There’s an unexplainable common bond with my kids in the outdoors, but it hasn’t always been a joyride. As every parent knows, raising kids is a constant evolution, an ebb and flow if you will. One day you wonder how you will ever leave the house in one piece. The next day you’re a well-oiled machine trekking through life on an endless adventure with kids in tow. But how do you dive into toting your kids along in the outdoors, getting them engaged in hunting? Or just simply enjoying a change in scenery?
Our First Elk Hunt
I’ll never forget one of the first times I geared up for an elk hunt in the temperamental Cascade Range in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. I dug through my camo, geared up my boys, packed snacks, threw in some books, grabbed my rifle, and made sure all was a go. We had planned an evening in the mountains for quite some time. The excitement grew as we got ready to go. Never did I imagine it would work out quite the way it did. Don’t get excited by the thought of it turning out better than expected… It was a bonafide disaster.
There’s a certain peace that comes from immersing yourself in nature. A solitude and oneness with the wild that is nearly impossible to experience in other areas of life. So naturally, I had hopes of tasting that sweetness on this trip as well. An expectation, I would quickly learn would lead me down the path straight to the heart of irritation.
It took me several more attempts, botched trips, and meltdowns, from all of us. Finally I started to realize, I was going about it all wrong.
Getting the Kids Involved
So, how do you go about getting the kids involved in the hunt? Before we dive into the “how” I think it is pivotal to remember for anything to be a success, especially with kids, patience is key. We can all drum up a memory as a youngster of being talked into something that just really didn’t appeal to us. “It’ll be fun”, they say. Keeping in mind these new experiences for kids are received much different from their perspective than ours. Keep them comfortable, engaged, and give them a job to do.
Comfortable, warm, fed and entertained kiddos are the first few ingredients in the success recipe. Plan ahead with a short trip, and know ahead of time, this trip will be a different kind of adventure. Instead of going into it with anticipation of a pack out – which is always a bonus – make it an exploratory mission for the entire family. Make things fun and keep kids busy with simple and easy to acquire jobs.
Stop and teach them how to identify tracks, explain what they are, let them find some of their own. Play a game of ‘I spy’, seek out new kinds of foliage, trees, flowers, or berries. Add in a quick lesson about the vegetation and what deer, elk, bear and other wildlife feed on. Stop to check out streams, show them game trails, have a rock throwing contest. Try to identify the noises you hear, and see which ones they can pick up on.
A True Bonding Experience
It took me a lot longer than I would have liked to let go of my particular nature in the wilderness. To let go of my expectations, and ideas of how it should go, and simply embrace what it was. A true bonding experience with my kids in its rawest form. A chance to share bits about our heritage, uninterrupted moments to show them a glimpse of where we came from. And the much different way of life that our ancestors lived.
Take the chance to explain to them what public land is, that it’s theirs and why we have it. Pick up leaves and play together, build a fort, or play a game of how to survive the wild. You are now a teacher in the greatest place on earth, soak it up.
The bottom line is, this is their first impression of a passion, and likely a family tradition, that is near and dear to you. Do what you can to make it an enjoyable learning experience and you are likely to have them hooked before you know it. That is true success.