You might think that a stay-at-home dad would get to spend tons of quality time with his kids, but according to Mickey Kirk, of Delaware Township, New Jersey, that’s not exactly the case.
“I have three kids – Cheyenne, who’s nine, Mika, who’s eight, and I have a son who is four, Levi. I don’t get a lot of chances to have just one of them at a time.”
Here at ParksbyNature, that’s what we call a mountain. (We’re very metaphorical.) And this particular mountain happens to be a challenge.
So what’s a dad to do? If you’re Mickey Kirk, you take them hunting, one at a time.
Mickey grew up close to his current home in Hunterdon County, in a rural part of Warren County, New Jersey. Growing up, “my brother [identical twin Marty] and I always hunted. We went through high school getting up three hours before school started to check our trap lines. Then we’d get back home from school and check them again.”
When asked why they began hunting, Mickey elaborated. “My dad was a hunter and loved to hunt. And that’s how we got into it. He would start taking us even before we could hunt.”
Now, Mickey’s doing the same with his young kids.
“We’ll go and sit in our little ladder stand and deer hunt. They love to sit there because we see birds and chat. It’s good one-on-one time for me. Sometimes we don’t say anything about hunting; sometimes we talk about school.”
Mickey also loves to fish: “I’ve fished all over the world – Costa Rica, Ireland, out west in the United States, and in the Florida Keys.”
It’s a pastime his kids enjoy, as well.
“This time of year, all they want to do is go fishing every day. There’s a county park called Hoffman Park. It’s about ten, fifteen minutes from my house, so we go there all the time because we can go down to the dozens of little ponds there.”
But no matter what they do, and what they talk about, one thing is clear: hunting, fishing, and the outdoors connect Mickey to his kids. In fact, the outdoors is so important to his family that he and his wife Vesna have made a life-changing decision.
“We’re looking to relocate. And we’re probably going to go somewhere like Tennessee, because we want to have a small farm, thirty or fifty acres. The kids love the outdoors, so the places we’re looking at have either a creek or a pond on them. They have some pastures so the kids can have animals. My middle daughter, Mika, wants a pig. She’s going to name it Bacon. She knows you raise the animal for a purpose; it’s not a pet.”
It’s especially interesting, considering that Vesna will go fishing at the pond with everyone but isn’t what Mickey calls “an outdoors person”. But that’s just another mountain that the Kirks solve simply. Mickey explains that his wife sees how much the kids love being outside, so bringing the family closer to nature has become a priority for her, too.
We usually like to ask people how parks and nature help them to achieve their goals, but Mickey Kirk and his family one-upped us – living a nature-filled life is their goal (and they’re doing a pretty good job at it.)
But hunting has helped Kirk achieve a personal goal, as well, which answered our question all too beautifully: “I did have a stressful job for twenty years [as a police Lieutenant], so hunting was my stress reliever. I could go and get away and not think about anything.”
Who would’ve thought that hunting could be a form of meditation? But Mickey explains it in a simple, relatable way.
“I’m sure you have a place that you really like to go to, and you go there again and again. And I don’t mean a place exactly – I’m narrowing it down to a tree or a deer stand. Only because over the years I have had so many memories from that spot, and I mean that particular spot, that tree, where I’ve had a couple of good deer hunts, or I shot a big buck, or got a nice turkey. I have these two or three spots that I like to go to every year just for that – because you remember all those times, all those experiences.”
One of these particular spots is a deer stand in one tree at Whiskey Lane Farm Dressage, which is right across the street from Mickey’s house. It’s also the place where his kids take riding lessons, he does maintenance, and the woman who rents the space from the owners in Virginia lets Mickey and Marty hunt. Mickey makes sure to go to this particular deer stand on November 1st, and a couple times after, because, “it’s just magical…[he sees] ten different bucks in the morning.”
What makes the experience even more magical is this: “once I get in [the tree] in the morning, I can literally look at my watch and it’s just breaking daylight and then it seems like you snap your fingers and it’s twelve o’clock.”
As much as Mickey likes to return to his favorite spots, he also loves to explore new places.
“What I enjoy most is hunting a new area – anywhere new – because it’s more challenging that you don’t know the area. It’s a new adventure.”
When asked if he uses the Pocket Ranger® app, he says that he’d be interested to use it on his next trip, when he goes somewhere he doesn’t know. When we mentioned that we have a Tennessee app, both parties agreed that it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Another favorite hunting and hiking area made us think of one of our special app features.
“I also belong to a hunting club in Northern Warren County, just a little bit south of Blairstown. That property borders Worthington State Forest. Our club is eighty acres. We have a house on the property, so my brother and I take all the kids up there in the summertime. We do it probably eight, ten times a year in the summer. Nobody’s there in the summertime so we’ll hike all up through Worthington. We see a lot of bear up there; anywhere from one to six or eight different bears right from the cabin. The kids love that.”
What else do the kids love?
“We do scavenger hunts there. We make up of a list of stuff they have to find, like one seed, one nut, one something that has yellow in it. And they go off to the woods to find the stuff.”
Now there’s a man after our own GeoChallenging hearts! We’re thinking he and his family will love the Post Grape-Nuts Fit “What’s Your Mountain?” GeoChallenge. And whenever we play it, we’ll be thinking of this inspirational stay-at-home-dad with three kids, who uses parks and nature to connect to his loved ones. We’re looking forward to hearing about your future Tennessee farm, Kirks. Say hello to Bacon for us.
Do you know anybody who has an interesting story and/or passion for the outdoors? Have a mountain you’re trying to conquer? Let us know! You may very well supply us with our next interview subject.