The 8-point buck was getting away. Randy was standing in his tree stand trying to determine if the buck was shootable according to the local rules, but before he could make the determination, it disappeared into the woods. He was devastated.

Years later, with the campfire blazing, all eyes were glued on Randy as he began once again to tell this story. By now it was family folklore. Everybody, both young and old, still dressed in their hunting clothes, had heard this story and seen the reenactment many times…but it did not matter. They knew the ending of the story but were still riveted to their seats eager to hear it again. Randy continued to explain that while he was agonizing about what had just happened using his hands and head to demonstrate extreme anxiety and frustration, he spotted an even bigger buck off to his right that had also been watching the 8point disappear into the woods.

What would happen next? The drama was building. This plot rerun was rehearsed already in everybody’s mind with just as much fervor and excitement as when Randy told the story the first time.  He continued with the climatic conclusion…in the midst of his anxiety and grief, he turned quickly and dropped the large buck right where it stood…one shot and he had his trophy buck…complete devastation to total exhilaration. Everybody around the campfire felt it and was relieved. Once again, the world was a wonderful place.

My experience has been, that around a campfire, the older generation is not only listened to, but become heroes to those beginning their outdoor and hunting journeys. As each story is told and retold, imaginations are expanded, and legends are created. Respect and awe increase and the link between generations insured. This is one place where children actually listen to their parents.

Allow me to share three reasons why this takes place.

Learning Comes More Easily Through Story Telling Versus Directives

It is no revelation that people don’t like to be told what to do. Nor does it take a scientific study to understand that channels of learning are more open during a good story vs a sit-down chat with mom or dad. After an evening of campfire stories, bonds have been increased and respect enlarged. Small nuggets of wisdom can be mixed into the story in such a way that it seeps into the character of those listening without ever seeming like it was instructions or directives. A night of awe, laughter and excitement mixed with the calming mesmerizing light of a fire make a perfect learning environment. The younger feed off the experiences of the older. No better teaching situation can be found.

A Long Day of Hunting Creates a Common Bond

Hunting is hard…there are long hours of work with a few glorious moments interspersed ever so reluctantly by nature. As the more experienced hunters share their adventures, follies and successes, the younger group’s understanding of the great challenges that face them in order to become good hunters is galvanized. They come to understand that it takes work and you have to pay the price and put in the time…this is not another thing that is just handed to you…there are no “team trophies” …this is individual…it’s you against nature’s best.

This common bond created by shared sacrifice creates trust and respect, both of which are important ingredients for sharing wisdom and learning around the campfire.

Hunting Experiences Are Unforgettable

The same hunting story can be told year after year…and it is okay if it changes a little each time. The more time you spend in the woods, the more incredible are the things that happen…the big bucks that get away…the near accidents…the trophy bucks that walk into camp only to be shot by the one hunter who stayed behind to get some extra sleep.

The awe of the woods is already inherent in our souls. When we hear of the adventures and mishaps of others, we listen with the intensity of watching a thriller movie. Legacies are formed and cemented and traditions are passed along.

The next morning before daylight, both young and old will be putting back on their hunting clothes, spraying on some scent blocker and walking to their stand. The stories from the campfire the previous night will continue to wander through their minds making them wonder if perhaps today, their next campfire story is getting ready to unfold.

We should not underestimate the benefits that come from being around a campfire. There are lessons of life that need to be passed on but the manner in which we do it affects the learning. There is a big difference between instructing a young mind and taking them on a journey of discovery for themselves. We need to be careful that we do not concentrate so hard on the 8-point buck that we miss the bigger buck that is waiting to be discovered.

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