Tabitha Studer wants to dispel the negative stereotype that all Outdoorsmen are uneducated, close-minded, reclusive Rednecks.
A few weeks ago I couldn’t log into social media without being reminded that the mainstream picture of outdoorsmen is a harsh misinterpretation. As a hunter’s wife, it is difficult to see the stereotype that hunters & fishermen hold in the media’s eye as it is so grossly inaccurate of the whole picture. In many ways, the classification of Redneck and Outdoorsman are synonyms; unfortunately painting the picture of someone who is uneducated, close minded, and reclusive to the mass public. When in reality, nearly none of the hunters I know fit those adjectives and instead are quite the opposite and then some.
We live in western Pennsylvania and it is the norm to see pick-up trucks parked on the sides of bridges and whole families wearing camo and hunter’s orange in the grocery checkout line. Our local schools have the first day of buck off because so many teachers and students would be absent anyway that the school districts just stopped fighting it, I suppose. I grew up with an outdoorsmen Dad and other hunting family members and neighbors. It was a rite of passage for my sisters and I to successfully shoot a shotgun, be able to recognize poison ivy, and bait a hook.
Later, I went east for college, lived in Brooklyn for a few years, traveled and studied abroad, and yet—after all that exposure—I still ended up marrying an outdoorsman. He has his own hunting father and hunting best friend which has now surrounded our children with hunters and fishermen at every turn. Our family calendar is littered with opening days for trout fishing and archery season; our playroom is stocked with miniature bows, arrows, and targets. Maybe from the outside we look like rednecks, wearing our camouflage out to dinner while our kids ask the waitress for a deer meat sandwich—and maybe that’s all it takes for someone to write us off as uneducated, close-minded, and reclusive.
The truth is, we are far from that stereotype, as so many other hunting families are. I take pride in the fact that my kids are being raised by a hunter because there are things they learn from him, and the other hunters and fishermen in their life, that they might not get otherwise. These are my top five reasons that my kids are lucky to have an Outdoorsman for a father:
1.) Hours of quality time without outside distractions. When my husband takes our kids for the day, they are rarely found sitting in the house staring at a screen. Instead, they spend hours on end together in the woods or on a stream without cell phone service. He takes them for walks, pointing out animal tracks and different kinds of plantlife regardless of the weather. My kids suit up in snowsuits in the cold and tank tops in the heat to be outside with their Dad. They’ve problem-solved together to build bridges through muddy paths and they’ve learned accountability for carrying their own share of equipment. It is rare for my family to not also be accompanied by other hunting or fishing family members and friends. When my kids spend time in the woods or at the stream it is with a community of men and women that are teaching them, speaking to them directly, and passing on traditions.
2.) They learn about the balance of nature. We do a lot of talking at our house about animals, as surely many other families with toddlers do; but we also talk about which animals eat other animals and which animals we eat. Our kids know that worms come out when it rains which means the birds are going to eat well. They learn about hunting conservation and that their Dad only hunts for animals that fit legal criteria and that we will be able to eat as a family. Our kids have offered apologies to millworms for having to make the sacrifice and released fish with joyful farewells. They’ve helped bury dead animals and released spiders from our house instead of smashing them. They know we kill only what we’ll eat, just as it is in nature.
3.) Safety is taught as precautionary not reactionary. I’ve seen the look of judgement in the eyes of non-outdoors families that come over for playdates when they see my son shooting his toy bow or rifle. I get it—he’s a preschooler and he’s playing with weapons. But the difference with my child playing with a toy rifle and the kid down the street shooting a video game gun at his screen is that at two and four years old, our kids have had discussions on weapon safety. Our children routinely act out putting the safety on and off before shooting, they aim weapons toward the ground as someone walks into view, and our son has been found speaking to his little sister about how dangerous it is to play with the nerf gun by herself. We don’t hide toy weapons from our kids, we put them front and center and then talk about safety and proper use constantly.
4.) Awareness is held in the highest regard. A main attribute of outdoorsmen is an awareness of their surroundings. It’s about catching a flicker of movement in their periphery or noticing the way the weeds are pushed down. It is celebrated when my kids call out a flock of turkeys in a field 300 yards away from the backseat of our car while traveling 60mph down the highway. Awareness seems to unfortunately be a skill that is quickly being erased by technology in our lives today. Being cognitive of the things happening around them is a trait that will see my kids through new and unfamiliar moments for the rest of their lives—like when they are traveling or if they become lost—one that could potentially be the difference between being safe or in danger.
5.) They learn that you only get what you work for. If anyone thinks that hunting and fishing is someone walking in with a weapon and getting it done, they are extraordinarily misinformed. Hunting and fishing require hours of planning, preparation, and practice. We spend most of our time as a family talking about hunting and fishing, because we spend a great deal of time preparing for hunting and fishing. There are bows to be sighted, ties to be flied, scouting to be done, and tree stands to hang. Being an outdoorsmen takes time and diligent practice. It means preparing adequately for the usually one single instant you get to make a clean shot. Our kids are learning daily by watching their outdoorsman father that if you want to be successful; you must work for it every day.
You might also like Tabitha’s post 25 Rules for Moms Raising Sons.