When your child joins you on a hunt or it is their first time aiming down the barrel, make sure comfort is a top priority. Sure, your goal is to seek a successful hunt, but when youth are involved that goal has an equal. You want your kids to enjoy the outing. Good experiences add up to a youngster wanting more involvement in hunting. Repeated bad experiences could scar a young hunter for life. It is simply too easy for youth these days to replace hunting with a multitude of other competing activities.
Whether you believe it, hunting clothing is fashionable. Certainly, you shop for your hunting clothes to be effectual against the elements, weather or terrain. Still, you do not turn a blind eye to fashion aspects as new patterns with trendy logos show up at your local Bass Pro Shops store. Pre-hunters or first timers are an impressionable bunch. They see what you and your friends are wearing in the field. Do not ignore this fact and dress them with hand-me-downs that fit like a rodeo clown’s baggy costume. Shop for outfits that fit them correctly and protect them like your new performance outfit keeps you dry and warm.
Outdated cotton clothing can become damp and chill a young hunter. Oversized clothing can make it hard to hike and even be dangerous if they are trying to raise a gun to shoot. Plus, loose-fitting jackets can catch a bow string and cause a miss for a new hunter, adding just another bad experience to a trip possibly dampened by rain or snow.
Many companies now tailor camouflage or upland gear to youth hunters. If your budget will not allow a new purchase, place an ad on one of the many online social media marketplaces looking for pint-sized fashion.
Hunts that Deliver
You want to be successful on your hunts. You want your youth hunter to feel the emotions, highs and buck fever you experience while hunting whether they watch or pull the trigger themselves. To flood them in this euphoric atmosphere, plan hunts that are engaging and highly successful instead of taking them on a seven-day DIY, public-land elk hunt with low success and body abuse. Hunts with a higher comfort range that include high success should be first options.
Look at hunts with movement and interaction included. Waterfowl hunting combined with setting decoys and using calls, dove hunting over a sunflower patch or even an afternoon at a shooting preserve where both dog and youth achieve training in a controlled environment hit the mark.
If big game does beckon, consider hunting deer, especially where you can bait to ensure activity at your hunting site. Spring turkey hunting combines calls, decoys and sunny days that can be over the top with a strutting tom in the foreground. The very first hunts I brought my own children on were turkey hunts. Warm days and screaming gobblers added up to a hunt that required a later stop at the Dairy Queen for celebration. Even Western hunts, like a waterhole hunt for pronghorn, where animals are plentiful and out all day can be considered for excitable youth.
The sky is the limit on choosing a hunt. If the hunt is not draining and action is abundant, you have left a memory with an impressionable new hunter.
Inside When Possible
When possible, plan your outings for bluebird days. When the threat of showers, snow or wind does make an appearance on your hunting calendar, pop inside a blind for weatherproof comfort. Portable or permanent blinds may not be as celebrated in hunting history like trail cameras or hunting apps, but their simplistic refuge is a sure way to guarantee an enjoyable day when the outdoors is not so enjoyable.
The comfort level extends beyond safety from a splash-and-dash storm. Blinds just make it comfortable to be out hunting. I remember sitting with my kids harnessed in an exposed ladder stand—It was nearly impossible for them to sit still for more than 15 minutes. A blind provides the perfect environment to veil any impatient movement a youngster may display. Sitting in the shadows of a blind or hunting stand allows youth hunters to look at their smartphone, read a book, enjoy a sandwich and for you to whisper additional hunting lessons.
Added benefits include being able to help them aim if they are the shooter or cloak them if they need to move to another window to watch you take a shot. Regardless of the hunt, consider a blind if opportunity allows.
Entertainment Adds to the Experience
Be honest, all hunts are not exciting. Some can be downright dull. Think of the last time you sat all day in a treestand with only squirrels to keep you company. It is your responsibility to keep any hunt exciting for a new hunter. You are the director of entertainment. Fortunately, you have many of the tools already in hand to keep youth entertained, educated and enlightened. Open your toolbox.
Regardless whether you outfit your youngster with their own equipment or share your own, do it. Remember, idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. A binocular, rangefinder, game calls, decoys, compass, headlamp, knife sharpener, first aid (if the knife sharpening ends badly) and other must-haves all provide diversions when there is a lull in the action. Add a quality daypack so they can haul their equipment to the field efficiently and be sure to pack lots of snacks.
Kids can help with locating game, plus perfect talents such as adding an edge to a blade or learning old-school skills like compass bearings. Enhance mapping skills by adding a hunting app to their smartphone and they can choose the next hunting location while hunkered down in your current location.
Plan your introductory hunts with ample comfort along with an entertaining array of hunting activities. There is plenty of time later to make a kid trudge across a swamp to reach a deer blind or backpack into the boonies for big game. Right now, it is all about cementing their interest in hunting.