In today’s society a connection to nature takes second fiddle to just about everything, this is especially true among children. The average American child spends less than 10 minutes playing outside a day! If this disconnect continues an entire way of life will disappear only to be remembered through stories and history books.
A future without hunters would be bleak for those who value wildlife. Wildlife management agencies who are already cash strapped would struggle financially as their main source of revenue dries up with waning license sales. At the same time fields of prairie grass and wild flowers would be plowed under for row crops.
Most of you have children, grandchildren, or close family friends with children who would love to be mentored in the outdoors. A common mistake I have seen is waiting too long before exposing kids to hunting. My kids started accompanying me on my outdoor excursions at three- years old.
The keys to continued interest in hunting for young children are to make it a fun while keeping them comfortable. If I walked my kids to exhaustion, while telling them to be quiet as they were shivering, they are not going to want to repeat the experience anytime soon.
When planning on taking a child, the hunt needs to be tailored around them. Take my daughters first deer hunt as an example. I picked a fully enclosed stand with heat, where we had a short walk. After twenty minutes her lips were covered with hot chocolate and Cheetos stained her fingers. She did not get bored because she busy with coloring books. Towards the end of our hour and twenty-minute hunt she told me she was scared of the dark and wanted to walk back to the truck, we left with ten minutes of shooting light left.
As children get older it is important they feel they have contributed to the success of the hunt. This can be accomplished by allowing them to provide input on planning, letting them point out game, using game calls, or even something as simple as having them carry your shotgun shells on a pheasant hunt.
Trapping and trail camera excursions are great activities for kids. With trapping they don’t have to be quiet or sit still. Trail cameras have the added benefit of a high probability of success. Both lend themselves to being activities allowing high levels of participation, even with younger children. We often look for animal sign. Already both of my children are more adept when looking for deer sign than my wife.
Finally, have kids help with habitat improvement projects Even a toddler can help with simple tasks such as carrying brush in order to make a brush pile or clear bush out of a field. A child who is able to see a pheasant on a piece of land they helped improve has just experienced an invaluable conservation lesson!
Taking kids with you on your outdoor jaunts is extra work and requires sacrifice. However the sacrifice is worth it and the memories made will be cherished by both of you forever