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Enjoy Outdoor Time with Your Children

Enjoy Outdoor Time with Your Children

By: Ben Smith - February 29, 2024

  • Outdoor columnist Ben Smith says he wants to remember time just hanging out together with his kids in the deer stand. 

Now that deer season is over and I’ve had time to look back on some things, there are a few that are burning my brain up. This isn’t abnormal. I usually look back on a season trying to figure out the things that I did wrong so I can be better in the future. However, the one thing that is eating at me the most has nothing to do with mistakes that I made in the woods, but rather away from them.

For the first time in several seasons, I never took a kid with me hunting. It wasn’t that I didn’t ask them to go, they just had other things going on. My wife filled in on a couple of trips, which was nice, but I’m a little torn up that the kids didn’t seem interested this year. In their defense, hunting with me probably isn’t the same experience that a lot of kids have. It’s not always easy, and that’s by design. I want them to suffer a little bit before they are rewarded. I believe it to be a good teaching moment for things they will encounter in life. I want them to push through the mundane on the route to victory. I didn’t treat my wife the same way as the kids when she went. I might as well have tied one to a tree for her, but she also cooks pretty much all of our meals and spends half of her days running a taxi service for the kids, so she gets a pass.

I do worry, however, that my making it a little harder for them is pushing them away from the outdoors. As a parent, I believe we spend a lot of time tiptoeing between the lines of spoon feeding our kids through life and allowing them to figure things out on their own. They have to fail some to learn, but we all want our children to be successful so oftentimes we intervene to ensure they have that success. But it’s a fine line. Do it too much and we cripple them. Do it too little and we kill their spirit.

I’ve often wondered if I made hunting really easy for them, would they like it more and want to come back, or would they think they’ve mastered it and move on? On the flip side, if I keep making it difficult, will they hate it and never want to go, or will they want to take on the challenge? This season, they didn’t seem to want to go…and it hurt a little.

Again, in defense of them, they are girls and about 99% of their other girl friends don’t hunt with their dads. I doubt when they go to piano recitals, dance recitals, or soccer games that there is a whole lot of conversations about killing deer. They’d probably get a lot of weird looks and whispers if they started chatting about the proper way to gut a whitetail deer, and they know that. Their interests are most likely going to be influenced by what their closest friends’ interests are and that’s understandable. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, but it is what it is. 

Maybe kids today just have more things to occupy their time than we did. At least ours do. Between toys, gadgets, technology, and the billion places they “have” to be at, their little minds are so stimulated there’s no way you can fit hunting with dad in there. It’s considered boring because they have to be still and quiet. Not to mention, the land we hunt is over an hour away so it’s never just an easy there and back trip. There are bathroom stops and figuring out what we are going to eat for dinner afterward because heaven forbid they are ever a little hungry. And you can forget an overnight trip in the tent. They’d tap out the first time the coyotes started howling. 

I’ll admit that there were several times this season that I sat in a tree wishing one of them were with me. I’m a have my cake and eat it too kind of guy. I enjoy the alone time that I get in the woods to recharge my batteries and think about things, but I will miss my family desperately at the same time. If I had to choose my favorite hunts of all time it would be a tie. On one side there would be times that I was alone and so deep in the woods that there was no cell signal at all. I’d go a couple of days without contacting a soul. The only people that would even really know where I was would be me and God. On the other side would be hunts where the kids were with me in a box stand. They’d eat snacks and be so loud that there was no chance of us seeing anything, and that was okay with me. Them killing a deer was just an added bonus.

So, it’s obvious by now that I don’t know how to get my kids to enjoy the outdoors as much as I do. Maybe they’ll grow into it. Maybe they won’t. I do know that one thing is for certain, we are losing young hunters. I don’t have the answer to fix it, but I do think our kids have too much going on. I feel like they don’t even have time to go outside and just be kids. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back one day after they’ve grown up and not be able to remember a time where it wasn’t a mad dash. I want to remember time where we had nowhere to be – just hanging out together in the deer stand. 

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.