This past hunting season has been one of the best seasons of my many. Not because I limited out on quail every trip (not hardly!) or killed the biggest buck I’ve ever seen, but because I’ve been spending time in the field with my youngest daughter, Collins. She’s only seven, but she’s been my hunting buddy for the past three years. Now I’ll admit that hunting trips with her along are a bit different than those when I’m solo or accompanied by other men on the ranch. With my daughter I try to make it as fun for her as possible so that she enjoys her time in the outdoors. You can and should do the same, so here’s a few tips.
1. Don’t be too serious. It’s hard for little ones to sit still and quiet. It doesn’t hurt to work on teaching them how, but don’t expect them to remain as still as a statue or quiet as morning fog for an extended period of time. My daughter likes when we drive slowly and glass for deer. Fortunately we hunt big Texas country and are able to do just that. Occasionally she asks to walk and hunt, so I gladly accommodate.
2. Get your child their own binocular. I always give Collins her own binos so she can look at the animals, and she really seems to enjoy that. When she was smaller she used a toy pair that actually worked (a little anyway), but were light and easy to handle. She’s big enough to use real ones now.
3. Take along their BB gun. When she wants to, I let her bring her BB gun along on the hunt. I repetitively go over all of the safety rules so that they become second nature to her.
4. Take plenty of snacks and let them dictate the meals. Hunting camp is a good time to slack off of the daily healthy eating routines. I let her pick out a few snacks to take along and even ask her what things she wants to eat for breakfast and supper. Lucky for me she likes a good steak as much as her dad!
5. What about entertainment? A couple forms of entertainment are fine to help pass the time, maybe a toy or two or coloring book, but leave the electronic gadgets at home. Hunting camp is a great time to step away from the virtual world. Even when we’re out of the field, we break out a game of old-fashioned checkers in the evenings after a good supper.
6. Teach them to admire and respect animals. “Anti’s” don’t understand how we hunters actually love the game we hunt. We manage the wildlife, watch them, feed them, ensure they have ample water and in the end, we harvest a few that we choose. We care for the animals so that we have a sustainable, healthy population to hunt. Teach this to your children so that they understand.
7. Share your trophies. Earlier in the season my daughter and I were out and about when I spotted a bobcat up ahead. In sheep and goat ranching country, you don’t pass a shot on a predator. I killed the cat, a very pretty one at that. Collins admired its black spots on white fur while I took the opportunity to explain how the bobcat kills lambs and kid goats, and how our friends who ranch that country depend on the livestock for their living. Livestock depredation by predators is a real and serious issue. She understood why I shot the elegant cat and proclaimed I was to mount it for her to hang on the wall in her room! I’ll gladly pay the taxidermy fees.
Taking your children afield is one of the best ways to share quality time that I know. Teaching them about nature and hunting, while enjoying the outdoors is a great way to collect some of the best trophies of all, memories.