By Albert Quackenbush
When my dad taught me how to shoot a bow I felt like I was on top of the world. I was able to take part in something I knew he loved and I got to learn from him. From shooting at straw bales in the backyard to hunting whitetails on the farm, you could almost always find us with a bow in our hands. He was an excellent teacher and to this day is very encouraging when it comes to bow hunting. Now I am in that role of being a father. As parents, my wife and I have the responsibility of guiding our daughter and molding her into the woman she’ll become. We can teach her things together as parents, and we can also share our own individual gifts with her. It goes without saying that what I share most with her, on an individual level, is bow hunting. Just as I won’t hide from anyone who asks me about hunting, I will not hide what I do and love from her. By sharing my side of life she will learn about her dad, but also learn more about herself as she grows.
As my dad taught me the ways of the bow, I have begun teaching my daughter, Riley. It’s not only the archery that I share with her though. When I turn on an outdoor television show about bow hunting, I take note of what’s happening and also what my daughter is doing. Explaining what is happening during the shows is easy. She follows right along, but the hard part is making sure she understands it. When an animal is shot with an arrow, I don’t cover her eyes and I don’t tell her they ‘caught’ the animal as I have heard other parents do. This father is sure to tell his daughter that the animal was shot and killed. It died. Stopping there would make no sense and I explain that the person is going to eat the animal or share it with someone else who will eat it. She may not understand it all now, but as time progresses it will all begin to make sense.
On almost any Saturday (hunting season excluded) the early hours usually have a typical storyline. I wake up and make some coffee. Riley wakes up shortly thereafter and we get a few hours to do what we’d like. Her eyes light up when I ask her if she’d like to head down to our garage to play. The great thing about my relationship with my daughter is that even at 3 1/2 she knows that if we are heading out to the garage she can always shoot her bow. For the past couple months, when we get down there she nearly always ask if she can shoot her bow and arrows. As a bow hunter and father, this makes me a very proud papa! Every time she asks my answer is a resounding YES! The bow she is using is just a little shooter with suction cup tipped arrows and I am trying to instill safety in her, so we always shoot outside the house. She doesn’t seem to mind if we are shooting at a piece of cardboard, she just enjoys it! The first few times she wanted my help, but anyone with kids knows they want to do it themselves very quickly.
The thrill I get when Riley walks around the house and mimics shooting a bow is undeniable. She will pretend to draw her bow and tell me she is shooting an elk. (I guess I have been talking a lot about elk hunting lately.) She even asks me about my trips to the archery range, shooting with my friends and if I had fun doing it. Now THAT will make any bow hunting dad proud. It makes my day when I hear her ask me things like that. She listens intently and hopefully will keep a few tips from dear-old dad tucked away for future use.
I want to encourage all of you bow hunters who are also parents to share the details of hunting with your kids. Don’t shelter them and hide the truth of what happens when we hunt. If you are honest with them, they will appreciate what bow hunting is more than you’ll ever know. The phrase has been repeated over and over, but I feel it speaks the truth – bowhunting is my passion. I am not expecting Riley to have that same passion. The only thing I can expect is for her to choose her passion for herself. Whatever she chooses to be her passion, you can bet that her mother and I will support her in every way we can.
Albert Quackenbush has been bowhunting for more than 28 years. He shares his adventures on his blog, www.SoCalBowhunter.com, and also writes for Bow Adventures e-magazine. He is a Pro Staff member for DIYbowhunter.com, Piranha Custom Bowstrings and Field Logic. He is a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California Deer Association, and is a Life Member of the North American Hunting Club.
Albert was born and raised in New York State where he learned to hunt everything from squirrels to whitetail deer. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife and daughter and hunts year round.