Photo by Mark Kayser
10 ways to hook kids on hunting
Plan adventures and introduce young people to the enjoyment of our hunting and fishing heritage. Here are 10 outings to start your children down the right road.
1. Take them hunting.
Make it fun. Check the forecast and only take them during pleasant weather. Don’t go on an expedition. A short hunt that isn’t exhausting will leave a positive, lasting impression.
Outfit them with gear so they won’t shiver, or get wet or sunburned. When I took my kids winter coyote hunting, I pulled them in on a sled so they didn’t have to fight the snow. On the way home we always found a big hill to slide down to end the day.
2. Visit a sport show.
Attend the annual NWTF Convention or plan an afternoon at a local sport show. Getting kids in the aisles to see the world of outdoor gear, outfitters and people introduces them to the social side of the outdoors. Let them choose an item to purchase, buy them a hot dog and take in a seminar. It’s all part of enjoying the characters and culture of the pastime.
3. Go to a zoo or wildlife refuge.
Take a kid to a nearby zoo, wildlife refuge or the woods to watch and study wildlife. The ultimate goal of any hunt is to take an animal and enjoy it as a meal, but there’s much to learn about your quarry before you hunt.
If you don’t have a wildlife park nearby, cruise the suburbs and you’ll likely locate geese on a golf course and whitetails near backyard bird feeders.
4. Start them in shooting sports.
Enroll the kids in a shooting sports program like those offered by JAKES or 4-H. Successful hunting means being proficient with firearms or archery equipment. Shooting sports programs teach firearm safety and hunting ethics, and provide a scheduled time to shoot regularly. Young shooters can take hunter safety courses as a follow-up to meet state hunting regulations. The Boy Scouts of America and the National Archery in the Schools Program also provide stepping stones for aspiring hunters.
5. Include kids in hunting chores.
Take the kids along when you hit the field to plant food plots, set up treestands or stake out ground blinds. Planting food plots instills land stewardship ethics and educates youth about hunting strategy and providing nutrition for wildlife. Placing treestands and ground blinds emphasizes how to scout for trails and sign to locate optimum ambush locations.
Photo by Mark Kayser
6. Get the right gear.
Being outdoors is no fun if your gear is no good. Adult boots, gloves and rain gear don’t work for little ones. Fortunately companies like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops have a large selection of youth clothing and gear. Boots, clothes and daypacks that fit properly make any outdoor outing more enjoyable. Don’t make kids forsake all their digital entertainment. Packing an electronic game or smartphone can help the time pass quickly when turkey sightings are few.
7. Bring them to hunting camp.
Camp cooking, tall tales, a campfire and sleeping bags appeal to kids. Lay down the rules and tame the rough language before the kids arrive, but invite them into the circle with open arms.
8. Take them scouting.
Whether you’re looking for winter flocks of turkeys, soybean-munching summer whitetails or flocks of cornfield mallards, take along a kid. Outfit them with quality binoculars and give them plenty of time behind the spotting scope. And don’t forget to bring them along to set up trail cameras. They’ll see firsthand how you choose prime photo locations. When you return, give the kids the first look at what the trail cameras captured.
9. Donate venison.
Remember to bring along your young outdoors person when you donate any extra wild game to a local food bank. They will witness the helping hand hunting can lend the community. Protein is the most expensive item of any meal and by taking part in antlerless seasons you can show them how hunting helps manage wildlife and provides food for people in need.
10. Work on a conservation project.
Hunters are America’s true conservationists and invest more funding in wildlife conservation than all other groups combined. Instill this concept in youth by involving them in a local conservation project. Your local NWTF chapter is a great place to start. — Mark Kayser