By Eric Morken
I was listening to a podcast on a sunny day in late May when a question was posed that made me think about what I’m doing as a father.
Randy Newberg is a native of Northern Minnesota who now lives in Montana. He hosts an outdoor TV show called Fresh Tracks, which is devoted to do-it-yourself public land hunting.
Not everyone reading this hunts, but the question Newberg posed can apply to all of us – are we doing enough to get youth involved in the outdoors?
This is a question for camping enthusiasts, hikers and bikers. It’s for the well-being of our natural resources. Are we doing enough to educate children to understand the importance of clean air, clean water and what it means to appreciate all things in nature?
We live in an area full of opportunity for us to help instill these values in our kids, and it’s on us as parents. That’s why I felt a little guilty when the question was posed.
I thought about this past winter when my wife and I went on a nature walk with our 3-year-old daughter. Aubree sat on my shoulders as I broke through the snow-crusted grass.
I showed her deer trails and bedding areas. I pointed out a rub on a pine tree that a buck had shredded the fall before.
“Deer lay there!” she shouted. “More deer poop, Daddy (followed by a belly laugh).” She loves to explore, but this was one of just a few times I took her on these walks.
We talked to her about setting up our tent in the back yard and sleeping outside last summer. She was 2 years old and enthralled with the idea, but work got in the way.
Weekends are busy in the summer, so we never did go camping. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the most important job we have is raising our children.
What are my best memories as a kid? They’re fishing with dad, dressing up like the Michelin Man in blaze orange to sit with him in the deer stand. That’s what I thought of when the podcast shifted to our responsibilities to this as parents.
That weekend, I got my game camera out and set it up with Aubree. We hung it on a tree where a well-worn deer trail comes into our yard. I told her we might get a picture of a fawn with his mother if we’re lucky. Of course, she thought that would be pretty cool.
This summer, there will be ample opportunity for our kids to go for a walk, play in a lake, or climb a tree. We just have to let them.
Eric Morken of Alexandria is a husband, father, sports editor and outdoor enthusiast.