Small Spaces, Big Hearts: Lessons learned from modern day pioneer life

Small Spaces, Big Hearts:

Lessons learned from modern day pioneer life

Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

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There has always been a deep yearning in my heart for dirt. I didn’t have a rural upbringing and despite my efforts to shake it, dirt seems to follow me everywhere I go.

I am the coworker that tracked the mud into the office.

I am the girl changing from high heels to snake boots daily.

My own mother calls me her “mud puppy” as a term of endearment.

When 30 acres of dirt and mesquite covered brush became our dream come true, we were more than 2,000 miles away. I had only seen photos of the property and as difficult as it was to leave my hometown, the dirt called. It had been a long time coming and we were both eager to get there. We left our quaint, beautiful, three bedroom home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for an unpredictable life. The truck acting as our oxen and the fifth wheel our covered wagon, we made the journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Lone Star state. We were modern day pioneers.

Kristin and Adam Parma pose for Christmas portraits on their ranch in Adkins, TX.

My husband, Adam and I have lived that existence and the lifestyle that comes with it for two years on our South Texas property, affectionately called the Czech Out Ranch. We don’t have cable but I am told that numerous reality TV shows currently depict small space living as simple, easy and affordable.

NEWS FLASH:

Small space living is not glamorous.

Small space coupled with farm life is not for everyone. It is not always peaceful or kind. In fact, it is downright difficult at times. Despite that, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have learned so many beneficial lessons these past two years as my soul has been tested, friendships stretched, and marriage tried and strengthened. As Adam and I prepare ourselves in the building of our custom home on the property, the lessons that we have learned from our journey have been at the forefront of our minds. These are lessons that we can all learn from and that I hope we will continue to remember throughout our lives.

  1. Less is more.

People have often told me, “I just couldn’t do it, where would I put all my _____?” Hunting gear, clothes, craft supplies, etc. My response is always the same, “You’d be amazed at what you can fit in less than 400 square feet of living space. What you can live without.”

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

Living in a tiny space has taught me so much about the importance of decluttering. Not only is it necessary when living in a small space but it is soul changing and stress relieving. When you go through all your worldly possessions and ask yourself the question, will my quality of life change without this? Two things happen. You are released from the stress that being attached to inanimate objects has on you or you truly cherish the item you decide to keep. It is all about priorities.

  1. Necessity vs. Comfort

Along the same lines of the “Less is more” concept, on a daily basis we are met with the troubling 21st century consumer question:

Do I want it or do I need it? If I do need it how will I fit it in our tiny space?

To make room for ANY item in our small dwelling means that we value it immensely- from a loaf of bread to a kitchen aid mixer. It also means being inventive with the space you do have.

Many items in our small space have multiple purposes. Adam handmade our cedar chest which acts as our coffee table and opens up for storage purposes. We jokingly call it the wine cellar, because well, that’s where we keep the wine. Adam also made a bird stand for our canary’s cage to sit on. That bird stand has two compartments. The top compartment is used to store animal supplies and the bottom is a hidden litter box for our cats to use. There are also some built in items that make storage easier, such as a pull out pantry and a laundry shoot- yes a laundry shoot.

In addition, living in a small space means saying no to many things because we don’t have the luxury of space to accommodate random decorations or adornments. When it comes to clothes shopping I follow the one in, one out rule. If I purchase something new I have to donate something old. Not only does this save space but it makes me feel good.

248Despite not purchasing many material items, we do add items to our lives that bring fulfillment and real joy despite our small space situation. These past two years we have added a dog and a kitten to our menagerie of indoor pets. When we added our collie Jane to our lives almost a month after moving to the Czech Out Ranch it added an even bigger space dilemma. We sacrificed our table and chairs to accommodate a wire kennel for crating purposes. In return, Jane fulfills our heart and home with laughter, purpose and joy.

 

  1. Focus on the Outdoors

My absolute favorite thing about small space living is that I spend the majority of my time outside. Whether it’s cooking, playing with the dog, farm chores, walking the property, hunting or gardening, rain or shine- my life happens outdoors.

329The time period between moving from Oregon to Texas was a rough two months of harsh, frigid temperatures and snow storms in my parent’s driveway. I remember the propane heater broke and we were without electrical hookups. To combat the stressfulness of life, Adam and I spent every single weekend of that two months hunting. Laying in marshlands looking up at the sky or in a deer blind watching the snow fall. The urge to be outdoors constantly carried over when we reached the Czech Out Ranch where we now spend 75% of our free time outside tending to farm animals, a large garden, hunting the property, trail running and enjoying nature’s splendor.

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Czech Out Ranch entrance gate

This is a lifestyle that has molded us into the people we are today. When people complain about the weather, we shrug our shoulders because it doesn’t affect us the same way it affects others. Even as we design our home we are reminded of the outdoors and have a deep yearning to pay homage to nature within it. We want to prioritize having outdoor living space as opposed to indoor space and limit our human footprint on the property we love so dear.

  1. Lower carbon footprint. Less waste.

13221694_579229795583004_2741015676691318438_nWe all consume. We’re all guilty of polluting. It is difficult to live a completely whole and “righteously” earth friendly life. I am a firm believer that small steps can make big impacts.

Living small also means storing small. Our fridge is small. Our pantry is small. As much as I say I hate the small space, it also means less food waste. Food does not get stuck in the never-ending abyss of the “back of the fridge.” And I often buy fresher produce and groceries, harvesting only what I need from the garden. When something does go bad it goes to the farm animals or the compost pile, limiting landfill waste.

Less water is wasted running long hot showers because it is just not possible in our small space. I have become the queen of the quick shower so much so that when I am staying in a hotel, a long shower just doesn’t seem right anymore. In our small space we have to make decisions about whether to run the washer for laundry, shower, or do the dishes on a weekly basis. We also dry our laundry on the line. A perk of living in South Texas.

In general, being more environmentally aware of our carbon footprint has inspired us to build what most folks might consider a small home with eco-friendly options. So that when we do have the luxuries of a large fridge, a dishwasher and more we still feel good about what the time without them taught us.

  1. Appreciate the little things.

Overall, I have learned the lesson to appreciate the little things in life that I often took for granted. Most of these “little things” are actually big things – electricity, water, hot water, water pressure, garbage service, a conventional oven, a bathtub, a large closet. These are all things that I have lived without at some point during this time in my life. I have always been an avid camper and outdoors person however, to actually live without some of these luxuries for over two years continues to be life altering.

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Installing electrical wire

As much as I am proud of our accomplishments I will admit there have been moments when I felt ashamed of living in an unconventional home. When the hard times were just too much to bare. Those “bad times” have become some of our most shared moments with others. The time the heater broke in a snow storm, blowing out a tire on a major highway in California, breaking the pull cord on the generator at six in the morning before coffee was brewed, digging trenches for electricity, losing electricity, hauling trash & recycling, flooding water from the shower and losing use of the fridge (which meant keeping groceries in the cooler for a week) are just a few of the memorable events. To really appreciate what you have you have to live a little uncomfortably sometimes.

Make no mistake there have been a lot of positive and memorable moments during this time period in our life as well. Enjoying weekday dinners together outside watching the sunset, evening walks around the property discovering new wildflowers, critter tracks and more, dancing in the living room/kitchen/dining room, lying in bed one minute and hunting in the “backyard” the next, sharing the property with friends and introducing others to outdoor activities, innumerable amounts of laughter playing with a hyper puppy in a small space watching as she bounces off the walls, almost literally, and many more cherished good times with my best friend and husband.

In the end the positives out way the negatives. Both make up our unique modern day pioneer story and how we have found deep appreciation for the big and little things in life.

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THE WORLD IS YOURS: Guiding through the Texas Youth Hunting Program

THE WORLD IS YOURS

By Kristin Parma, Evo Media

www.evooutdoors.com 

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            “Ariel, I am here for you,”

the words of her father, echoed in my mind as he braced his daughter in the ground blind the morning of November 14th, 2015. Ten year old Ariel had the determined but worried look of a beginner hunter as she shouldered up to the rifle the way her father had taught her. The kick of the barrel, the pressure of making the right shot, and the consequences of missing her target. The check list of thoughts that we as hunters think about at one time or another in our lives. Ariel took the rifle off safety and peered through the scope.

The target? A sounder of feral hogs.

DSC_0830According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, feral hogs are distributed throughout Texas, with the highest population densities in East, South and Central Texas. Feral hogs compete directly with livestock and often cause damage to agricultural crops, fields, wetlands, creeks and trees. Because of this and many more reasons there are few regulations in the state of Texas on the harvest of feral hogs. For more information about feral hogs visit TPWD: Feral HogsDSC_1028

After a few more encouraging words from her father and I, Ariel pulled the trigger. The sounder scattered in all directions. A young hog was hit as it slowly made it’s way into the thick south Texas brush. That morning we saw many whitetail does. Ariel however, made the decision not to take a shot. The does were walking in front and behind, chasing one another. Ariel was not confident she could shoot in time to only hit one deer. Visibly, she was worried and felt remorse for the beautiful deer in front of her. Based on her training, Ariel wanted to make sure any shot she took was a clean, ethical one. An extremely important and mature decision to make for a ten year old child. A decision that her father and I supported despite any effort we made to coach her through it.

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Sunset at Hoffman Ranch

For the second year in a row my husband Adam and I have been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP). TYHP is the joint effort of the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to offer youth hunts that are safe, educational and affordable, all while learning about the valuable role that landowners and hunters play in wildlife conservation.

ThDSC_0935is was our second year as hunt guides/mentors at the Hoffman Ranch, a low fence cattle farm owned by Mr. & Mrs. Hoffman in Alice, Texas. This particular TYHP hunt included four children ages 10-14, their fathers and four volunteer hunt guides/mentors. The primary target was to harvest one doe whitetail deer and/or varmint. Volunteers like Hunt master Jack Thompson and cook Dan Griffin, as well as the generosity of the landowners made the hunt possible. In addition to hunting two evenings and two mornings the kids were treated to an educational and enthralling talk from Texas Game Warden Carmen Rickel.  Kids and adults alike, were invited to look through Carmen’s night vision goggles, ask questions about gear and hunting regulations, as well as take an oath to uphold the responsibility to be wildlife stewards.

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The experience of volunteering your time with a youth program is a wonderful feeling however, guiding this hunt with Ariel and her father made it rewarding beyond measure. Prior to that weekend, I questioned my skills as a guide.  I am not an expert hunter and I have reservations about ever considering myself one. I believe ego can kill our compassion for wildlife. I refuse to think I am so good at something that I forget what it is like to learn, to grow, and to be excited about a day in the field, harvest or no harvest. From the smallest white-wing dove to the largest game animal I have hunted, the Roosevelt elk, I respect all wildlife beyond the kill. What I do have are many experiences in the pursuit of game that have helped me gain the knowledge to help others in the field. In particular, animal behavior and tracking. Some time after Ariel’s shot I took to the brush in search of her harvest. I was determined to find that hog and though I am scratched and scarred from the cactus and assortment of thorny trees, I did. An accomplishment and affirmation to myself that I am worthy of being a guide and mentor.

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Ariel’s first harvest on her father’s birthday! This hog was dressed and taken home by the father/daughter team for consumption.

I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense of what hunting really is. Hunting is time spent outdoors pursuing and celebrating all wildlife. Some people may contest that I did not hunt that weekend. I would challenge that argument. I experienced everything a hunter experiences and more- except pulling the trigger. I prepared, watched, analyzed, tracked and felt the adrenaline, remorse and excitement of a weekend in the field. All the components that we perhaps take for granted sometimes as adults in the hunting community. After all, we don’t call it “killing” for a reason. Hunting is so much more than that.

Wildlife we saw: Coyote, bobcat, quail, turkey, deer, javelina, hogs, fox, geese and more!

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Though Ariel had never pulled the trigger until that weekend I learned that she helped her mom and dad with an array of activities including hunting, baking, canning wild edibles, and tanning snake skins. I learned from Ariel that weekend about many of those things. I treasure the time spent with her and her father. Most importantly, I respected her father’s patience. If Ariel decided she didn’t want to shoot something it was OK. There was no pressure, only support and guidance from the both of us. To spend the following morning after her harvest in the blind taking pictures of all the beautiful animals and being an audience for the fidgety, spitfire antics of Ariel, was more than enough to satisfy any of my goals for the weekend. A girl who wanted nothing more than to make her dad proud, and of course, laugh. Something I can completely relate to as a wife and daughter.

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A father daughter pact

That morning I stood outside the blind watching father and daughter make a pact.

“I will hunt the piggies and you can hunt the deer.”

Ariel told her father. The love of a father is something very sacred and special. To know that a father wants the world for his daughter is even more special. To be thanked by that father for my guidance and help to instill the confidence in his daughter was beyond measure.

20151114_111227My message to Ariel:

Ariel, the world is yours. You can do anything you put your mind to. Never stop dreaming and striving to fulfill those dreams. You ARE a hunter however, continue to learn and be in wonder of the wildlife around you. A picture is just as special as a harvest. May your father and you be blessed with many more hunting memories. Now, bring home the bacon!

Adam and I hope to visit Ariel’s family in the new year and give Ariel her first archery lesson. I am also told that Ariel’s homemade biscuits are melt in your mouth good!

 

Kristin Parma  Czech Out Ranch

“Look a hawk in the tree!” -Me

“There’s a hog in the tree?”  -Ariel

“Yeah when pigs fly!” -Ariel’s father

(Laughter)

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TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2015

Follow the link below to read about my first TYHP experience at Hoffman Ranch:

TEXAS TRADITIONS

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TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2014

Simply Delicious: Pan Seared Dove

Simply Delicious:

Pan Seared Dove

 Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

Recipe from Adam Parma, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Depending on where and what you hunt with (November is dedicated to falconry) dove season spans almost all of the fall period in Texas. While perhaps simpler than waterfowl or upland bird hunting, dove hunting does actually require being a good shot with your shotgun. Dove, especially Mourning dove, are fast little birds of quick deception. They can easily be coming in one direction and change their flight pattern quicker than a blink of an eye. Often times they will fly right past your head coming from behind or fall quickly behind the tree line.

Side note: The dragon fly is to dove season what the squirrel is to deer season. 

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My first dove!

460September 2014 was my first dove season. I shot my first white-wing less than 100 yards from my doorstep. For a girl who grew up in the suburbs of Eugene, Oregon I felt so very thankful to be living my dream on acreage in Texas. It felt better than Christmas morning. The emotion of providing my own food in my own “backyard” is more exciting than anything I could have ever hoped for. Non-hunting organizations will have you believe that hunters do not eat the dove they harvest. However, like other wild game birds, the dove is absolutely DELICIOUS .

Dove vs. Squab

In the culinary world a squab is referred to as a young domesticated pigeon. From what I gather though a squab can be referred to as a young dove, wild or domestic. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife there are five different types of dove/pigeon that can legally be hunted in the state. It is important to be able to identify migratory birds as there are several species of dove that are protected. For instance the protected Inca dove shares our home with us at the ranch. These dove are much slower, smaller and mostly ground dwelling. For more information on dove identification visit Texas Parks & Wildlife: Know Your Doves.

So, you ask- why is dove so tasty? Dove has VERY little fat and unlike a chicken, dove is a tasty flavor nugget of all dark meat. This gives it, to me, a beef-like quality.

Ah-ha! These are the “chicken nuggets” our future children will eat every fall in their homemade happy-meals.

According to Genuine Aide Natural Healthy blog the nutrients of one squab are packed with Vitamins A, B and C. Along with other essentials like protein, iron, calcium, potassium and Omega 3 fatty acids. These improve brain function, immune system, healthy skin and nails among other many beneficial attributes.

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My teacher, Mr. Parma!

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Dove Season 2015

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Our collie Jane enjoys dove hunting

Most Southerners opt to take the dove and bacon wrap it with a slice of jalapeño on the grill. I am NOT, I repeat not, in any way putting down bacon…But really? Is it necessary? Dove meat is tender if cooked properly and adding bacon is not needed for flavor or moistening purposes. In addition, there are many fancy “foodie” type recipes out there for wild game birds like duck, dove and pheasant. Any Google search on the internet will make you assume you have to soak, smother or baste an itty bitty dove for extreme hours. A turn off for many.  My husband Adam, A.K.A. “Boots” is my culinary hero. In my eyes he is an innovator in simple, delicious wild game cooking. It must be the beard that gives him those powers. While many of the recipes found online are no doubt delicious sometimes I think we have lost track of the simpler, equally tasty recipes that our grandparents and furthermore, pioneer relatives grew up with. After all, people have been eating wild game for a long time without fancy sauces…

At the ranch I like to think we live like pioneers- 21st century style of course. Currently, we live with very limited indoor space and do majority of our cooking in one very reliable and well-loved cast iron skillet. This year Adam’s first haul of dove inspired this bread crumb and pan seared dove recipe that had my taste buds tingling.

Ingredients (serving size for two):

8 deboned and breasted dove

Bread crumbs (We used store bought spicy breadcrumbs but you could make your own)

1 fresh farm egg

Sea salt to taste

Oil of your choice (We only use olive oil)

Steps:

  1. Remove the breast meat from the dove.

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    Adam teaching friend Melanie how to clean a dove

  2. Place cracked egg and breadcrumbs into shallow bowls. Add any other spices you would like to the breadcrumbs. Dredge the dove breasts into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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    When I asked Adam about the egg wash his response was, “You take an egg, wash it and put it in the bowl- egg wash!” *smirk*

  3. Pour about 1/4 inch or less of olive oil to the bottom of a cast iron skillet and bring to 350 degrees.1905
  4. Sear the dove breasts in batches for about 2 minutes turning once during frying. You are looking for a good exterior crust. Remove the dove to a platter and lightly sprinkle with sea salt to taste.1906
  5. Serve with your favorite side dishes and ENJOY natures gift!

Adam and Kristin share their homesteading adventures on their Czech Out Ranch Facebook page as a way to honor all the people in their lives that aided them in following their dreams. They enjoy sharing their story with others to perpetuate the notion that if you dream it, it can happen.

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Dove season 2015

Venison Thai Lettuce Tacos

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This is my second spring in the great state of Texas and I love watching our garden grow at the Czech Out Ranch. Every day there is something new to report. A new blackberry blossom, a bean stalk, an onion trying to push up from the soil. When it comes to cooking I am inspired by our garden and love to take a walk through it prior to dinner.

My husband and I love Thai food and anything that accompanies a spicy palate is a plus. I was craving Thai lettuce cups one day when I forgot to go to the store for chicken. My husband Adam suggested using venison instead- genius! Since this is South Texas and all, Thai lettuce tacos seemed more fitting a title. Here’s how we made this simple dish.

**If you want to serve with rice I suggest starting your rice based on an hour cooking/prep time commitment. We use a rice cooker so we always start the rice prior to any cooking. In this case we used jasmine rice which classically accompanies Thai food. White rice, brown rice or any sort of starch would work just as good.

 

venison meat

Step one:

Thinly slice roughly two pounds of defrosted venison steak (we wanted leftovers for the following evening). Marinate in a bowl with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Salt and pepper. A little goes a long way and I don’t measure. This is why Adam does all the baking. Any type of venison will work (deer, elk, exotics) but in this case we used black tail deer harvested by Adam in Oregon.

 Step two:

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Slice/chop your veggies and toppings. We used a variety of peppers, onion, cilantro and crushed peanuts. I added a little bit of chive, basil and parsley from the garden.  In addition, the garden peppers were calling my name so I added a few Serrano peppers for an added kick. Choose whichever veggies you enjoy!

 

Step three:

Add a touch of olive oil to a pan and sear the venison steak in batches. We do majority of our indoor cooking in a cast iron skillet. Don’t overcook the venison. A minute or so on each side and the venison will be ready. Transfer to a dish and cover with foil to keep warm while you sear the rest.

DSC_4203Step four:

Sautee onions, peppers and cilantro. You can either do this combined with the venison in step three or afterwards.

Step five:

Prepare lettuce cups. Traditionally in Asian food restaurants lettuce cups are served with iceberg lettuce because they provide a good vessel for all the goodies. I don’t readily buy iceberg lettuce so I used some romaine which worked just as well. In the garden I mostly grow micro-greens which aren’t sturdy enough but certainly would make a good warm salad version of this recipe. To prepare, tear off each romaine leaflet from the stem to be used as your “cup” or “tortilla” to hold the cooked mixture.

Step six:

Put it all together and enjoy.

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There are many different ways you can put this concoction of ingredients together. We first placed a spoonful of jasmine rice on each romaine lettuce taco. Then added the meat/veggie mixture and uncooked toppings. I added extra cilantro as well as chive, basil, parsley and crushed peanuts for crunch.

Nut allergy? Bean sprouts work just as well. Caution: The more ingredients you add the messier the bite!

My first job in college was at a Hawaiian restaurant where sesame seeds were sprinkled on top of every dish. Therefore I have been trained to have toasted sesame seeds on hand. I buy them pre-toasted but you can easily toast them yourself. How to toast sesame seeds.

Singapore-Chili-Sauce-aFor spice Adam and I like to indulge with some hot chili sauce or you can make any Asian inspired vinaigrette. I am obsessed with Korean BBQ sauce. There is room to mix ethnicities for variation so have fun with it!

As hunters it is always fulfilling to know that you played a crucial part in the making of your meal. I also find that when you cook your own wild game it sparks a retelling of the hunt, the animal and the memories made. In a way, cooking your own wild game is a way to honor your harvest.

Happy hunting, gardening and eating!

 

Ingredient List:

Venison steak- 2lbs

Onion- 1

Your favorite peppers- 1-2

Cilantro

Chive, basil, parsley (or whatever added flavor you’d like)

Romaine lettuce

Salt and black pepper

Soy sauce

White wine vinegar

Sesame oil

Optional: Toasted sesame seeds, chili sauce, peanuts, bean sprouts

-Kristin Parma, Evo Media Coordinator/ProStaff

-Adam Parma, ProStaff

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Adam & Kristin Parma are owners of the Czech Out Ranch in Adkins, TX

Old Traditions, New Blood

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“What is the number one rule?”

November 14th, 2014

Jack Thompson addressed all four youth and their fathers. “Be safe?” a boy piped up, proud of his answer. “Being safe is extremely important but it’s actually not rule number one.” Jack responded, throwing the boys for a loop. The boys who came from the town of Mission, TX were all friends prior to this meeting. They looked at each other and their parents, unsure and sleepy eyed. “Have fun?” Horacio, one of the oldest chimed in. Mr. Thompson grinned from ear to ear as he responded, “YES. And rule number two? Everybody…” In unison the group, volunteers and all responded, “Remember rule number one!”

This wasn’t a trip to Disneyland or a Boy Scout fundraiser assembly. Soap box derbies, rollercoasters and action figures couldn’t have been further away. All four boys, ranging from ages nine to thirteen had accomplished several assessments and activities at the state and local level to be there that evening. Through the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) volunteer Hunt Master Jack Thompson had arranged for all four boys to take part in a two day rifle hunt on the Hoffman Ranch. Owned by the Hoffman family, the ranch is a 2,000+ acre low fence property in Alice, TX. The ranch has been honored as a Texas Family Lane Heritage ranch for its continuous operation by the Hoffman’s since the late 1800’s. Each youth hunter was provided the opportunity to fill a doe tag in addition to hog and coyote, accompanied with their guardian and a volunteer hunting guide.

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Good morning! Fathers and sons enjoy a big breakfast made by volunteer Chief Cook Dan Griffin

Saturday morning the air was cold and crisp. The misty rain ceased to stop collecting on the top of the deer blind. Drip, drip, drip- it splashed on to my knee. The icy wind tickled my nose as I snuggled back into my hood and blaze orange head warmer. The weather took me back to my hometown of Eugene, Oregon where the smell of damp clothes and the sound of squeaky rubber boots permeates everyone’s senses almost year round. I didn’t move an inch or make a sound. Normally I would have had my bow or shotgun in hand and I felt the anxious feeling of having forgotten one or the other. My Nikon camera and smile were my only accessories. I sat in that deer blind on an unimaginably cold day in south Texas as a volunteer hunting guide on behalf of the Texas Youth Hunting Program. My responsibly? Accompany a youth hunter and their guardian during the hunt and assist in following safety measures throughout. Number one rule of course, have fun.

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Alice educating the youth on shot placement

A state law in Texas, to be a hunter one must pass the Texas Hunter Safety Education course. For hunters seventeen and older the test is offered online however, all youth ages nine through sixteen must pass the course in addition to a field day. The field day includes a hunter skills trail, a live-fire exercise, and a written exam. When I write that each youth hunter had been through several forms of testing before getting the opportunity to hunt at the Hoffman Ranch I was not kidding. In addition to testing at the State level to legally become a hunter each boy learned firearm safety and sighted in their rifle the evening before the first hunt. Most impressive to me was the skills test that was given to each youth hunter during the trip. Volunteer Alice Hammond took each kid into the field and asked them questions regarding safety, animal identification, and shot placement. A long time educator and avid outdoorswoman, Alice presented each obstacle or question in a thoughtful but laid back manner. I shadowed her on a skills test with youngest youth hunter Diego. Alice asked him what the word ethical meant. Perplexed, she provided him an example that he could relate to in his ordinary life. Alice then pointed to a cardboard cutout of a Whitetail fawn. “Would it be legal to shoot that fawn?” Alice asked. “Yes” Diego responded. Alice followed his response by asking, “Would it be ethical?” Diego pondered her question for a moment. Ethics can be a hard concept to wrap your head around for a nine year old boy. “No.” Diego responded. Alice reaffirmed his answer was correct and why.

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Alice uses real hides to educate on animal identification

In addition to hunter safety Alice spoke to each boy specifically about firearm safety. Holding up a rifle she asked, “If I were to give you this gun what would I need to do first beforehand?” Each youth hunter would name safety measures such as unloading the firearm and making sure there was not a round in the chamber and leaving the bolt open. In a world where we deal with numerous firearm accidents a year I found it so essentially perfect that Alice made it a point to tell each boy about their responsibility to practice safety precautions around firearms.Diego 3

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Diego, age 9

That morning Diego harvested his first doe Whitetail deer with his .243 rifle. I have volunteered with children for over ten years, worked in a school based health center in my home state of Oregon, but I have never seen a nine year old beam with so much excitement as Diego did after harvesting his first doe. Each boy followed shortly behind Diego the following evening and morning hunts and filled their doe tag. I had the pleasure to accompany youth hunter David, age twelve and his father Mauricio. David had hunted several times before however, he was the last to harvest a doe on Sunday morning. I quickly made myself the butt of a joke in regards to the notion of luck. David, who at twelve years old was vertically superior to me, kept a positive attitude as hunt after hunt went by without harvesting his doe. He and his father welcomed my assistance and conversation (I enjoyed practicing my Spanish) in those chilly times after shooting hours. My husband Adam Parma accompanied youth hunter Jorge, a first time hunter at age eleven. As a former TYHP youth hunter Adam recalls, “It was better than pulling the trigger myself. You don’t always have to be the one behind the trigger to get buck fever.” I was immediately impressed by all the youth hunters. No feeders. No high fences. These boys had to practice patience and work in tandem with their fathers and guides to get the job done. Soaking up the knowledge and traditions of hunting as every minute passed.

 

Jorge 1Ironically, I did not grow up hunting. I didn’t shoot a gun until I was nineteen years old when my father refused to let another man (now my husband) teach me how to shoot one before him. As a country boy in Akron, Ohio my father has memories of hunting with his father, “My old man always had a few beagles around and would go pheasant and duck hunting.” he recalled to me. How come I was never exposed to hunting as a kid? “There may not have been a program like this. You grew up running around in the woods. The deer were like your pets. I took you fishing though and you were always outdoors.” My dad stated. Having not grown up around the traditions of hunting why then was I volunteering for this program? I pondered this question throughout my time spent on the trip. On our first chilly morning together I asked David’s father Mauricio the simple question, “Did you grow up hunting?” He responded by telling me about growing up in Mexico hunting with his father and how he cherished those memories. I looked around that evening at the smiling kids, volunteers and friendship that was forming around me.  It was clear then to me that I was volunteering to give back what I never had as a child. Yes, I ran around the woods as a kid in Oregon but I never experienced the excitement and rewarding feeling that hunting brings to a child. When I looked around at each boy it was easy to see that their fathers beamed with pride over them. That sort of parent/child bonding was all made possible through the TYHP. Yes, this was an important program on so many levels. Because of this program a tradition, and all that comes with it, of hunting in Texas was being continued in a long legacy of hunting families of different cultures and upbringings. Now as a hunter in my adult life I understand the richness and meaningfulness behind passing on such an important tradition to anyone, especially your child. Learning the foundation of hunting as a child teaches so many important attributes- discipline, ethical thinking and probably the hardest trait of all to teach- patience. (I am still working on that one).

Jorge 2

Jorge, age 11

La Trinidad RanchHoffman Ranch (4)

David, age 12

The Texas Youth Hunting Program is the product of a collaborative effort by the Texas Wildlife Association and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Created in 1996 as a response to the declining number of youth hunters in Texas, the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) has provided over 55,000 youth hunters a safe, mentored and educational hunting experience. The TYHP runs on three components: Landowners, Volunteers & Youth Hunters. With the majority of Texas’ land privately owned, landowners provide the place where the TYHP can groom future hunters and encourage cherished hunting traditions. In addition to giving the landowner the enjoyment of allowing youth to experience a hunt on their property the landowner benefits by using the TYHP to manage their wildlife population- does, feral hogs and more. Diego 2It is important to note that all participants of this hunting experience were volunteers. Though the TYHP makes reimbursements for things such as gas, food, etc. all are unpaid workers. Volunteers are the backbone of the TYHP and its ability to provide so many hunts for the youth of Texas and to make each hunt a memorable one. Volunteers provide each youth hunter the opportunity to learn, grow and accomplish so much more with their guardians beside them so that they too, will grow into safe, ethical Texas hunters who pass on the traditions to their family members. I will never forget my first time volunteering with the TYHP and the wholesomeness I felt in my heart.  I learned so much from giving my time to the program and I encourage all hunters, family members of hunters or outdoor enthusiasts to give back to programs like the TYHP. If you are interested in volunteering please visit the Texas Youth Hunting Program website for more information. There are many options and ways one can service this great cause- from fundraising, guiding a hunt, cooking on a trip or becoming a certified hunt master. Land owners too can volunteer their property for hunts just as the Hoffman family so graciously did. Don’t live in Texas? I highly suggest you look into similar programs in your area. For example, the Dream Hunt Foundation in Louisiana provides guiding hunting or fishing trips for disabled, terminally ill and underprivaleged youth. If there is no youth hunting program in your area then why not start one? I promise you will feel humbled, rewarded and thankful as you pass on old traditions to new blood.

Kristin Brooke Parma, EvoMedia Coordinator

Group shot

Volunteers, Youth Hunters & Fathers: Horacio Sr., Jorge Sr, Jorge, Horacio, Dennis Parma, David, Alice Hammond, Jack Thompson, Adam Parma, Mauricio, Jorge, Kristin Parma, Diego

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Among the many whitetail we saw we also enjoyed watching birds, rabbits, coyotes, feral hogs and Javelina

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Thank you Hoffman family

For more information visit: www.texasyouthhunting.com