better yet learn who they are. Knowing and understanding your kids is the most important part of parenting and what better place to do it than the outdoors with no distractions.
Whether you are sitting in the boat, on shore, a duck or in a deer blind with your kids one-on-one, it opens up some pretty funny and some deeply profound conversations that rarely happens in any other venue. Not to mention the fact that I have learned more about hunting, fishing and life by digging into the answers to all the questions the kids have asked that I have never thought of asking or looking into. There is something about the simplicity mixed with the power of the outdoors that puts life in perspective for both kids and adults alike.
A couple of years ago my young son and I were siting in the duck blind just having a great time. Then all of a sudden he got real quite. I waited a while and he looked at me and started out with “dad do…” and he went on to ask probably the hardest and deepest questions he has ever ask of his life. For the next three hours we got the opportunity to talk about life and shoot at some ducks and geese. Neither of us will ever forget that trip.
I grew up in a home where my dad didn’t hunt or fish. My dad did camp and cook. Looking back I can’t express how much I learned about life when we went out hunting and fishing together with a campfire at the end of the day. This is where I truly began to understand how important it is to do things together. Dad never picked up a gun on any of these trips and rarely tried fishing. But he came along and we talked a little bit about everything. The key was I was free to ask anything I wanted and he gave straight, non-condemning answers that we got to talk about until we came up with something else to talk about. Fast forward to today and I get to have the same kinds of conversations with my own kids.
One of our family traditions in the fall is night time shore fishing over a campfire. It’s a cheap & easy way to have fun and you don’t need much tackle. Why it’s a tradition is that we have been doing it since the kids were in carseats and almost every first fish our kids have ever caught were on the shore in the fall while sitting around a campfire. Telling jokes and stories while eating some food is all it takes to make memories.
What makes these times of year so powerful for relationship building with your kids is that it’s full of memorable outdoor experiences as well. We all remember our first duck, first deer, first pheasant; but we also remember all the details of the day and the good and bad things that accompanied that milestone event. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of these fall days and take them in with your kids with the purpose of growing a heathy relationship. When we put the kill or the limit first, you tend to hijack the opportunity you have with your kids on that outing. Let the memories create themselves on each trip, it’s worth it.
Regardless if we are out hunting or fishing, a campfire is the glue or maybe the sticky marshmallow that holds the memories together. On a good day we get to have fire-roasted pheasant while shore fishing around a campfire. But some days you get to have brats and marshmallows. Either way the campfire is the place where you get to go over all the day’s activities and what really matters. It doesn’t really matter if the campfire is on the shoreline, out in the field or in the back yard, what matters is the time you spent around the fire.
Original Published in October 2019
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