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
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
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.
More Sportskids Stories
Passing the Torch and the Fishing Rod by Bill Arthur
Proud of your own "Sportskid"? Then send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to share them!
See how the Sierra Club is working to provide more children the opportunity to spend time outdoors.
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