Twang…. POP! Smile. Bang…. POP! Smile. That’s how it all started, that instant gratification and feeling of success when a balloon pops after being struck by a projectile. This was key for us in raising kids that love the outdoors and hunting as adults. Start by making it FUN.

As a woman who grew up in a hunting family and was blessed with three children, Jeb, Seth and Trent, it was important to my husband and me that we instill in them a love of the outdoors and hunting.

We have seen many other outdoor families that have children and although their parents are outdoors people and/or hunters they have a child or children that don’t share the same passion for the outdoors. Passing on a passion is not something that be forced, it has to be nurtured in a positive way.

I saw this firsthand on the baseball field when our middle son, Seth, was playing in an All-Star game at an early age. One of the parents at the same game whose son was the catcher, stood behind home plate and yelled at his son “Nothing gets by you! Nothing gets by you!”, constantly, angrily and obviously disappointed if his son made a mistake. That boy quit baseball two years later. The most important piece of advice we had for our son was “Have Fun, Play Hard, do your best, but Have Fun!!!” The team called him “smiley” because he was always having fun. Seth went on to get a baseball scholarship and played 4 years of college ball.

I’m not saying we did everything perfect, and it wasn’t always easy. But looking back, it was keeping the activity fun from an early age that was definitely the key. The trials and tribulations of the more difficult hunts which often include colder weather, sweating in a blind from the summer and fall heat, and having to fight through exhaustion to climb that “next” hill would all come later through a growing maturity and knowledge of the rewards that can come when you tough it out. When hunting with our kids, the size of the animal and trophy never mattered. It was the food that was on the table that became the reward and we always thanked the boys for providing our family’s meal. In fact, we still do.

Fred and I were at a Cabela’s store one weekend when a father and son came up to us. When the dad began showing us pictures of all the big bucks he had shot, Fred turned his attention to the young boy that happened to be around 12 years old and asked him if he hunted. He immediately said “yes.” Fred asked the son if he had any photos and the boy looked down and said, “Yes, but it’s only a doe” and looked slightly ashamed. Without hesitation, Fred made a big deal of it saying, “That’s awesome! I bet that provided a lot of great meat for your family and it looks like you made a great shot. Great job buddy!” We have always considered any animal a trophy, and it is up to the boys to decide what to harvest.

In today’s world, there are so many distractions like cell phones, computers, video games and our emails. It’s for this reason we think it is more important than ever to get kids outside to have FUN! Hunting and exploring the outdoors are great ways to enjoy activities as a family. Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, target practice, and hunting are just some of the many things we have done since the boys were little. The best part is now they are all young men. They still love all of those activities and we continue to do them as a family. So, whether it’s a family camping trip, fishing at a lake, shooting trap or pistols, or just taking a hike, there’s not a week that goes by where we don’t do something together to enjoy the outdoors. We are blessed in the fact that we live on a ranch in Colorado and make our living in the outdoors, but it doesn’t really matter where we are as long as we are together, and it involves the outdoors. We are not experts, but if it starts as fun and not a competition for the biggest or most trophies, kids seem to stay involved for a lifetime. So, if you’re asking us, the next time you head out with your kids make it FUN!!