Guest Post By Corey Baumann of Rooted Outdoors
It was the fall of 1987 and I was ten years old. My dad was gathering all of his gear for an afternoon squirrel hunt while I eagerly looked on, waiting for an invitation to tag along. I had listened to my dad tell hunting stories as a very young boy and couldn’t wait for the moment when I could share in the experience. Well, that fall day almost 30 years ago it became a reality. Dad and I jumped into his 1979 Chevy Blazer and off we went to chase the elusive Eastern Grey Squirrel.
Little did I know of the ripple effect that would take place from that one invite from my dad to experience just that one hunt. In fact it wasn’t until years later that I mentioned it to my dad and he then realized the impact that it had on me. I remember the excitement as we crept through the woods, scanning the treetops for bushy tails in motion hoping for a glimpse of those little buggers. The most exciting part of the day was when we made a stalk, yes a stalk, on a squirrel at the top of a ridge. We snuck into range and when we got to the crest, there he was at 50 yards on a stump, munching on an acorn. My dad slowly raised his pump shotgun and aimed. BANG!………BANG! I remember vividly what that moment was like. The smell of gunpowder after the huge explosion that practically sent me rolling down the hill! After the dust settled we slowly made our move towards where the squirrel had been perched on the stump. As we approached I could see him laying in the leaves with just a trickle of blood coming from his mouth. Even at 10 years old, I was excited that we had accomplished the mission but was sad that the squirrel was dead. My dad always made it a point to make sure if we harvested an animal that we fully understood what had taken place. It was never about the killing, it was always about the experience and what lead up to the harvest.
I share that story to help you understand the importance of not only being introduced to the outdoors but having that done properly. Since that first experience I have always entered the woods hoping for a great experience, God willing. Even last year on the day I was blessed to harvest a nice 10 point buck on PA public ground, my focus was on the experience before and after the kill. In fact over the years I have developed the mindset that it’s never about the kill, it’s always about the preparation and the hunt. Pulling the trigger takes a second but everything that goes into the preparation and what takes place afterwards is the true reward.
I look at how my life would be different if my dad never extended that invite to me back in 1987. The outdoors is a place that has also allowed me to get closer to the Lord. There is just something different about being in God’s creation that has provided the opportunity to strengthen my relationship with Christ. Being able to pray as the sun rises or sets from a treestand or blind is amazing and everyone should experience that. I have had so many instances where I needed more clarity on something in my life, whether it was a difficult decision or a simple cloudy thought. God has always lead me to the outdoors to get that clarity.
The fact is, I can share my story or tell you how great the outdoors are but until you experience it for yourself, you just won’t understand. I know that it is God’s plan for me to introduce others, especially our youth to the outdoors. For the past two years I have been able to accomplish that by being intentional. I believe as outdoorsman it is our obligation to not only introduce others but to do it the right way. Teach them to respect animals and truly understand what it means to take a life. On a recent podcast interview, our guest put it into an incredible light as he shared a story with us. He explained to his kids that leaving venison on their plate was not acceptable. His reason, “that animal gave up everything so that you could eat.” Very powerful message that puts everything about the harvest into perspective.
The ripple effect of inviting, modeling, teaching and reinforcing our youth in the outdoors is unknown for each person. Since that day in 1989, I have experienced so many things that most will never get to in the outdoors. The list is endless and the memories are forever but my relationship with God is the prize. I have been extremely blessed and each time I get the opportunity to watch the sunset from a treestand, I soak it all up. My prayer is that our youth get that one invite to that one experience that creates that one passion and a life long ripple effect!