January 9th, 2014
Parents are busy people. We work. We shuffle our kids here and there. And at this time of year – when so many hunting and fishing opportunities exist – we occasionally find time to enjoy the sanctity of the great outdoors.
It can be easy to use hunting or fishing as an excuse to leave the kids or the family behind for some quality time alone. That’s fine. We all need to escape. But don’t overlook the present and future rewards that come from providing your children with a proper introduction to the traditional outdoor sports. And, most importantly, don’t blow it once you’ve made the commitment. Make too many mistakes and you’ll risk quashing their enthusiasm for future outings, maybe for good. Follow some general guidelines, however, and you’ll spark the flame that feeds a lifetime of passion for the outdoors.
Choose the right kind of hunt. Select a quarry and location that ensures your kids will stay comfortable while still allowing a reasonable chance at seeing and bagging game. Any type of hunt from a ground blind is a great option. Blinds conceal motion and nervous energy, allow for comfortable seating, and facilitate keeping snacks, warm clothes, heaters, books and even video games at the ready. The trick is keeping your kids comfortable and happy. Blinds fit the bill and serve as comfortable and practical “base camps”.
How you expose kids to hunting and fishing is critical. Don’t blow it.
Give them their own equipment. Choose a youth bow or firearm that will grow with them. Of course, if your kids are actually hunting, practice shooting at home or at the range until they become proficient and confident. If they are too young to hunt, purchase a toy cap gun and instruct your youngster on how to handle it and use it as if it were a real firearm. Encourage them to carry it in the field. This is great practice for firearms safety and helps to keep kids engaged. Buy them their own hunting clothes, too, in order to further their excitement and feelings of participation.
Explain what is going on. Some kids are capable of simply enjoying the outdoors experience, but most will get bored unless you involve them in everything that is going on. Where are you hunting and why? What are you hoping will happen? What are you trying to accomplish with your calling? Try your best to explain the various outdoor sights, sounds and smells around you.
Don’t hunt or fish too long. If the goal is to instill a lifelong love of the outdoors, it is critical that each outing be pleasurable. When your youngster gets cold, bored or loses interest, it is time to pack it up and head for home – with a possible stop to the ice cream shop or other special treat reserved just for your days afield.
It’s about both of you
Anyone who has read or heard anything about taking youngsters fishing or hunting has probably heard that the experience is “all about the kids”. This isn’t the entire story. Sure, the child’s comfort and enjoyment is critical, but don’t forget what you’re getting out of the deal. You’re making an investment of your time and patience in order to plant a seed. Being patient and conscientious now will result in a hunting and fishing buddy for the rest of your life. There aren’t too many parent and child activities that offer this kind of mutual enjoyment and meaningful bond.
That said, one of the best ways to maximize the return on your investment is to adjust your expectations. Focus on seeing game instead of taking game. Of course, go about things the proper way and you may not need to compromise. But just seeing game in a hunting situation can be very exciting for youngsters, especially if you are excited about it too.
When taking kids fishing, especially the first few times, leave your rod at home. Focus on helping them catch fish instead of catching them yourself. Help them. Teach them. Again, explain what is going on in order to keep them engaged and excited. You may think it’s possible, but you cannot do these things when you’ve got a rod in your own hands.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a fishing or hunting guide? Take your kids hunting or fishing and you’ll get your chance. As a guide and father, I can attest that the situations are almost the same. My kids may not smoke cigars or tell dirty jokes, but they are both lousy tippers.
Putting the needs of our kids ahead of our own is something every parent is used to. Follow the same model when taking your kids afield. Give a bit now and you’ll be rewarded when you are old and gray.
“Hi, Dad. Want to go hunting today?”