Reviving Florida Heritage Outdoor Sports

By Holly Giles | Florida

florida outdoor sports

Reviving Florida Heritage Outdoor Sports

It was the fall of 1978. At 4 am the bells began ringing on my grandfather’s wind-up alarm clock. I had slept in my clothes so I would be ready for the fishing trip. It was so quiet and still in the darkness outside as we loaded the nets, buckets, and coolers into the truck. We were headed to the Indian River to cast net for mullet. I can recall every detail of that day because it was full of new experiences, family traditions, and time with my grandfather.

my grandfather bass fishing in florida in the 1950's


Throughout my childhood, I experienced outdoor sports with my grandfather hunting different kinds of game and fishing the rivers, lakes, and the oceans of Florida, just as he learned from his father. My generation has all but forgotten many of these skills that were passed down, in part to provide food for families. Modern technology, global food sources, and the internet have replaced what was traditional bonding time between parents and children. We are living in a marvelous period of history right now, however, the increase in technological advances is actually creating a great divide in the common ground between generations.

outdoor sports of boating on wekiva river florida

Our Children

Living in Florida gives us the unique opportunity to re-introduce the rich historical roots of heritage outdoor sports to our children. These types of activities can be appealing to fathers who experienced them as a boy or always had the desire inside them to try a new sport. Hunting and fishing offer a special way to connect through nature. The excitement of early morning hours, the adventure of discovering new places, and immersing in the beauty of Florida. This can quickly take shape as a new tradition in the minds of children.

My husband, Curtis, fished some as a boy, but he has always had the desire to explore more. Both our sons, Grayson and Grant have a passion for fishing, which allows Curtis to relive his childhood. Curtis is spending quality moments with his sons perfecting their cast, figuring out what a Rattle Trap, Baby Brush Hog, and Salty Sling baits are good for, along with friendly competitions. The early mornings and late evenings out on the boat may not be building math and reading skills, but they are building something more important, relationships.

florida bass fishing in the backyard

The Benefits

These adventures often require time, patience, and new skills to learn together. It is during the quiet moments on a boat, dock, or in a forest that relationships strengthen. Dreams unfold and character develops.

I asked my boys if they could share with me some of their favorite memories of hanging out with dad. Of course, they gave me an “awe mom” look at first, then they both began to chatter and laugh out loud. “Remember when Grant was the motor when we were duck hunting? He had to push the boat everywhere so we wouldn’t spook the birds,” said Grayson. Grant piped in, “Well the boat was so camouflaged when you set out the duck decoys, you thought we had left you and we were just fifteen feet away!” Then, they both giggled over Curtis getting his boots stuck in the mud and having to go barefoot. They shared a few more stories, all with a similar thread of being outdoors. Then Grayson looked at me and said, “Mom, those are the days I love best, outside, learning new stuff with daddy.”

 duck hunting in florida

The Future

As a family, we have found our own way to revive old traditions and create some new ones too. Learning alongside our children has been a wonderful benefit of trying new adventures in outdoor sports. There are many more outdoor activities that can ignite a spark to learn more for you and your children. Florida offers opportunities at every turn to help children develop a passion for the outdoors.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC, offers ample opportunities to introduce your children to our state’s heritage outdoor sports. Youth hunting programs, fishing clinics, and camps across the state bring together mentors. People who have a passion to teach younger generations.

outdoor sports small game hunting in florida

Grayson, our oldest son, was selected to attend the youth quail hunt through FWC last year in Punta Gorda. Our whole family was able to join in. The experience was life-changing for each of us in different ways. We were immersed in wild Florida, bird dogs, and people with a true passion to teach an American tradition. These activities have spilled over into our everyday life. By learning to cook wild game together, life skills training, and unique shared experiences. At the end of our home education journey, these are some of the memories we will cherish.

Contact FWC through their website: or by phone: 888-404-3922


About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.