If hunting has a downside, it's this: It's a solitary sport.
We sneak into the woods, climb into a tree stand and don't speak, unless we get lucky, for the rest of the day. Sure, the solitude is a great getaway from the drudgery of the real world. But it's tough to build a lasting bond in a tree stand. It's an important idea to keep in mind with hunting season heating up.
Most of us work full-time jobs. For the majority of the week, we're away from the folks that we care about the most. And now that hunting season is here, we want to be away from home even more. It puts a lot of us in a tight spot -- enjoy the sport we love or enjoy the people we love.
Clearly, there's no simple compromise. It's tough to bring my 3-year-old son into a tree stand. If he's quiet for more than two minutes, something is about to go wrong. But that doesn't mean I don't share the sport with him. It's just the opposite. He's quite versed in his old man's arrow-slinging practice routine. And he'll gladly tell you the difference between a buck and a doe.
My point is that I get him involved in every aspect of the sport that I can. That way, when I'm in the stand and away from him, he's just as excited about the hunt as I am. You can bet he'll be out of bed just a little bit earlier Saturday morning when archery season kicks off. He knows it's a grand event.
As our children grow older, it's easier and easier to take them into the woods with us. When it comes to getting our youngest generation involved in outdoor sports, we live in a great state. The Game Commission has made it easier than ever to create a young hunter. Pennsylvania offers a wide array of hunting opportunities for school-aged kids -- from junior deer seasons to the opportunity to target squirrels with a mentor. Thanks to these prime seasons, there's no excuse to be in the woods alone. Take a kid with you.
And thanks to recent moves by the Fish and Boat Commission, similar opportunities are available to the state's anglers.
Last spring, the agency introduced a mentored youth trout-fishing program in the southeastern part of the state. For the upcoming trout season, the program will be available to anglers across the state. Again, there will be no excuse to leave a youngster behind.
It's tough to get everything accomplished. We'd all like to spend more time in the woods or on the water. And we all want to spend more time with our families. It takes compromise to do both.
This year, make a commitment not to be a solitary hunter. You may have to sit in the tree stand alone.
But that doesn't mean you can't share the hunt with the folks close to you.
-- Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.