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Hook Them Early

By Connie Wilbert

My husband and I both grew up in Wyoming, and we both were fortunate enough to come from outdoorsy families, so we each learned to enjoy the wilds of Wyoming from an early age.

When our children were born, we kept right on doing most of our outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, cross country skiing, hunting and fishing, with the kids in tow. Our son accompanied us antelope hunting when he was six weeks old, and came to his first elk hunting camp at three months. When our daughter arrived three years later, we had our second baby in camp.

Our philosophy of "hook them early" seems to have worked. For his fifth birthday, we gave our son Don his first fishing rod. Early next morning, we took him down to the fishing pond in the park at the end of our street, and he caught his first fish on his first cast. I'll never forget his excitement and enthusiasm, as he landed three or four fish on that first day, and how proud he was as we ate them for dinner. He brought home many fish from that pond, including a few real lunkers.

Don has been an avid angler ever since, and now at 13, he is a better fly fisher that either of his parents.

No doubt because both his parents hunt, Don wanted to learn to shoot as soon as he was old enough. He started shooting a 22 rifle when he was eight, and was soon out rabbit hunting. Don is a good hunter, and we've had many a rabbit dinner in the last few years. When he was 12, he started shooting the 243, practiced until he was accurate and confident, and last fall successfully hunted his first antelope. Next fall, he plans to join his dad and uncle for his first elk hunt.

Even though our daughter Tighe is not as totally enamored of hunting and fishing as her brother, she also learned to fish and shoot at an early age.

Tighe does enjoy occasional leisurely fishing, although she often prefers to simply hike, bird watch, and enjoy the scenery. Tighe likes to shoot targets with the 22, and has recently taken up shooting a bow with a high degree of accuracy. If and when she does decide to hunt, she'll be a great shot!

By now, at 13 and 10 years old, both of our kids are terrific naturalists. They know far more about wildlife, birds, animal sign, plants, and geology than many adults we know. They are comfortable and proficient in outdoor and wild land settings, and they are able to appreciate the complexity of natural cycles, from beautiful scenery and wildlife to the cycles of life and death. All their outdoor experiences have taught our children to be self-confident, to love and appreciate this marvelous part of the world we're so lucky to live in, and that they cannot take it for granted. Their connection to nature is strong, as strong as ours, and in their budding commitment to keeping our wild lands wild lies the future.

Connie Wilbert lives in Wyoming, and serves as the Chair of the Sierra Club's Environmental Partnerships committee.

 Proud of your own "Sportskid"? Then send your stories to We'd love to share them!

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