Raising the next generation of hunters is a dream of most hunting enthusiasts. Teaching our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews about the joy, hard work and healthy meat that comes from hunting is no small task for their short attention spans. Here’s your guide for getting young people excited about hunting and how to make their first few times a positive experience.
Education Is Everything
The most important part of the hunt is the prepping, right? Same goes for hunting with kids. Prepping their little minds and hearts for the thrill of the hunt, the beauty of the outdoors and the sanctity of taking a life in the name of conservation and providing food for their family is a huge responsibility. But it’s best to start small and let their brains begin to wrap around these concepts naturally. They can watch videos online of other kids hunting and practicing good safety habits. Go on nature walks together and explain how hunting keeps the environment balanced and the rest of the animals healthy. Make sure they are well educated in gun safety long before the hunt. Start by introducing them to an airsoft gun and how it works.
Starting kids on short, small game hunts that require a lot of movement is the best way to keep them active, engaged and excited. Experts agree that once they get bored, it’s time to take a break or even call it a day. Stoking their enthusiasm for hunting and the outdoors simultaneously is a marathon, not a sprint. Slowly work up their tolerance over time and you will always have a willing little hunting partner. Expose them to too much too soon, and you could give them a negative association with hunting or even the outdoors in general.
Getting kids amped about going hunting is as easy as looking up YouTube videos and playing with face paint. But it’s a whole different story once you’re in the field. Kids have a hard time being quiet in a new environment. They want to ask questions and are usually extremely excited the first time they spot a squirrel, let alone wild game. So no matter how many times you explained that they need to be quiet, be prepared to explain it again. Food, drink, and hunting-themed toys can also keep them distracted and quiet, but your best bet is to keep them moving. It’s almost impossible to keep kids quiet in a tree stand without a video game unless they’ve had a lot of practice and are truly invested in what they’re doing.
Keep Them Comfortable
Don’t expect happy hunters out of uncomfortable kids. The absolute best way to set your little ones up for a successful hunting trip is to make sure they have the right gear for the terrain and the weather. Make sure their boots aren’t too small, and don’t take them out in new boots that still need to be broken in. Gloves are a must in cold weather. And since little hands love to play in snow, it’s wise to opt for waterproof gloves because the only thing worse than no gloves is wet gloves.
If it’s hot outside, a cooler full of cold fruit and juice can turn a bad attitude right around in a heartbeat. Be sure to carry snacks of substance. It’s tempting to bribe good behavior with donuts and candy bars, but beware the rampant and unpredictable sugar high and subsequent whining crash. Looks for nutrition bars with a dessert name, like Sweet Caramel and Dark Chocolate Nut and Lemon Pound Cake, that have wholesome ingredients that can head off a tantrum before it even starts.
Stacy Eden is a Phoenix, Arizona native with a passion for art, power tools, and historical significance. She draws inspiration from classic cars, ancient mythological sculptures and jewelry designers.