May 26, 2015
I’m not doing much in the way of outdoors right now, but lots of other entertaining writers are picking up my slack. Bill Heavey, writing the A Sportsman’s Life blog over at Field and Stream is often entertaining, and occasionally educational. His latest post is a little bit of both, as he discusses how to take a child fishing.
It’s about the child’s experience, not yours. You might get to fish and you might not. What matters is that the child enjoys it.
The instruction, of course, could easily carry over to taking a youngster hunting, or hiking, or… well, to any activity, really. It’s not your trip anymore, it’s the child’s trip. It isn’t about taking the lunker bass or trophy buck, it’s about showing the small human that this stuff is really a lot of fun.
Even then, though, Heavey offers another core nugget of wisdom.
None of this guarantees that the child will come to love fishing. It only guarantees that he won’t hate it because you forced him to do it your way or compelled him to do it for longer than he wanted.
Anyway, in lieu of coming up with something on my own today, this is what I have to offer. Read it, and enjoy!
April 30, 2015
“When is too young to take your child on a hunting trip?”
That’s the question posed by “The Wild Chef” in a recent post to his blog, From Field to Plate, the Tale of My Meal, and it’s a good question… made a little trickier (and better) when he specifies that he’s talking about a daughter, instead of a son.
Times are changing, of course, and the traditional gender divisions are coming down a little at a time. It’s hardly a secret that more women are picking up guns and bows and hitting the woods. And more and more parents are bringing their children into the fold as well, both boys and girls.
But, back to the question, how old is old enough?
In his piece, the Wild Chef wrote about taking his 4 1/2 year-old daughter on a dove hunt. Unsure what to expect, he watched her carefully, especially after dropping the first bird. How would she react to the bird’s death? Was she old enough to understand death? Was she too young to equate the death with killing for food? You’ll have to read his post to find out… but it’s worth the read.
These are the questions I had the first times I took my daughter hunting. Truthfully, although I used to pack her in her little backpack carrier when she couldn’t have been more than three, all those “hunts” we made in the Holly Shelter Game Lands were more akin to walks in the woods. Even if I’d really wanted to shoot something with her along, there’s no way it would have happened. I think I killed the first duck in front of her when she was seven or eight, out in California, and even then, I wasn’t sure how she’d react. It turns out, she was perfectly fine with it. She cheered for Sandy (her dog) during the retrieve, and then looked at the bird in my hand while we talked about eating it for dinner. Of course, she’d eaten plenty of game at that point, so the concept was hardly foreign. That probably made it easier. But honestly, I think it was a bigger deal to me than it was to her. From what I hear, that’s the case with a lot of kids.
Obviously, I think a minimum age is entirely subjective and dependent on a myriad of factors. If you’re actually going to be shooting, is the youngster big enough to wear hearing protection? Can the child withstand the elements, such as cold, heat, or rain? What kind of hunt will it be? Would it be realistic to expect the child to sit still enough for a deer hunt, for example? Will the youngster have to hike over miles of rugged terrain, or wade through waist-deep water? Etc.
There are challenges, of course. Kids have limited attention spans. They often get cold easily, and their little legs are no match for our long strides. They can be goal-oriented, and lose interest if the rewards aren’t quick in the offing. They are generally self-centered, not in a negative way necessarily, but in that they don’t always recognize that their desires (“let’s go home now”) don’t mesh with everyone else’s. Sometimes, I think it shouldn’t be a question of, is the kid ready to go, but more, is the parent ready to take her?
And of course, in the backcountry, girls have their own, unique issues that us dads never really had to face. Yeah. Where’s the bathroom?
But for all of this, I know I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with my daughter in the field for anything. Over the years, she sort of grew away from an interest in going hunting. Some of this, I know, is due to her own special needs which, among other things, make walking in rough terrain very difficult. Once she grew too big for me to carry over longer distances, I had to make her walk, and some of our outings had to be curtailed.
And, at the root of it all, I think part of her nature is just to be the little homebody, staying in the comfort of the house with her cats and her music. And that’s OK too.
And there, I think, is one of the most important lessons any parent can learn. It’s OK for the kid to be who she is, not who you want her to be. Maybe she’ll grow up to be a lifelong hunting buddy, but you have to be OK if that’s not who she is.