Kids and Families Outdoors Now (#ResponsibleRecreation)

Memorial Day Weekend. That long mid-spring weekend when the outdoor world traditionally welcomes family camping, fishing, and carousing. Traditionally.

Thus, several homeys have bent my ear over the past few days about the probabilities of family camping, fishing, and carousing actually happening in this 2020 Age of CoronaVirus. “Look,” I have heard more than once, “this is the year – and the weekend – we promised to do more camping and fishing with the kids. They’re finally big enough to belong out there and do their part at camp, and we promised months ago, and… So. Will there be any open camping areas?” I have had to confess that I just don’t know.

There are certainly moves afoot to have some campgrounds on public land opened by this big weekend, but (as of early this week) I know nothing. It is clear that large numbers of us want – need – to be in the woods around a fire with family and friends. It is also clear that, if that somehow becomes possible, there will be some pretty solid “safety” guidelines issued for behavior and distancing and so forth. Any opening will be watched pretty closely. We’ve already seen openings retracted because of overly enthusiastic and unacceptable public risk-taking afield. The whole picture right now makes me a bit ill, but it is what it is.

My grandhucklings are bugging me every phone call about getting out this summer. Can I promise camping and fishing when I come to Colorado? Do I promise to help them make stories like their parents tell? Hmmm???

Invariably, they want the “Yellowstone Story.” Probably something to do with the fundamental moral correctness of kids and parents camping and fishing. Be that as it may, they love the story.

Okay… When my oldest were still too small to do much fishing, we camped in Yellowstone. I vividly recall a very early morning on Yellowstone Lake in July. It was one of those mornings when I felt totally alive, when the colors in the morning sun were deep and rich, and the air gently flowed through every cell of my being. I stood at the edge of that clear, cold lake casting for cutthroat trout, knowing that if this was my last morning on earth, it would be okay. I was even catching a few 14 and 15 inchers.

Down the beach was another man, also fishing. Fiftyish, I guessed, a bit older than most with young kids. He commented about the morning and how badly he needed to be fishing again, and almost nervously rigged his gear. Then I understood his nervousness. Down the trail behind him came a woman and two little six- to eight-year-old girls. It was all over. He would get them rigged, and while they were casting, he would turn to his own rod. One time, he even got to squat down next to his rod as a fish played with his bait, before the cries of frustration over tangled lines, hooked limbs (girls’ and/or trees’) or lost bait drew him away from his own fishing. Just as I was thinking, “No thanks,” his wife hugged him and offered to remove the girls so he could relax and fish. He wrinkled his nose and said, “No… Thanks. I need to relax, yeah, but what I really need is you guys.” He dismantled his gear and got serious about teaching his girls to fish. Last I remember, he was grinning ear to ear, helping the little one unhook a trout. I got it – we need nature and fishing.

Okay. That question of whether or not public ground camping and fishing will soon open to family and small family-friend groups. The Covid-19 curve is beginning to flatten, but many folks are fretting a bit over the possibility of out-of-control openings leading to sudden closures again. Then, too, critics of opening the outdoors are watching closely for any evidence of “dangerous” behavior once families and groups are actively outdoors. We must be safely ready.

Given these concerns a large number of national, state, and local conservation organizations are cautioning hunters and anglers to maintain social distancing practices and follow directives set forth by their home states and the Center of for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Program helped launch the #ResponsibleRecreation (hashtag ResponsibleRecreation) campaign in a coordinated effort with the National Wild Turkey Foundation, Congressional Sportsman Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Basically, this larger conservation community sees the #ResponsibleRecreation campaign as a safe and constructive way to encourage individuals and families to get outside (hunting, fishing, shooting, or any other outdoor activities) and enjoy the outdoors as a constructive way cope with the current Covid-19 pandemic and practice social distancing. The campaign recommendations may seem a bit trite, but, given the current climate around these “opening” questions, they make good sense – and for our kids’ focus, too.

Taking the #ResponsibleRecreation pledge and staying safe outdoors means: planning ahead and getting licenses and park passes online; recreating close to home; following best practices for avoiding Covid-19; following state and federal guidelines; packing out trash as a courtesy to others and avoiding an appearance of overuse; and sharing your adventures respectfully on social outlets.

Here’s the pledge: “I take the pledge to practice #ResponsbileRecreation and support efforts to get people outdoors during these difficult times. I pledge to staying safe outdoors during the pandemic as I enjoy the plentiful recreational opportunities this great nation has to offer.” Check it out at

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized