As a hunter there is nothing better than coming into your weekend off from work, and getting prepared for hitting the bush before the crack of dawn and watching that sun rise into the sky. It is even better with your kids.
When you become a hunting parent, your preparations take a little longer and your expectations of the hunt change because you now have a tiny person to take along with you.
While it may be tempting to hand them off to grandma and grandpa for a night, it's also important to get them out as much as possible. It will help strengthen your family and it will help the heritage of hunting stay alive.
Here are some tips to help you make the transition easier for you and for your kids.
Change up your hunting routine.
Backpacking all day or sitting in a treestand from sun up to sun down may not go over well when you have a little tag-along. But you can change things up by using a ground blind instead of a treestand or putting your little tyke in a child carrier backpack so you can still hike.
Ground blinds are truly a kid's best friend. We all know kids have a hard time sitting for long periods of time, some have trouble sitting longer than five minutes, but a blind will hide your little wiggle worm's movements from any animals in the area.
Using a child carrier backpack is great for being able to cover a lot of ground hiking, and works great up until your kids get too big for it. Some kids love riding in them and tend to fall asleep, but using this method to hunt can really depend on how your kid's mood is.
If they start out cranky then they may not stay quiet for you or tolerate riding in a backpack. Some kids are better with just walking around; pick an area to hunt where they have an easy time walking to make it more enjoyable.
My son loves to walk around and is better behaved doing it compared to sitting, even when he sees an animal he seems to remember better that he needs to be quiet.
I think walking can help keep their minds active but, depending on the kid, it could help keep them calm or excite them; for my daughter it excites her, so sitting tends to be more successful.
If you are primarily a bowhunter you may need to pull out the rifle for a few hunts depending on how your child does.
It will up your chances of getting an animal, giving you the extra range. The farther from the animal you can be, the more likely it might not hear the little chatterbox sitting next to you. Or have your spouse drop you off in an area for a solo hunt while the other hunts with the kid/s, then next time do the reverse and take turns.
If you have more than one child and both parents hunt, split up! One takes one kid and sit in an area and the other two go sit in a different area. There's nothing saying you have to hunt as a big group and hunting separately will up your chances of getting an animal.
Of course, the older your kids get the more you can introduce them to different styles of hunting, like the treestand.
Kids can get bored easy and with that will come more talking and more wiggling. Taking entertainment with you to the blind will give you precious minutes or possibly hours of silence to widen your window of opportunity at an animal.
Get them their own pair of binoculars and get them to help you look for game. You can make a game out of it like a scavenger hunt.
When I was little we used to play a game where we would look for animals and we would get coins depending on the animals we seen; a quarter for an elk, loonie for a moose, and a toonie for a bear.
It will also get them involved in the hunt and make them feel like they are helping you in the role of hunter. Quiet activities you could take are also hot wheel cars, coloring books and markers, or any toy that is packable and silent.
As a parent you are always keeping an eye out for hazards when it comes to your children and wanting to keep them safe. Hunting with your kids is no different.
I find with all the predators we live with I keep a very close eye on the kids and the area surrounding us.
Another safety issue that I keep a close eye on is making sure they don't eat anything I haven't approved, like mushrooms or berries.
It's a good idea to pick up some nature books that they can read or that you can read to them about the animals, bugs, and plants in your area.
Then of course, watching them around your firearms and their own ( if they are old enough to hunt in your province/state).
Bring Goodies & Extra Gear
Kids always seem to be hungry or thirsty or too cold or too hot....so be prepared for it!
I bring a backpack for each kid with a water bottle of water and a juice box, snacks and food like a sandwich, apples, bananas, etc.
It's better to pack too much than not enough. I also bring lots of extra clothing.
I pack all my clothes and lots of extras for them, as well as a blanket. Sometimes I don't even get to wear my extra gear because I have distributed it between these two monkeys to stay warm. I can suffer through the cold/heat and be hungry, so I prefer them to be as comfortable as possible.
Keeping things fun and comfortable for them is the best way to make sure they learn to love hunting. If you can make it through a hunt with a happy child then that is a successful hunt in itself.
If they start asking to go hunting or to come with you, you have succeeded!
Remember its about the journey and adventure, not the kill. The kids will remember every time you take them out hunting and will talk about it. It's a huge adventure to them, and something as simple as sitting on the edge of a clearing glassing and watching a cow elk eat grass, can be the most amazing thing to them.
Teach them and instill the wonder of the outdoors in them for life. They are the future of hunting.
All images via Nikita Dalke