Whether it’s multiple generations sharing hunting camp or annual trips that center around a holiday, family often plays an important role in hunting traditions. Family hunts are popularized by outdoor families like Jim and Eva Shockey, Drury Outdoors and Lee and Tiffany Lakosky. A report released by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and the Outdoor Foundation says 68% of hunters are introduced to hunting through family members.
Like millions of other hunters, I was introduced to hunting by a family member. My father is a hunter, as was his father. I have vivid memories of being in the field with my dad as a little girl. I loved time spent outside and spotting animals. But when it came to killing animals, I didn’t know if I could pull the trigger.
I was the little girl who never owned a Barbie. The most colorful characters in my room were My Little Pony and friends. When playing make-believe games of “family,” my imagination had me playing the family dog. I anthropomorphized animals in a big way, so my dad assumed I wouldn’t want to be the hunter. However, that all changed in high school when I decided I’d like to take that shot.
I was the only girl in my hunter’s education class. With my self-bleached blond highlights and low-rise jeans, I looked like an early 2000s pop star in a room full of camo-clad 12-year-old boys. But I loved every minute inside that classroom. I soaked up the lessons of ethics, safety and survival. I shot my first animal, a mule deer, later that fall with my dad beside me. The moment changed me. Sharing the love of the pursuit with my father and the bond that it created sparked a passion that will last a lifetime. I love the challenge, the excitement and eating wild game. But above all, I love sharing time in the field with family.
My father was my first hunting buddy. We chased elk, antelope, whitetail and mule deer through high school and college. I even took a week off from my first real job as a TV news reporter to harvest my first bull elk. The European mount of that beautiful 6×6 I harvested that trip hangs above my fireplace. Just days after that hunt, I got the call that I’d landed a TV job in Anchorage, Alaska. I packed up four suitcases and my lap dog, and my dad flew me to Alaska.
Hunting is a much bigger adventure in the Last Frontier. But living thousands of miles away from your hunting buddy makes it tough. Luckily, a chance encounter led me to my next great hunting partner, my husband. I’d been hunting for over a decade when I met my husband, but I wasn’t yet a bowhunter. He changed all that for me.
Within weeks, he had me at the range flinging arrows. We planned a hunting trip a few months out, which meant I needed to get my International Bowhunter Education Program course. I also needed to advance my skills enough to make an ethical shot. Nearly every night after work I visited an archery shop or the local range to practice. I was often alone as my future husband’s work schedule kept him out of town for weeks. Practicing alone forced me to learn about working on my equipment. I built up my strength to be able to meet the state’s draw weight requirements. I knew I loved hunting. I had no idea how much I’d love bowhunting.
All the lessons learned from my father were further sharpened by the skills of my husband and the challenge of bowhunting. I got sneakier, more knowledgeable and addicted to bowhunting. It’s rewarding to watch my archery skills improve. It’s fun sharing the pursuit with my spouse. We’ve experienced challenges, disappointments, frustrations and victories. Every time I return home from a hunt, my other hunting partner is my first call. I love sharing my adventures with my dad.
My husband and I have had many hunting adventures, but we’re in the middle of the biggest one yet: raising our daughter to be a hunter. At just 10 days old, we took our daughter fishing. From climbing mountains and shed hunting to time at hunting camp, she’s outside with us all the time. We just make sure she’s dressed appropriately, we have the right gear, and we carry enough snacks and then some. This past hunting season was the first year we took her along on stalks. At age 5, she can out-hike many adults. She has the endurance but also the gift of gab. We wanted to set everyone up for success, so we decided to wait until rifle season for our first family outing.
We didn’t plan it, but our first family trip into the field brought winds of up to 40 miles per hour. Turns out, those are the perfect hunting conditions for chasing whitetails with a 5-year-old. After hiking a few miles, we set up over a popular runway. The wind gusts masked most of the “whispering,” crunchy snack-eating and fort-building efforts. It would’ve been easy to get frustrated that she couldn’t sit still. It was cold and windy, but instead of complaining, she was having fun playing outside and feeling included. So, when a mature whitetail buck gave me a shot, that was just a bonus to an already successful hunt. She watched us quarter the deer while asking thoughtful questions about the meat and organs. She was so excited about the prospect of cooking it for dinner. As darkness fell, she put on her headlamp and hiked out without any fear.
From the way her imagination has her imitating dogs to her intense love of animals, my daughter is a lot like me as a child. I hope she becomes a hunter, but that’s her choice to make. Right now, all we can do as parents is bring her along, as our parents did with us. We answer her questions and make it fun. As we all piled into the truck after our first successful hunt as a family, our daughter had one simple request. She wanted to drive by her grandpa’s house to show him the buck. I couldn’t help but smile because I was thinking the same thing.
Standing in the cold night beneath the lights of the tailgate and headlamps, three generations of a hunting family exchanged hugs and congratulations. Filling a tag is always a great feeling, but when you can share it with your family, those are some of the most meaningful memories of all.