Shift Your Expectations
It’s more about time with our kids then about trophy animals. When it comes to introducing hunting to our children, we must shift our expectations. Instead of going to any length to bag the buck of your dreams, make quality time with your child the trophy of the day. Time is usually the number one thing our children want from us anyway. When we shift our expectations to our children for this day, we reduce the possibility for disappointment on our part.
Focus on the Positive
You can have a positive hunt without killing an animal. Avoid associating success only with killing an animal when introducing hunting to your children. You can have a positive experience on several levels without killing an animal. By demonstrating positive feelings during all hunting trips, our children will learn is that hunting is about more than hunting; it is about nature, family, friends, and challenging ourselves. A positive experience is more likely to translate into an increased desire to hunt with you more often.
Make it Fun
Children learn by playing. Children learn by playing. Put them in charge of portions of the hunt. Allow your children to plan the location, or assist in making the packing list. Give them an equal stake in the process. Make a game out of it. One of my favorite games as a child was when my father would challenge me to a contest to see who could spot the most deer by the end of the day. By doing this, children will assume responsibility, take more interest, feel involved and not feel as though they are just along for your hunt.
Obey the Law
Nothing good comes from breaking the law. Children mirror everything we do. Anytime I see a bad habit taking shape in my children, I can honestly say it started with me. When we share our hunting traditions and values, we have to be firm and exact in keeping, obeying and honoring the law. I credit my father with teaching me that nothing good comes from breaking the law, to obey the law, and have patience.
Teaching is your responsibility as a parent. During our time in the woods, I have taught my children lessons including; hunting techniques, survival tips, the law, and most importantly the lessons of life. Hunting naturally facilitates lessons about patience, discipline, environmentalism, respect for nature, sacrifice, hard work, dedication, and love for the outdoors. With all of life’s distracters removed (TV, video games, and IPODs), you will rarely have such a captive audience.
Practice Hunting Safety
Habits form very early. Teaching your children how to handle weapons safely is one of the most important lessons you will ever teach your child. The lessons you teach your child may save their life or the life of another. Teach the rules of hunter safety by your example. Every time you take your children hunting, their eyes will be on you. This includes the wear of Blaze Orange.
Show Respect for Animals and Nature
Hunting is environmentalism. Hunting is environmentalism in action. Hunters fund more environmental programs, care for nature, protect valuable resources as well as depend on these resources more than any other segment of the population. Show respect for nature by not littering, respecting property owners’ rights, killing only what is legal and in season, and eating what you kill. My father taught me “If you kill it, you eat it.” That simple rule made me think twice before pulling a trigger on something I was not excited to put on my dinner plate.
Hunt When/Where it is Kid Friendly
Remember the age of your hunting partner. When you take your children hunting, do not expect them to sit in the tree stand for 14 hours. Remember, the purpose of this hunt is not necessarily to bag a trophy buck, but to introduce hunting to your child. Since this is the case, plan the hunt around mild weather, convenient hours, and child friendly terrain.
Be Willing to Compromise
Be willing to do something that interests your child in exchange. If hunting is not at the top of your child’s list of things to do, you may have to resort to a compromise. This could include being willing to do something that interests your child in exchange. My daughters loved playing all the games little girls normally loved to play when they were growing up. I wasn’t always excited to play some of these but I did.
Never Force Hunting on a Child
This will do more damage than good. Our children have their own agency and the right to choose. If your children do not show interest in hunting, it is not a rejection of you or necessarily of hunting. It might just be that their interest lies elsewhere at the time. A loving, supportive, understanding approach works best. By leaving the door open, compromising on other important issues, and tailoring the type of hunting you are willing to do, you will provide an opportunity for a child to take interest in hunting later. The alternative is for a child to have a negative impression associated with hunting and close the door on it forever.