Take The Kids Hunting

Jack Proudly Showing Off A Ruff We Were Able To Bag

October is my favorite time of year. The autumn colors are in their full glory and the air is crisp and cool. My family is busy with birthdays and anniversaries. And we are smack dab in the middle of hunting season. 

The dogs and I have been out a few times and we've been enjoying our time in the woods. We've had some success and we've been skunked so far this year. Overall it's been fun.

The weather has not been as cooperative as I would like. It seems like when I get a day off either it's raining or it dumped the night before. We've had some snow where I like to hunt and that chases the blues up to higher elevations. I'm hoping for an indian summer so the birds will drop down again. The ruffs stay in the same areas you usually find them so I've been concentrating my hunting in the coverts where I usually find them. That's fine by me, ruffed grouse are my favorite of the 2 species.

I took my son Jack hunting with me last Friday. I just had the afternoon to go and as I was prepping to go he asked if he could go along.  The place I was going wasn't too rough and the coverts I wanted to hit aren't too far from the road so I was glad to bring him along.

Jack just turned 6 and is good boy. He's more interested in Legos® and computer games than hunting  but hopefully I can keep his interests in hunting peaked enough that when he's old enough he will want to go with his old man. I would enjoy nothing more than if my children were my hunting partners as I get older. Grouse hunting is a perfect way to introduce kids to hunting.

There are some things to consider when taking the little ones hunting:

First, I have to slow down, which for me probably isn't such a bad thing. I go pretty hard, especially when I'm not finding birds. I know I can benefit from working covers more thoroughly but my A.D.D. kicks in and I got to keep moving. With the kids I just take my time so they don't struggle to keep up with me.

Second, time is a factor. Young children get bored. If there isn't consistent action they are going to get tired and tired faster than if there is some birds getting shot at. Keep it short and sweet.

Third, pick easy coverts for them to navigate through. You can't expect a 6-8 year old to be able to bust through the same cover you usually do for very long. A cover that is as tall as my waist can be an impassible jungle to someone who is around 4 feet tall. Hunt along trails if you can. It's not great for hunting but it's better to keep it fun and interesting that forcing your kid on some death march through thick cover. That could sour a kid on hunting. The idea here is not hunting success but parenting success. If you want your kids to spend time hunting with you later, keep it fun for them when they are young.

Everyone Enjoys A Picnic. Especially Hazel.
Fourth, snacks and plenty of them. Keep the candy, jerky, juice, trail mix, granola bars flowing. My kids think of our trips afield as treat time. I let them have pretty much as much as they want when we are in the field. I want them to think that hunting with dad is a party. Make it special for them.

Fifth, make sure that they are dressed right. Spend some time and money and make sure that they have decent gear when they go with you. You don't need to spend a ton on expensive boots and such at this age because usually they aren't going to be out in the field too long but make sure that they have what they need for the conditions you will be hunting in. If it's cold make sure they are properly dressed for it. Put some blaze orange on them for safety's sake. I have a small pack I have the kids wear. In it are their snacks and an extra fleece jacket, a rain poncho and gloves and a stocking hat.  This time of year I always have them wear long underwear. If they get too hot we can always take off clothes but we can't put on what we don't have if the weather is cold.

As the kids get older and start going on more difficult hunts get them gear that works well and keeps them comfortable. Second hand stores always have plenty of good outdoor clothing and you can get some good gear for not much money. My daughter thinks life is a fashion show so If I can find clothes that she thinks look cool she's all in. My boy could care less what he looks like as long as he's comfortable.

If it's real cold. Leave the little ones home. No reason to have them become miserable and sour on the experience. I remember one deer hunt with my father that we were trapped in a rain storm that turned into a blizzard. Things got scary and we had a little fright before we were able to get a fire going, which wasn't easy. Dad had to pull some bullets apart for the powder because everything was soaked including us. Eventually we got a fire started and everything ended up OK but it could of easily went south on us. I've always had a deep respect for the cold since then. Learning that you could die from exposure at that young age was a great lesson but I hate to put my kids through that just to learn that lesson. Use common sense and be safe.

Finally, gun safety. I usually hunt with my doubles this time of year. When I'm with my kids I usually keep the action open until I see the dogs getting birdy or I find a dog on point. When I'm by myself that's not always the way I do it. Unless I'm hiking something really rough terrain I usually have the action closed with the safety on but pretty much ready to go. Whenever I stop to have a snack or adjust my pack or do something with the dogs I always open the action and unload before putting my gun down. If you use a semi-auto or a pump gun, open the action and unload the shell in the chamber. Dumb things can happen with a loaded gun when dogs and kids are around. Always think, safety first. Again just use common sense and explain what your doing a why to your kids.

I also always have my kids walk a few paces behind me and before any shooting happens I make sure I know exactly where they are and let them know what is about or what is likely to happen. After a few times out they get the drill but always check where they are before the gun go's to your shoulder.

Use the time to talk with your kids and teach them about nature. I just talk about everything that interests me and hope something sticks with the kids. Jack and I had a great conversation over lunch about squirrels and their behavior. We sat there and watched as these squirrels barked at us as they were filling their hordes for the winter. I was able to show him tracks made by different animals and the differences. I don't know how much sinks in but as long as he will listen I'm going to keep talking.

Spend time with them young and build a strong relationship and hopefully you wont have to rebuild a relationship when they are in their teens or older. Believe me on this one.

So what if you didn't hunt as hard or as long as you wanted to. All the birds in the world don't hold a candle to your kid turning to you on the drive home and saying, "Nice work today Dad. That was a good job shooting that bird. I'm proud of you." It's golden.... pure treasure. I felt ten feet tall.

Ruffed Grouse. Nice Find and Retrieve by my Pudelpointer Hazel.


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