7 Tips for Hunting with Kids
One of the most rewarding things you can do is expose your children to your love of the outdoors. However, fostering that same love takes careful planning, patience and persistence. Here are some tips that have worked for me and keep my kids, ages 9 and 13, wanting to go back for more each season.
#1 PREPARE FOR TEMPERATURE EXTREMES: Make sure you have many layers from short sleeve undershirts, long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, heavier coats, hats and pants. Typically, the walk in and out of the field, my kids tend to get warm and don’t want all of their gear on yet. Plus, all those extra layers can sometimes slow them down and feel too heavy for their little body depending on their age. Once we are in the stand and situated, their body cools down and they will want to put some more layers on. As the sun goes down and the temperature continues to drop, the next layer can go on, and so on. I also have a small camo blanket that I pack in just in case the temperatures drop further than expected. If you are hunting in late season in a part of the country that freezes, then don’t forget hand warmers and boot warming inserts for them as well. An overheated or frozen child will not sit still nor have the patience for the hunting experience.
#2 FIGHT BOREDOM: I generally keep 2 simple games on my phone for my kids to play during any slow periods when we aren’t seeing any animals. It don’t allow them to play the games nonstop in the treestand, but their level of patience is much smaller than ours as adults. So I allow 10-minute spurts of playing these games and then I have them help me watch for animals. I also bring pocket size activity books, such as word searches, Sudoku, etc. Just don’t forget a pen to go along with them.
#3 EASE HUNGER: Bring snacks. If your kids are anything like mine, the minute they get bored, they’re hungry. I like to bring snacks like apples, bananas, grapes, popcorn, etc. I try to not bring too many things with noisy wrappers for the obvious reason. If the kids want something with a noisy wrapper (i.e. granola bars, fruit snacks) then I take them out of the package before we leave and place them in plastic baggies that aren’t near as noisy. Just remember to pack out any trash and leave the site just as it was when you arrived (or better!).
#4 TEACH THEM: As we walk into our spot I am continually pointing out things to be looking for; buck and doe droppings, buck rubs, deer tracks, etc. It then becomes a scavenger hunt and they get excited to look for these items all the way to our hunting spot. Of course, make sure you also teach them the importance of being quiet, so that they aren’t squealing in delight each time they find something. Kids are sponges, and they want to learn! Learning is exciting for them and you will see them pointing out these things even in the off-season scouting adventures.
#5 TIMING: Short hunts are best with young kids but I have taken mine on long hunts that last all day and had great success. During those times, we strategically plan lunch back in the truck, allow them to watch a movie on the ipad in the afternoon and maybe take a small nap since our day generally starts at 5am. Sometimes my husband will go back out into the field during this time while I am taking a break in the truck with the kids, or vice versa. But keeping the length of time that the kids have to “sit still and be quiet” to shorter time frames will keep them more interested and excited about each hike into a new spot.
#6 LOCATION: If you are hunting with smaller kids, consider the amount of walking and type of terrain it takes to get to a certain hunting spot. This might mean you need to hunt a different location than you may normally hunt when you are alone. I would also consider using a blind or treestand. A blind will conceal their movement and wiggling much better in the case that they lose interest in a long lull period of not seeing any action. A blind will also allow them to sit on the floor and play their activity books should their attention need to be redirected for a bit.
#7 MAKE IT FUN: Patience is huge when hunting with kids. You have to go into the hunting experience knowing that you might spook an animal or two and realizing that it won’t be the end of the world if that happens. If you are constantly telling them to “hurry up”, “pay attention” or always telling them to be quiet, then they will have a negative view of the hunting experience which will in turn only make it more difficult to get them to want to come into the field with you again next season. Teach them why they need to be quiet so that they understand it has a purpose; but if they forget, remember to remain calm and remind them to speak in a very quiet voice. You can also encourage them to write on a small notepad what they want to say to you. This will not only keep them busy, but also create really fun notes to keep as memories of your day in the field!
Keeping kids comfortable and happy is crucial to their overall positive experience. Remember that it isn’t about whether or not you harvest an animal, but cultivating that same passion you have in YOUR heart deep down into THEIR heart as well. One of the first few times I left the field with my 11-year-old son, Jakob, he turned to me and said “That was so cool! When can we do it again?” That is the exact response I am looking for with each experience I have with them. The time I spend with them generates some of the best conversations and memories that I know will follow us for many years to come.
You can follow more of my outdoor adventures on Instagram at @tammy_bashore!