Passing on the Magic of the Great Outdoors: The First (of Hopefully Many) Father-Son Hunting Trips

by Clayton Edwards

Getting into the great outdoors is its own kind of magic. There’s nothing else like it in the world. If you let it, all of the hustle and bustle of life will melt away as you disappear into the tree line. As a parent, taking your little ones into the woods makes things a little more special.

My dad taught me the magic of the great outdoors before I ever stepped into a classroom. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a rural area where hunting and fishing were part of everyday life. In my community, most kids learned how to find, harvest, clean, and cook whatever the land would provide. When I stepped out my front door, I was never more than 100 yards from a viable fishing hole or hunting spot.

Unfortunately, things change. By the time my son came into the world, I had moved halfway across the country and far away from the grandeur of the great outdoors and all of those lessons I learned as a boy. Life got too busy and moved too fast to nail down a place to hunt, fish, or trap, let alone time to actually get out there and do much of anything. That comes with a long list of negatives. Chief among those, though, is the fact that I was missing the chance to show my boy the magic that the woods hold.

Sure, we’ve been to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park countless times. We’ve taken hikes and waded in creeks. However, that’s just not the same as slipping into a place that is truly wild.

Passing on a Family Tradition

My dad still lives in the same kind of place. Heck, his tree stand sits about 60 yards from the house. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you the woods are this man’s front yard and they go on, unfenced, for acres upon acres. My family and I stayed there for a week earlier this summer. It was nice to reconnect with family and be that close to wild lands again.

Over dinner, I made an off-hand comment about squirrel hunting. Dad’s ears perked up and without hesitation, he said, “Hell, set your alarm, we’ll ease off in the woods around sunup.”

After we ate, we went outside and gave my son a crash course in hunting and gun safety. We handed him the same single-shot 410 that my dad, his dad, and I took on our first hunting trips. He took to it like a fish to water. After a few shredded soda cans, some serious talks, and some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen, he was ready.

The next generation takes up the old 410

The Real Magic of the Great Outdoors

Now, I wish I could tell you that we slipped into the woods and took home a whole sack of squirrels. I wish I could tell you that we took them back to the house, cleaned them, and had them with biscuits and gravy for breakfast. That was the plan, after all.

 However, that wasn’t the case. We got into position as the sun broke the horizon and it was already hotter than two mice wrestling in a wool sock. The only thing other than us moving in those woods were the mosquitos and we didn’t have near enough ammunition to contend with them.

That was never really the point, though. Watching my boy slip heel-toe through the woods with that shotgun over his shoulder, teaching him to watch the limbs and listen to the woods – that was the point. Passing on a family tradition, teaching him skills that will put food on the table, and strengthening our bond – that was the point. That, to me, is the real magic of the great outdoors.

No, dear reader, we didn’t harvest any game that day, but what we took out of those woods was better than backstrap.