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Beka Garris On Mothering in the Outdoors

beka garris and her daughter in the woods

Beka Garris

Motherhood changed me to my core. This is something that happens to everyone, whether it’s for the better or for the worst. Parenting in general has a way of inexplicably changing you forever, so that you will eternally be different from the person you were before you had your child.

Many people fear this change; fear of the unknown, their world tilting slightly on its axis. As someone who hates change, I feared this immensely while I was pregnant. One of my greatest fears during my pregnancy was that I would lose myself up on becoming a parent…that I would have to forgo all the things I loved to do and all of the time I normally spent outdoors hunting and fishing. Older mothers loved to nod sagely as they told me that I would never have time to do anything besides take care of my child, that my life as I knew it was over.

Yet, upon the birth of my first daughter, I learned that it was quite the opposite. Yes, my world was forever changed, but I didn’t have to give up who I was at my very core and I certainly didn’t have to give up time outdoors. Instead, my daughter accompanied me into the woods. I knelt in thick swamp mud and held her while she napped and turkeys gobbled around us. She slept in her backpack carrier, her sweet breath softly moving whisps of hair on my neck as I moved quietly through the damp autumn leaves while deer hunting. She watched me shoot countless arrows in the backyard while perched in her backpack carrier and fisting crackers into her mouth while the sun beat down on us.

beka garris and her daughter, on her back

There was a shift in how I hunted once I started bringing my daughter along – there had to be in order to stay realistic. For years before I became a mom, I was a hardcore bowhunter. Every day I could hunt I did, no matter the weather or how cold or hot it was. I loved to challenge myself, set goals to attain, and it kept me constantly motivated. Yet in a way, it was exhausting.

Once I decided to start bringing my daughter along, I knew it would be very different. Suddenly everything depends on her --- what time I got up in the morning, planning hunts around her nap schedule, ensuring that the weather wouldn’t be too brutal. I was now gearing up for a baby in addition to myself which increased my gear by what seemed to be tenfold. Diapers, warm clothing, baby carriers…it was a long list.

Yet, when I was finally packed and to my hunting spot and walking through the woods with my daughter – it was all worth it. I was a Mom in the woods, but I wasn’t JUST a mom in the woods. I was a woman, I was me. And I felt the important that my daughter see me in that element, doing things not only for her but also for myself.

Hunting with my daughter forced me to slow down. I took notice of things in the woods that I normally overlooked. I enjoyed myself more than I had in years, more than I had since I was a little kid myself following behind my dad, wearing heavy hunting boots and carrying a heavier gun.

beka garris helps her daughter over a log

Despite the slowing down and the addition of one tiny human and all the gear she needed, I was still successful in the woods. I received plenty of snarky comments from both hunters and non hunters telling me how ridiculous it was to take a child her age to the woods -- and that I certainly wouldn’t stand a chance at killing an animal.

Imagine my feeling of pride when I shot a big doe with my daughter on my back when she was a year old. I had proved them all wrong, and the little voice in my head had been right.

I have continued on the streak for several years now, filling tags every year with my daughter along as my hunting buddy. At this point I don’t know what to do if she’s not with me. I’ve perfected the rhythm we have, and it just feels right. We have experienced many adventures together – from fishing, to boating, to hiking, to hunting.


I know that I’m not the first woman in history to ever do this, shoot wild animals for food while accompanied by an infant or young child. I know multiple other women who do it as well, and history also proves that it has been done for many years. Women have always been hunters, and women have always been mothers….the two go hand in hand in my opinion. Mothering while hunting is hardly a new concept. Yet, It's something that isn’t done as much anymore and I think it’s something that should be. Many people tend to gloss over the fact that they can take their children along with them, not because you don’t have a babysitter, but simply to bond.

Whether a mother enjoys hiking, fishing, shooting, hunting, or some other type of outdoor activity, it should be encouraged to bring their child with them – even if it’s just occasionally. Spend time together while letting your kids breathe fresh air and see their mothers out there doing what they love to do.

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