MITCHELL, S.D. -- By day’s end, it was hard to comprehend all of the memories that were made.
I was standing in a cut cornfield, looking at my 6-year-old daughter alongside a pile of Canada geese, and I didn’t want the moment to end.
It’s been a mostly forgettable year, with so much negativity and worry. And my job being in the media so often gives me constant reminders of all that’s wrong with the human race.
But the outdoors has been my release. That’s because nature is perfect. It’s exactly as it’s supposed to be. And when you enjoy its beauty with family and friends, there is absolutely nothing better.
As many wonderful memories as I’ve made outdoors, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, stands with the best as I shared my first hunting experience with my daughter Grace.
The day was much more than spending time with my child and two of my closest friends and hunting partners. It actually began in the pitch-black morning setting decoys on a slough and introducing a Mitchell teenager to the highs of seeing a duck buzz by, only to take a shot and see it crumple. Saturday was youth duck opener, and I felt fortunate in playing a role to get a father and son outside and in the blind. Plenty of birds were shot at, some great shots were made and a limit of birds was harvested. It was a relaxing, self-fulfilling morning.
Later that day, it was my turn to do some shooting. My hunting group planned to hunt a cut cornfield that evening, and I figured it would be a good opportunity to bring Grace since the temps were somewhat warm and there was a decent chance for success.
She helped set decoys, brush up the blinds and she sat on my shoulders for a long portion of the walk back out to the field after parking the trucks.
We filled her blind with books, Barbies and other toys to keep her occupied while we waited for the geese to show up. Just like the rest of us, she was well-hidden in the corn, camouflaged so any incoming feathered friends wouldn’t notice.
About 45 minutes passed when I was reminded that time moves much slower when you’re a kid. Grace was getting impatient. Who could blame her? She is used to Netflix, Disney movies and a little sister constantly keeping her attention.
Soon enough, though, she forgot that waiting is the hardest part when those honks started flying toward us. Group after group came and decoyed, and the adjectives she used — “incredible” and “amazing” — to describe seeing her first hunt were everything I could've hoped for.
As the hunt was winding down, Grace asked if she could climb out of her toy-filled blind and hop in with me for some daddy-daughter time. Someday, when I’m old and losing my memories, that moment will be under lock and key.
The day was as perfect as it could be. Later, after cleaning birds and getting ready to head home, Grace heard me talking to my hunting group about our meeting location for the next morning.
“Where are you going in the morning?” she asked.
“I’m going hunting again.”
“Can I come with?”
Please, take a kid hunting. Get them outdoors. Put the iPad away for a while and shut off the TV.
Memories are the most important aspect of life — and they happen all the time outdoors.