One of the goals of MUCC is to protect the heritage of Michigan sportsmen and women in our state. The best way to protect our hunting, fishing and trapping heritage is to pass it on. The youth are our future and there are many demands pulling them in directions that are far away from the out of doors. In our office, we have a bumper sticker. It reads, “Hunt with your kids, not for them.” I think that is a message that resonates with people. With that phrase in mind, here are a few tips for getting kids out into the woods this fall as the hunting seasons begin.
- Safety first- With the ability to hunt with our kids also comes great responsibility. Safety should always be the number one concern for hunters. However, when hunting with a child safety should occupy an even more prominent place in our minds than usual.
- Equip them adequately- Kids need to be comfortable. Make sure their boots are warm and waterproof. Invest in a good warm coat, hat, and gloves, check to make sure they still have circulation in their fingers. This does not necessarily mean to pamper them, and experiencing some of the hardships of Mother Nature can be good for them. However, six hours of freezing rain is not going to be something they want to tell their friends about at school.
- Make the duration age-appropriate- Younger kids may not have the attention span or the desire to spend 4 hours standing in a puddle waiting for the ducks to come in. The best way to expose kids to hunting is in short bursts when success is possible. Kids like to be in the action and sitting still for a 9-year-old with nothing to do may seem like a prison sentence. If you can keep, the hunt times appropriate and are not afraid to quit early some days this will build the enthusiasm for the kids and they will look forward to going out the next time.
- Exercise patience and understanding- Kids drop things, break things, and lose things. They are loud and they are wiggly. Going into the hunting experience knowing these things and being aware of how you will respond to them can make a big difference. If a kid is being yelled at constantly for not doing things how you would do them they will not be having any fun. Take a deep breath to allow them to work through problems, and be patient. These are opportunities for the kids to learn and screaming and yelling will not help.
- Kids need success- Younger kids need to be where the action is. Sitting for long stretches in a deer blind may seem like torture. Many youths will get more out of an outing if it is plinking squirrels or shooting a box of shells on the range than they will be sitting in a deer blind for 6 hours and not seeing any wildlife. Try to put them in the action.
- Teach your kid- Do some research together before you hunt to allow your child to learn more about the animal. Teach them the biology of the animal. What do they eat? Where do they live? How are you going to hunt for the animal? Talk to them about your first hunt or some experiences you have had and why hunting means so much to you. During the hunt itself, use every chance you get to teach and instruct. Kids are curious by nature, slow down and let them ask why.
- Allow your child to get involved- If you allow your child to feel like they are more than just a spectator, the hunt becomes more memorable to them. See the hunt through their eyes and let them be an active participant.
- Don’t leave out the girls- Women are the fastest growing group of new hunters and before there are women hunters there are girl hunters. Your daughter would probably like to spend some quality time with mom or dad just as much as your son does. So if she wants to go take her with you.
- Don’t burn them out- We all know that too much of a good thing is often bad for us. By taking your child out with you every time you go hunting, you may be burning them out and turning them off from the sport. Talk to them and ask them if they want to go hunting. They may not be as excited about 4 days in a row of 5:00 AM wake-up calls and sometimes they may just need a day to hang out with their friends. Making the sport enjoyable and not a chore is important.
- Have fun- That’s it, hunting is an enjoyable activity. Enjoy it!
These are just a few ways that you can share the hunting experience with the youth in your lives. This fall get your kids out into the woods, fields, and waters. Remember nobody frames pictures of their kids playing fortnite.