How I’m Introducing My Kids to the Outdoors.
When my oldest son turned 5, he had a firm request for his birthday present: “I want to go hunting with Daddy.”
The time had come to begin teaching my kids to hunt! For years, I’ve been looking forward to this day; hoping my sons would be outdoorsmen. I remember when I had a single bad hunting experience as a kid, and it turned me off to the idea for over a decade. I really don’t want to blow it.
Whenever I thought about introducing my kids to hunting, I wanted it to be fun. When we go hunting together, it would be less about the “hunting” and more about the “together”. Their first memories with me in the woods were going to be filled with adventure, excitement and laughter, even if it killed our chances to bring home something with furry feet.
This is just getting started. Hopefully trips like this will continue for decades to come. Maybe this will be a family tradition that he’ll pass on to his children? Maybe we’ll have 3-4 generations out here together at some point? Maybe I’m starting something big, something that will knit the hearts of generations? All I know, is that those few hours spent in the woods with my son last Saturday were valuable. I feel the weight of being a dad and I just don’t want to blow it!
Here are a few things I kept in mind as I took my son hunting for the first time. I’m not an expert, and this all may explode in my face, but I’m trying – this is our story.
Hunting is Better than Birthday Presents.
Birthday parties at our house are big. Lauren always makes elaborate cakes, themes, decorations, favors, and games for the boy’s birthdays. Last year, we converted our entire house into the 100 Acre Wood. Our boys know, the sky is the limit when it comes to birthday parties, and they abuse it!
So, when Lauren asked our oldest son what kind of birthday party he wanted this year, we expected big answers. A flying ninja superhero party was my guess. This year, the ninja’s would have to wait. His birthday party request was simple and sharp – “I just want to go hunting with Daddy.”
Humbled is the best word to describe it. When your 5 year old son chooses a hunting trip with Dad over a big party with flying ninjas. Humbling. It was time to get a game plan together.
All Hunters Have Their Own Gear.
He was so excited to get that orange vest. He was five and he finally had his own “real” hunting vest!
It was cold that morning and we really bundled up. I think he was wearing 5-6 layers, fully at risk of looking like that kid in A Christmas Story. Outside all those layers he was sporting his new camo overalls and jacket. The night before the trip he was walking around the house showing off his new gear. With his hand warmers and BB-gun, he looked the part as much as he felt it.
Having his own hunting gear seemed to set the experience apart for him. This wasn’t just shooting BB-guns with dad in the back yard, or camping in the living room. This was real. All hunters have their own gear, and he was a hunter.
He Decided that He was Ready.
He’s asked me to go hunting before. My response usually includes how much I would love it, and that he would have to wait until he was a big boy for that. In the mean time we’d go shoot his bow and arrow at my turkey target, or hunt his stuffed moose with a Nerf gun. What I didn’t realize was turning five is apparently when a pre-k kid becomes a grown man. He was serious. His mind was made up. He was ready. It was time to take him hunting. This trip may not be a serious or successful trip by traditional standards, but I had a feeling it would be seriously successful by being a dad standards.
I mostly hunt big tracts of public land. It’s not exactly the kind of place suited for five year old-length legs. But, it was the beset choice I had. I knew where an old DNR road opened up into a field where I’d seen some rabbits the year before. I hoped we could get lucky find a rabbit sunning at the field edge, or a couple squirrels feeding in the hardwoods beside it? We started planning.
Even though I made sure we had smooth ground, and minimal brush busting, there was still a lot of tripping. He really didn’t seem to care. He took the fall like a little man, and kept on going. I could tell he was having a good time when he didn’t want to stop to address a fall that would have produced a complete meltdown at home. Maybe he really was ready?
We Had Adventure and Broke All the Rules.
We spent most of the morning looking for sign. By the time we left the woods, Elijah was spotting rabbit trails off the side of the road I didn’t even see. We looked at tracks and talked about which way the animals were moving. We talked about how hard it was for animals to find good food this time of year. I was amazed that he was loving every minute of it.
He was full of questions and wanted to crunch every mudsickle in the road. He was dragging his feet and whisper’s slightly louder than he talks. It was everything you’re not supposed to do while you’re hunting and it was awesome.
I tried to explain how the animals use their hearing, seeing and smell to stay away from danger. I tried to show him how to pick up his feet and move quietly. I want to begin teaching him the disciplines of a woodsman, but not at the expense of his adventure. So, most of the lessons came as simple tips in the midst of exploration. He carried his BB gun with him to practice gun safety, and did great. By the time we left, he was picking up his feet and not dragging them through the leaves. He was getting it…and he’s only five!
He did great, and he’s still got over a decade to hone his skills. There will be many more “hunting” trips I’m sure. Maybe we’ll get lucky and take an animal a few times while we’re out together. Next thing I know there will be hunting trips, camps, stories, and my son may be giving me the tips. I can’t wait.
It’s Up To Him.
I’m not going to force him to hunt. If he likes it, that will be great. If he doesn’t, that’s okay. I hope he enjoys it like I do one day, and that we can hunt together with his brothers for decades to come. But I don’t know if that will happen. I can’t be sure what even tomorrow will bring. So for now, I just enjoy hunting with him – even if it’s not fully hunting yet. When we go hunting together, it’s more about the together than about the hunting.
If you like this kind of thing, and want to see more of what we’re about here at RusticMan.com, check out THIS PAGE.
Are you raising your kids in the outdoors? Do you have any tips, pointers or questions for us? Please leave a comment in the area below and let’s talk more…