A version of this article originally appeared in Texas Wildlife magazine. Join Texas Wildlife Association today to get this fun monthly publication with resources for ranch owners.
When we arrive at our farm, we go for a ride before doing anything else. Out on the dirt roads, without a soul or sound for miles, we unwind from city life, pick fresh vegetables from our crops, and inventory wildlife. In the evenings, we pull our chairs in the front yard to watch the sun set and the stars come out. It is one of my favorite outdoor activities–just next to sitting around a campfire with a s’more in hand. Growing up, my family had a tradition of hiking in the Rocky Mountains almost annually, a custom that has given me a permanent soft spot for Colorado and its rugged scenery.
While these traditions may seem inconsequential, they are part of what I cherish about my time outside and they have helped inspire my lifelong love of being outside.
Nearly each one of you, I’ll bet, has a tradition to share as well! Am I right?
Traditions—be they odd, funny, or serious—give the experience meaning. They solidify our relationships with each other by taking us out of our element. They inspire a feeling of kinship with Mother Nature by making us turn away from the man-made world and appreciate the unsurpassed beauty of the natural world around us.
To the average bystander, your favorite trail, park, ranch or hunting lease may look like just a blank spot on the map, but to you it is hallowed ground.
Here’s what a few Whit’s Wilderness readers had to say about their beloved traditions.
Growing up, my dad would load us into our old jeep for a ride through the pastures on summer evenings. We would drive to a high spot and watch the deer come in before sundown. That tradition carried over to our new ranch, and now my sons load up their families and drive from one pasture to another watching for wildlife. That makes four generations of my family who are drawn to the woods on summer evenings. We encounter everything from deer and wild hogs to foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional shooting star. What a great way to end a day!
— Carol Knutson, D’Hanis, TX
On the weekend before Thanksgiving, my friends and I gather at my ranch for a hunting weekend and cook a big Thanksgiving meal. Before the meal is served, everyone has to “dress for dinner” in clothes that they find in the closets, most of which have been there for decades. We call the weekend “Mock Thanksgiving” and we have been doing it for 15 years. It’s hilarious and heart-warming at the same time.
— Ashley Amini, Austin, TX
(I LOVE this Ashley!!)
Some of my favorite childhood hunting memories are from when my Great Uncle David would come to visit us on the ranch my dad managed. He would bring his travel trailer, and we would get up early to eat a breakfast of Oreos and “milk-coffee” in the trailer. When we returned mid-morning from hunting, Mom had home-made biscuits and gravy ready for a real breakfast, and in the evenings, we would hang out at the skinning shed, where my Dad would make camp coffee as we waited for folks to come in with their evening harvest.
— Jenny Sanders, Lufkin, TX
When the boys were little, the requirement for going on hunting trips was that you had to be potty trained, mind all grown-ups, and be in good standing on school work. Starting when each of my sons was about two, we took many hunting trips together—from opening weekend through Thanksgiving and year-end holiday hunts. Pronghorn and mule deer season were reserved for “daddy trips” until the boys were older. Once while I was packing for such a trip, one of the boys put his camo teddy in my bag so I wouldn’t miss my sons. This tradition continued with each of my boys. The Hunting Bear was my constant companion on many trips and no one ever teased me about having a teddy bear next to my pillow in hunting camp.
— Dr. Bill Eikenhorst, Brenham, TX
I have a favorite place on our ranch for taking photos, a high spot where the hills bend down into a narrow valley. We have been taking group shots there for years. It’s amazing to look back over the photos and see how groups have evolved and the kids have grown, but the land remains unaltered. This scenic spot is a constant in our ever-changing world – it keeps us grounded and connected to the land so we don’t forget our roots.
— Ashley Amini, Austin, TX
One thing we do is kick off the new hunting season with a Gary P. Nunn concert in the saloon at our annual Dove Bust! In the summers, we fill the pila with water to swim in. We also love hosting Texas Youth Hunting Program and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hunts every year.
— Crystal Watts, Boerne, TX
It may be just a scenic overlook or a simple summer evening swim, but the bond we forge with the land in those moments is lasting. Here’s to many years of traditions and memories on your favorite piece of land!
What are some of your traditions?