I have three sons who love to hunt: Matthew, age 16; Nicholas, 14; and Noah, 12. The fall days in October and November are some of the best times to be outdoors in Maine, and we make as many hunting trips as work, school and sports commitments allow.
We live about 3 miles from downtown Caribou, in a rural area that allows us to get out right from the house on frequent, short hunting trips starting in October and going right through the muzzleloader season on deer.
Since the boys were very young and able to walk with me, I’ve been taking them along on grouse hunts. When each of them turned 10, they took turns on deer hunts from our house and in the North Maine Woods.
While we live in an area that is tough hunting for deer, they all enjoy and look forward to the challenge of sitting, still-hunting, and tracking each year.
Prior to each of them turning 6, I purchased lifetime fishing/hunting licenses for each of them — an investment that I’m sure they will use throughout their adult lives.
There have been numerous articles on the benefits for youths to spend time in the outdoors, and now as my children have spent two to six years hunting in the field with me, I have seen many of those benefits firsthand. Learning the natural history of not only the game animals that we pursue, but also many of the nongame animals that we encounter is a lifelong learning activity.
I have seen my sons grow and improve in patience and perseverance, whether it be sitting for hours in bitter cold or convincing them not to give up in the aftermath of missing that whitetail buck they had been so patiently waiting days for. We have shared the heartache of these mishaps several times.
In the end, they realize things aren’t always easy, but when you persevere and finally harvest a biggame animal, the rewards are so much sweeter. There are the many other life lessons as well: land stewardship, acknowledging the privilege of using private land and always asking permission first, gun safety and knowing when and how to load/unload your firearm, and always identifying your target.
Frank Frost is a fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, working at the Ashland Regional Headquarters. In 2011, he participated in Maine’s moose hunt for the first time as a sub-permittee on a bull tag in District 5. Two of his sons and two nephews enjoyed the hunt as well.