For me, the greatest hunt didn't even require a shot fired.
Our daughter turned had just seven. She is always up early and sees her dad going out chasing deer before sunrise. It was only inevitable.
"Dad, can I go hunting with you?" I left this decision up to the master of our home... my wife. When she gave the OK, I was all in! This was the beginning of my greatest hunt ever.
Now, our family is already accustomed to eating meat, including that which comes from animals we've harvested outrselves. We raised two pigs, we have chickens for eggs and harvest the roosters for meat, and we eat every animal that falls at the end of our guns.
Here in Virginia, deer season is followed by squirrel season. Squirrel season gives us a reason to get into the woods, check out all the other sign, and put tasty food into the freezer.
When our little firecracker asked if she could come with me, I had to contain my euphoria. I was ecstatic. After making sure she was well equipped with warm clothes, had extra socks on and her hat covered her ears, we headed out behind the house in pursuit of this small but tasty foe.
We are incredibly lucky. Our home is surrounded by some 10,000 acres of national forest. To go hunting, we rarely have to start an engine. Just walk out of the back door and head up the mountain and the game is on. That is precisely what we did on this glorious day. Upon arriving at an area I knew from deer hunting had an abundance of squirrel, we took a seat next to a fallen tree and waited.
This was what I worried most about. Would she be ready to sit quiet? Would she sit still enough to not scare off game? The answer came back quick. She was ready, willing and able.
She sat at attention, looking in every direction for our bushy-tailed foe. All was right in the world. My daughter was at my side, looking for the abundance the mountain provides, and ready to see any game that came along.
At this young age, she was not carrying a firearm. She was merely hunting with dad. And I could not contain my excitement. She was there with me, watching everything, listening to the mountain below us, and alive with electricity. I literally could not ask for more.
I have harvested so much game over the years. Rocky Mountain elk, deer, Canada goose, ducks, squirrel, rabbit, dove, quail, pheasant...more than I could mention here. This moment with my seven-year-old daughter surpassed them all. It was a glorious reunion with all the reasons I have done this for so many years.
When your child asks you to take them hunting, remember some of these key points
If you are looking to take your young children out in the woods with you remember these tips. It doesn't matter what you harvest. It is a Super Bowl win for them the minute you leave the house. Have water and a snack available for them. Embrace this time with them. Treasure it.
As long as they want to stay in the woods, enjoy it. If they are well clothed, and have food and water, they will stay longer than you think. When they are ready to leave, it's time to leave. It really doesn't matter if you have had a "successful hunt."
My daughter sat as still as I could have dreamed for close to an hour. When I noticed her attention waning, I asked her if she wanted to walk and look for squirrels. She loved that. We walked the mountain, she smiled at me every time she saw "deer poop," and told me whether it was a doe or a buck that left the droppings.
In spite of the fact there was no animal harvested, this was my greatest hunt ever
There was not a single shot fired. No animal harvested. It will forever go down as my greatest hunt ever. For those of you that may not understand that, I can tell you this. Every day since we went, she has asked me to take her again.
That is the greatest trophy, the largest rack, and the best memory I could ever hope to burn into my mind.
It was...the greatest hunt ever.