We throw around the word “friends” pretty loosely these days. Your kids Facebook friends may number in the hundreds or higher. They share all of the mundane details of their lives with people who they may not have even met in person. Instagram and Twitter subscribers see pictures and videos of teenagers having breakfast, or getting a haircut, or drinking out of your liquor cabinet. But, clicking “like” next to an image of a waffle from halfway around the world is hardly the basis for real friendship.
Even phone calls pale in comparison to real face to face conversations. In our world of technology, how many of us really take the time to actually bond with our families, much less our supposed friends. I have good news. Hunting provides you with the opportunity to do just that. Rising before the sun takes effort and determination.
When you and your best friend both accomplish the task on the same day, you already have something more in common than you did the day before. Meeting, coffees in hand, at a trailhead on a Saturday morning can be the beginpull ning of a shared adventure unlike anything else you do together. Carrying the day’s supplies on your back while hiking into the forest with no distractions but the sounds of running water or crows cawing will recharge your mind more than a fancy drink from Starbucks. Making camp and discussing strategy will be twice as intriguing as any business meeting. These activities are only the trivial precursors to hunting, and yet they are far better than most things we do during the workweek. These are the times that acquaintances become real friends. During these times, friends become best friends.
Imagine the same scenario with your son or daughter. Phones are left in the car, and you have a chance to really talk like you haven’t in weeks. With all the distractions of society peeled away, you can learn about your family again. Your children will be able to see you in a different light. Gone is the chauffeur or the disciplined soccer coach. This is your moment to impart real lessons and share your values when they can actually listen.
You can tell them about the time you hunted with your own father and grandfather, or about your first kill. They will learn from you and you from them. With no schoolmates around to impress, they may actually tell you about their lives and their feelings. At the very least, you’re likely to hear more about their daily lives at school than you would on a normal Saturday afternoon. All of these special bonding moments between families take place even before the hunt has begun.
Now imagine the strength of the bond created over the rest of the day. You share the emotions that come with hunting. You share the frustration, anticipation, relief, and elation. You share the satisfied exhaustion at the end of the day. You share the satisfied return home with meat for dinner. That bond won’t be easily forgotten. If might not earn you a hashtag in your children’s online timeline, but it will earn you their respect and love.
They won’t realize it at the time, but you will be introducing your kids to a completely new social group. Hunters are a fraternity like no other. Every hunter met afield is a friend with information to share. In the wild, we are bonded to other hunters by common goals. The bond comes from the rituals of hiking and hiding and shooting. The bond also comes from retelling of details. The bond comes from a shared desire to step away from the city and do something special. All hunters want to reconnect with the natural world. Ironically, running into another hunter afield provides a fresh reminder of why we hunt.
You can see it in their eyes. You are bonded to these strangers by your common love of the sport.