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Greenwood’s Branham Barlow, 11, shows off a fine gobbler that he recently bagged while hunting with his grandfather, Dr. Todd Fincher of Greenwood. It was the fifth turkey for the young hunter.

Hunting and fishing are a family tradition for so many in the Mississippi Delta.

So somewhere down the line someone had to take the time to take me outdoors at an early age and show me what it’s all about. For me, that person was my dad.

Hunters are made, not born. Virtually all serious hunters got started by being taken by their dad, grandfather or maybe a family friend. They then pass this tradition down to the next generation. By taking your kids hunting and/or fishing you are carrying on your own family tradition or, if you were the first in your family to get hooked on hunting, starting a new one. Be a teacher in the woods knowing that your son or daughter will, at some point in the future, do the same for their own children.

My dad grew up in Sunflower County in a family full of non-hunters, but he did so love to fish. It wasn’t until my parents moved to Greenwood more than 50 years ago that he was fully introduced to hunting. Turns out he had a passion for it the whole time but never a real chance to discover it.

That was until he met John Oden, the one who first turned him on to hunting.

Duck hunting wound up being my father’s calling, and unfortunately, I picked that up from him, times 2. He passed away nearly five years ago, but all those great memories carry on.

I have been fortunate enough to have a son of my own to do the same for.

Ducks are his thing too, although we still enjoy deer and dove hunting together. His patience for fishing isn’t quite there yet. (Not sure where he gets that.)

Greenwood dentist Todd Fincher is an avid outdoorsman even though his father, the late Gene, did not. You see, Fincher and his brother, Stuart, had the perfect grandad to take them —  Ralph Campbell. Todd never had a son, but he is all about passing on his family’s tradition to his grandsons. He has already seen the oldest, Branham, bag a turkey this season.

“You know his and my relationship, it’s special,” Fincher said of his grandson. “My grandad introduced me to hunting. He died when I was 12, and I think of all the memories we missed out on together. I’m going to spend as much time with Branham as he wants. I’m trying to instill that love and respect of nature that my grandad instilled in my brother, Stuart, and me. We just have more fun than you can imagine!”

Here’s a man that gets it. Take them and take them early and often.

My son Thomas was tagging along on dove hunts by age 3. He made for a pretty solid retriever. He will turn 20 later this month. It was our best duck season by far, but the two of us did manage to get in on a few good hunts before this past season ended.

I wouldn’t trade the one-on-one time I get with him now via the outdoors. I love seeing his passion for hunting, and even though he’s extremely hard-headed, he’s learning and still evolving as an outdoorsman.

My advice to young hunters is go as much as you can and soak it all in. Take the bad with the good and learn some life lessons. It’s not always about killing, and it took mine about 20 years to start figuring that out — so we are making progress.  

Not all children play basketball or baseball, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get outdoors. There are no team try-outs for hunters, and there’s no squabbling about playing time.

Additionally, having a healthy pastime about what they are passionate for offers kids an alternative to less desirable activities that can sometimes lead to trouble.

Hunting demands responsibility in many forms. First and foremost, kids must be responsible for handling their firearm safely while helping them understand that hunting helps preserve wildlife populations for the future.

I have always enjoyed taking my friends’ kids and Thomas’ friends through the years, but it was supposed to be about the kids, and it was. They never realized I was having more fun than they were.  

It’s their time, not yours. Don’t confuse your goal of shooting a big buck or catching a slab crappie with the importance of making your children’s time in the outdoors as fun as possible. Your hunting or fishing outing might turn into a nature walk or a rock throwing contest, but that is all right.

And, keep in mind, kids have a limited attention span and they may get tired. Don’t push your hunting or fishing time past the point of enjoyment.

These are strange times we live in right now, but fishing is a perfect way to do a little social distancing.

nContact Bill Burrus at 581-7237 or bburrus@gwcommonwealth.com.

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