Make it an Outdoors Christmas!

December is upon us. Hunters and wintertime anglers are in their glory. This past weekend Pam and I hosted her son and nephew for a Seadrift cast and blast and it was all we could hope for, on both ends. We bagged impressive straps of puddle ducks in the morning, enjoyed brunch at the local Mexican restaurant, and then headed for San Antonio Bay to sample the fishery. Wade fishing Matagorda Island’s back lakes did not disappoint.

Like so many area anglers have been enjoying all year, our local speckled trout fishery is currently as healthy as I have ever experienced. Halfway through the afternoon we settled into a windward shoreline teeming with active bait. What followed was the stuff of legend as we worked a school of solid five-pound specks and Pam pulled out a fat six-pounder. I’m praying it was a harbinger of what we will continue to enjoy as the winter season develops.

As a youngster, the anticipation of Christmas was more than I could bear. At the tender age of seven, I found a long skinny box under the tree that held a J.C. Higgins bolt-action .22 rifle. There were other gifts, of course, but that rifle stole the show. For my birthday I had been given a Johnson Century spincast reel mounted on a solid fiberglass True Temper fishing rod from the local hardware. Outdoors hunting and fishing TV was still decades in the future but it didn’t matter. The video cameras in my head captured thousands of real-time adventures along waterways and uplands – and they’re still running!

My father taught me respect for firearms from that Christmas Day in 1959 until his final days. On his deathbed he bequeathed a goodly portion of his heirloom collection of sporting gear that I will always treasure and some day pass on. He never allowed BB guns, believing their less than lethal nature bred disrespect for guns in general. He was very staunch in his reasoning. Along with gun safety he taught me marksmanship. He also preached sportsmanship and conservation. I had a hard time understanding at first when he’d intentionally let a sleek stream trout slip through his fingers and say, “Darn, he got away!”

Reminiscence of my past has a purpose here, and that is to encourage parents and others capable of being mentors to recognize the important role we can play in the lives of children and teens. From my earliest days tagging along on fishing and hunting trips to becoming a father and grandfather, passing on love and respect of the great outdoors and natural resources has been one of my greatest joys in life.

I encourage often in this column to take a kid fishing, and I mean that sincerely. Take them hunting, too. Put some nice hunting and fishing gear under the tree with a card describing the fun that awaits on trips you have planned for them. I cannot think of a better gift.

Merry Christmas!