Steve Rinella was just nine or ten years old when it happened. It was one of those mortifying, embarrassing moments when you see the adult come out in your parent. Rinella was hunting with his father, when his dad confronted the father of Rinella’s best friend over a breach in hunting ethics (and the law).
The friend’s father had hunted over his limit of ducks and then dumped the extras in the woods–an act that was not only cruel and wasteful, but pointlessly damaging to the native duck population. Rinella’s father could have let it go. He could have considered that it might cause problems for his son’s friendship…but he decided to speak up.
“I was embarrassed at the time,” Rinella reflected in his book Outdoor Kids in an Inside World, “but that incident made a lasting positive impression on me about the importance of utilizing game meat to the fullest extent.” In fact, if you’ve ever read any of Rinella’s books or watched his TV show, you can see how scarring the event was for Rinella…in a good way. In nearly every episode and every page, Steve speaks about the importance of conservation laws. You can watch him on his shows, chasing a buck or a turkey for hours and finally get in the position for a good shot, but then decline to take it for fear of bagging an animal he couldn’t butcher in time or because of some legal gray area he’d prefer to steer clear of. And when he does fill his tags, he doesn’t waste an ounce of the meat.
While it’s important to be sensitive to the impact that our actions and remarks have on our children, we shouldn’t ever be afraid to do the right thing in front of them. It’s clear that Rinella’s deep commitment to ethical and environmentally conscious hunting is rooted in that formative experience. His father did more than just pay lip service to the laws and practices of hunting, he actively respected them and did his job as a citizen enforcing them. He showed his son that the right thing is worth the embarrassment and inconvenience.
We should be so lucky as to get the chance to teach our kids that kind of lasting lesson and for them to listen so well.