Introduce someone to the outdoors this Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a time of family traditions, and typically all the turkey or ham one can eat in a single sitting. Most people have a couple days off from their daily responsibilities as well.

For many outdoor-oriented families, it is a predetermined weekend of pheasant, duck, goose or deer hunting, or maybe an afternoon chasing walleye or sauger in the tailwaters of the Mississippi River.

But what if your family was never integrated into the outdoor lifestyle? Well, now is a great opportunity to start the process.

There are some great ways to introduce the “non-outdoor” family member to the outdoor tradition.

First, and maybe the easiest, is just to offer a wild game at your Thanksgiving meal, just like the pilgrim’s did.

For me, my side of the family grew up farming while my wife’s family all lived in town with no hunting exposure. In fact, my mother-in-law was a member of PETA and had some rather extreme views of hunting based on the source of her information.

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Fortunately, 15 years of marriage has shown her a different reality and now she appreciates it. Every year, I make it a point to have wild turkey at our Thanksgiving table. It is also a good excuse to make sure I do not miss turkey season each spring.

As most folks know, actions are much more powerful than words, so when skeptics see you treat animals with respect, it goes a long way in supporting the traditions.

One easy activity is to take a walk through nature after stuffing your belly with turkey. No one can argue about the need to take the walk, so it is just a matter of where to go. Try a wild area nearby such as a park, woods or riverfront. The focus should be on the appreciation of the wildlife, not necessarily on hunting or fishing.

Another of my favorites is getting family from out of town over to the river to see migrating wildlife. While we are fortunate to see these animals each and every day, visitors to the area can be in awe of the ducks, geese and especially bald eagles we have all over the Quad-Cities.

Finally, if you are one of those families that is deep in the outdoors and has a “newcomer” in the family, get them out to bond and see what all the fuss is about.

A few weeks ago, a fishing buddy told me about his new son-in-law who was being integrated into the family. He is a dentist and fishing was very new to him.

My buddy gave him the crash course on walleye fishing then they headed out for a day of wingdam fishing. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing 20 miles per hour out of the south, which is not a fun day on Pool 14.

The pair endured and bonded through the process, even without a bite the entire day. These bonding moments set the table for a lifetime of memories and appreciation of the Mississippi River for years to come.

It is the Thanksgiving holiday filled with time for family and friends.

Take the opportunity to be an advocate for the outdoors and you never know what new adventures may come from taking that newcomer for their first step into the outdoors.