Kids and the Outdoors: Ensuring the Future of Hunting
Theres no doubt that although a long-term slide in hunter numbers has finally stopped, it is still not keeping pace with population growth, which limits a sportsmens ability to stand up for their rights. If you look at any numbers from the past few years youll notice that license sales are down in most areas. There seems to be some encouraging information, though, given that excise taxes from the sale of hunting- and fishing-related equipment still pumps millions of dollars into the national economy.
One way to ensure our hunting heritage remains strong years after were gone is to get kids involved in hunting. The NWTFs JAKES program is a great way for kids to have fun while still learning about the outdoors. But if adults dont build on the passion thats started at these events, kids will more than likely lose interest and turn to other forms of entertainment like video games, TV and other forms of indoor activities.
Im lucky enough to be blessed with two boys and have taken my oldest hunting several times. Ive even taken my son and his friend just to get them outside. And, given that Im somewhat experienced in the art form of taking a youngster hunting — and believe me, it is an art form — I thought I would pass along what Ive learned.
Any parent knows that a well-timed snack can be the difference in a great time or a whiny child. For this reason, I always take along a variety of snacks in my pack or vest. My favorite is pistachio nuts. The little morsels of goodness give little fingers something to do while sitting around waiting for a deer to walk down the trail. Another great snack is homemade trail mix. M&Ms, salted peanuts and raisins are easy to put together last-minute and kids love the salty-sweet mixture.
Anyone with kids or who has been around them much will tell you that their attention span is short at best, especially when theyre under the age of 6. And no matter how anyone else feels about it, I allow my son to take a video game with him to the blind, especially when deer hunting. Of course, he has to turn the volume all the way down and I limit the amount of time he can spend on the device during each hunt. Now, I understand that the entire point of taking a kid hunting is to enjoy the outdoors, which we do, but at the same time, if you want to be able to stick around long enough to see wildlife and not have a fussy kid on your hands, its not a bad idea. Agree or disagree, the point is the youngster is entertained and hes outside spending quality time with mom or dad.
Using a blind or shooting house when with a fidgety young person is ideal. They can move around just about as much as they like and not spook the wildlife. I have taken my oldest hunting since he was about 4 years old, and without a blind, I can assure you we wouldnt have seen, or killed, nearly as much as we have without the aid of a blind or shooting house.
The bottom line is that no matter the youngsters age and no matter the quarry, you have to make sure the child is having a great time. Walking down a sandy two-track and pointing out the tracks of different animals is almost as much fun as seeing a deer walk into a field. Although, theres nothing like the look on a childs face when he sees his first animal killed. After all the hard work and time youve put into the hunt, the feeling of a successful outcome when youre hunting with a youngster is something that cant be explained.
— Matt Coffey