Sportsman’s Corner: Creating Traditions for Generations to Come
Some of my fondest childhood memories from growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are centered around being outdoors, primarily camping, fishing, and hunting. My friends and I spent hours down by the creek near my house, digging for worms and catching carp and bass. My dad took me camping on the shores of local lakes and the Mississippi River, and we would rise early and fish all day and into the evening. I can still hear the crackling campfire as the smell of fried fish wafted into the cool night air. At night we crawled into our sleeping bags, exhausted and smelling of fish and campfire smoke.
As the crisp autumn air replaced the warmth of summer, we changed gears, and my dad and I hunted for pheasant and waterfowl; a tradition I grew to cherish despite a challenging start. On my first pheasant hunt when I was in seventh grade, I broke my ankle when a brace of pheasants flew up unexpectedly and scared me. I grew to love pheasant hunting to the point that I could never sleep the night before a hunt,
images of our dogs flushing the brightly-colored birds playing over in my head. Good and bad, I wouldn’t trade those moments with my dad for anything.
I realized later in life that these experiences in the outdoors not only create memories that last a lifetime but also play a formative role in building character. In college, I discovered my love of the mountains and also met Nikki, my future bride, who shared my love of being out in nature. We went on many adventures together and once we were married, we decided to move to the recreational paradise that is Bozeman, Montana so we could raise a family. Henry came first, followed by our daughter, Charli. Each season in Montana has provided our family with different opportunities for adventure and has deepened our love and respect for nature. Every activity is great fun for our family and provides educational experiences for the kids. Their most cherished memories—like the many I have from my childhood—all revolve around the outdoors.
I started teaching my kids to fish and hunt at a young age. There is nothing more gratifying than watching their excitement when they land a fish or shoot a bird, and it brings me right back to my youth. Henry recently attended fly fishing camp and learned to tie flies, which has given him an even deeper appreciation of all that goes into fly fishing. All of our family trips revolve around fishing, whether in saltwater, lakes, rivers, or streams. Every trip, I take each of my kids out for some one-on-one time with me, creating special memories that are always the highlights of our vacations and remind me of the many great times spent outdoors with my dad.
Through hunting and fishing, my kids have learned the importance of focus and patience: from the challenge of rowing a drift boat, reading the water for riffles and runs, learning how to select flies or the sometimes hours of early-morning waiting that hunting requires. Watching my 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son study together and quiz each other for their Hunter’s Education Course test was a proud moment only eclipsed by both of them promptly passing the written and field training tests to earn their hunting certificates.
Through all of their time spent outdoors, they have learned critical lessons about the value of the natural world and conservation of it: everything from handling fish properly and respecting animals to the importance of water and habitat quality and the need for public lands. These are all lessons that can come from a book but are much more powerful when experienced in real life.
I asked my kids what they love about living in Montana. Henry reflected on the incredible wildlife, fishing, hunting with our dog Millie, and skiing. Charli said she enjoys being a girl hunter and angler and spending time with me all by herself.
Having access to some of the most stunning vistas in the world is something I am grateful for each day. I am thankful I can give my children the outdoor experiences and opportunities that they will carry with them for a lifetime, and hopefully pass down to their children one day, continuing the tradition for generations to come.
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