Five Tips for Happy Hunting with Kids

There are many reasons people hunt. Hunting fills a natural primal calling that's really hard to put into words. Some people hunt for food, or a connection to nature, or for the physical and mental challenge. Some just want to spend time with their friends and family. For some, it’s all of the above. The one thing I know to be consistent is that people are seeking some connection through hunting. What I didn't realize until I had children is how those priorities would shift.

Father and son antelope hunting

I have always wanted my kids to look at me and see someone who works hard no matter what I am doing. Before I had kids, my hunting style was all about that; doing hard things to prove to myself I was capable. While I still enjoy challenging myself, my focus has shifted now that my kids are old enough to hunt. My father passed away at 50 years old, just eight years older than I am now. Some of my fondest memories are from hunting with my old man. I want my kids to enjoy the outdoors as much as we did. So, part of making it enjoyable is shifting your priorities. Over the past 10 years of hunting with my kids, I have come up with a few tips and tactics that I often share with new fathers looking to share a hunt with their children.

1) Keep it Simple

Hunting can be an elaborate adventure, and sometimes that's super exciting. If your kids are older, I encourage you to take them on an out-of-state hunt or up to Alaska if you can swing it. My son is 14 and hikes like an adult. This has opened a whole new style of hunting. However, if you are just getting your kids into hunting, keep it simple. I suggest starting with an evening hunt after work or maybe a long weekend. The point is to keep it easy and fun. Don't make the hunt too hard and burn the kids out before they get a chance to really understand what it's all about. Hiking your kid’s legs off is a sure-fire way for them to want to stay home on the next trip.

2) Feed them Well

Snacks, snacks, snacks. I can't tell you how important this one is. Cutting a hunt short because dad didn't bring enough snacks is a tough road. Having the right fuel for your kids is important to keep their morale up. We don't stock a lot of sugary snacks in our house, but you can bet we have sour worms and PopTarts in our packs when hunting. It's these small touches that stick with your kids. My dad's go-to hunting snacks were Snickers and Copenhagen. I will never forget that.

Father and son hunting

3) Gear Up

Having the right gear is key. I always keep a pair of binos in my truck just for my kids. As simple as this sounds, it’s a game-changer. It allows them to participate and gives them something to focus on. An inexpensive pair of binos can go a long way.

4) Call Mom

This is a big one. Kids get homesick. When we have service, we call home. Moms are the superheroes of the household, and sometimes kids just need to check in. If mom is out in the field with you, even better! We use the calls home to share how many and what types of animals we have seen, how the weather has been, what junk food we are eating. These calls get my kids to share what they are experiencing in their own words. Plus, I think half of being a good hunter is also being a good storyteller.

5) Remember Why You’re There

If you gage the success of your hunt on the fact that you punched a tag, then hunting with kids will be hard. Getting an animal with your kids is awesome, and as they get older it becomes easier to be successful. However, I can speak from experience that your kids remember a lot more than a punched tag. This time spent in nature with our kids is our chance to disconnect from the modern world and connect with each other. Hunting with your kids can be tough at times, and you have to take a step back and ask yourself what you are trying to get out of this time spent together. Don’t forget that simply spending time together outside is the most important part.

I think hunting and the responsibility of what it means to be a hunter is deeply important in the growth and development of our children. Hunting is not for everyone, but making it too hard or creating barriers to entry sure won't foster a lifelong love of hunting.

Young hunter with field-dressed wild game meat