The following is the article currently running (August 09) in Camptalk, the monthly publication of the Dallas Safari Club. I have secured a column there based on the concept of “Outdoor Parenting.” My kids are tolerating it well so far. Time will tell.

Side By Side: My son got this terrible look on his face. All I had done was ask him to step out onto the porch with me as I needed to talk to him. He didn’t want to go outside and I asked him why. “Because you’re like the Santa Claus of bad news when we have to talk on the porch. It’s where you talk about STD’s, drugs, my speeding ticket, smoking, and every other thing I have ever done wrong.” He really did catch me by surprise. He was relieved to find out I only wanted to ask about his schedule and an elk hunt draw in Colorado. We didn’t draw Colorado that year but he pointed something out to me in the exchange. That is, very little of my “telling” is well received. Truth be told, most of the wisdom I have ever been able to impart to my kids has been while we were side-by-side, certainly not face to face. “Why does the buck chase the doe?” he asked me when we were sitting on Willow Creek outside Mason. We had let the doe and the trailing buck go but my son tossed me a pitch that any Dad could have hit out of the park. The chance to tell my boy about the birds the bees and the bucks, and he brought it up!

I told him about the rut, I told him about estrus, I told him about fawns and fights and I told him what went where and what happened when it got there. With every piece of information he kind of blinked and adjusted his neck. I finished and let him ponder all of this for just a moment and then laid the punch line on him. “And it is just like that for people too” I told him. With a look of shock and awe he turned to me wide-eyed and said “NOOOO” loud enough that the buck (long since gone) probably heard him. When you’re side-by-side with your kid you can sneak up on them. For some reason, a kid can talk to the parent easier if both are facing forward. One of the most important aspects of hunting and fishing with my kids has been the windshield time we got to spend together. With a trip longer than the one to the 7-11 the topics invariably get deeper. If you listen you can begin to hear what they truly are worried about and dealing with.

Parenting is more art than science. The sooner we learn to take up the teaching moments when they occur, side by side, the sooner we get to engage our kids about what is important.