The Best Advice Dad Ever Gave

Want to give the old man a gift on Father’s Day? Heed his words of wisdom
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Wisconsin deer hunter

The author's father with one of many Wisconsin bucks taken over the years. Alex Robinson

There are a lot of things that sons and daughters can do to celebrate Father’s Day—take the old man fishing, buy him a gadget, or make him breakfast. I used to think that all this stuff was acceptable, until I became a father myself. Then I realized that the best thing you can do to thank the man is to actually listen to what he has to say for once.

On this one day of the year, don’t argue with him or roll your eyes or snicker because he still hasn’t figured out how to use email on his phone. Just listen and try to take in whatever hunting advice or life wisdom you might be able to glean, because there’s a good chance that it was hard earned.

Hunting Advice

If your dad is like mine, the advice he had to offer about hunting was simple and practical. My dad is a blue-collar Wisconsin deer hunter through and through. He hunts for meat and for tradition, and for the experience of being in the woods. He’s got a garage full of racks from 2-year-old and 3-year-old bucks (though he’s killed some big ones over the years, too). And still, the hunting lessons I’ve learned from him have helped me tag more deer than any tips or tactics that I’ve read (or written) during my career in outdoor media. So, I surveyed a few other OL editors about the best advice their dad’s had ever given them about hunting. Here’s what we can recall:

  • As soon as you have a good shot, take it. Don’t wait around. —Natalie Krebs, Senior Deputy Editor
  • Hunting is about so much more than just killing. Appreciate every close encounter you have with an animal. (This was after I missed a buck, twice, with my bow at 15 yards.) —Derek Horner, Engagement Editor
  • Don’t ever sell one of your guns. If you’re in a jam and you really need the money, call me and I’ll buy it from you. —Alex Robinson, Editor-in-Chief
  • Don’t shuffle your feet when you’re hunting. Roll your foot from heel to toe to walk quietly. —Tyler Freel, Staff Writer
  • Be patient. It only takes one buck. —AR
  • Wash your hands before and after lacing your boots in the summer. They probably have poison ivy on them. —NK
  • Just keep shooting until the deer is dead or you can’t see it anymore. —AR
  • Be the post. (We would do gentle deer pushes and he always wanted me to post up literally on a corner post, with no light between me and the post.) —Andrew McKean, Hunting Editor
  • Bird hunting is about making sure your dog has a good time. —AR
Father and sons fishing.
Wear your life jacket, son. Because I said so. Alex Robinson

Life Advice

The life advice that I can remember getting from my dad is also simple and practical. The best advice always is.

  • If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. (He told me this when I was in high school experiencing one of the first (and worst) hangovers of my life while scrubbing the bottom of a drained swimming pool in the summertime. That was the last time I stole a bottle of rum from his liquor cabinet). —Dac Collins, News Editor
  • Be a teacher, welder, or newspaperman. You’ll always have a job because every town worth living in needs all three. —AM
  • Work hard, and take nice vacations. —AR
  • Don’t give a dog or a kid a command that you can’t or won’t reinforce. —NK
  • Don’t get in fights. But if a kid hits you first, hit them back and make sure it’s just as hard. —AR
  • Don’t listen to your grandpa, he doesn’t know anything. —NK
  • Elope. —NK
  • Don’t ever run from the cops. But if you do, make damn sure you don’t get caught. —AR

But not all fatherly wisdom can be summed up in a few lines. Sometimes it takes years, or even a lifetime, to sink in. During my survey of editors about dad advice I also got this note back, which sums up the whole point of this post: Appreciate your old man while you’ve got him, because you never can be sure how long he’ll be around. 

My father passed away when I was 10 years old, so he didn’t have much time to impart many words of hunting wisdom on me. What I do remember was that he loved hunting and watching big Canada geese. During the offseason, he took me to spots where resident birds would roost just to see them cup in and land on the water. There was a flock that always flew over our house in the evenings, and he would often call to them in the summer from our driveway, anticipating the fall to come.

I like to think that when I see a flock of honkers flying low, whether it’s during hunting season or while I’m coaching my own son’s baseball team, that it’s Dad sending a few birds my way, letting me know he’s still here with me. —Joe Genzel, Senior Editor