Hunting can be an exciting and educational adventure for kids. It builds relationships, and teaches character traits like patience, discipline, respect and self control. Hunting also provides a hands-on, safe, active learning environment where children can experience nature, the outdoors, firearms, and get a bit of exercise in the process. By making a hunting experience interactive with children, you not only create an environment of learning, you teach them respect for adults, for nature, and for themselves. We hunt, ultimately, because we are developing leaders. The bottom line for us as parents is that children will get out of this what we are willing to put into it for them. This is an experience that only we as parents can give our children. It needs to be one on one, and it won’t and can’t be taught by anyone else but us. I wrote some tips below to help you make the most out of this special time with your kiddo.
1. Talk about what you will be doing with them before hand. I have said this in other posts, but it is essential for children to be confident that you, as their parent will provide a safe place for them.
I always start with gun safety. You can’t cover this too many times. I will let my kids touch the guns (unloaded and following all the gun-safety rules of course) under close supervision. Let them experience the tools of the trade in a safe controlled environment so their curiosity doesn’t drive them to do something they shouldn’t when they are loaded in the field. I also let my kids play with the dogs before hand. When the dogs are out in the field, they only think about finding Mr. Ringneck. The dog will run around all over the place looking for him. Make sure your kid understands that the dog is not there to play with him or her while you are out in the field. It will help them understand boundaries, and help make them feel more comfortable with a dog running all around them, especially, when the loud gunshots start. You can also talk to your kiddo about how much walking, waiting, or any other element of the hunt you feel is important for them to understand or to learn from. Remember, keep it fun and age appropriate.
2. Go to a game farm.
Game farms are excellent for hunting with kids. I grew up hunting in the big wilderness of Northern Minnesota so I never thought of hunting game farms in the past. But I have started to do so now that my own children are getting to the age where they can start enjoying this sport too. I can’t tell you how wonderful they are for learning this sport, plus they really are fun for a quick day trip. I am an easy one-hour drive from Glendorado Shooting Preserve in Princeton, MN. First of all, the owners and guides are great. But the property is a really interesting too. It is a nice mixture of corn, apple trees, tall grasses, and has some ponds spotted throughout the property.
If you are a beginner yourself, or just want someone to brush up on your own skills while you teach your kids, a game farm is hands down the best place to go. Admittedly, I have shot hundreds upon hundreds of grouse, but pheasant hunting is fairly new to me, so I learn something from a guide every time I go. At a game farm, you will get constant action, a guide (if you want one) that will both teach you and work the dog, and guns if you need them. Plus you don’t need a hunting license (at least in MN). You literally just have to show up at a game farm and you know you will have an exciting day with your kids.
3. Hunting is a values-based sport. Being purposeful about making time to be with your children is very important. I can visit a game farm in 2/3 of a day and make a lifetime of memories. But it isn’t just about developing relationships, it is about developing value systems as well. Use this time to build your relationships and teach about the deeper things in life. Kids suck up everything you tell them when they are young especially when they know you are giving them special attention and time. What’s a better opportunity to reach and teach your kids? As parents, we can develop the values we desire in our own children.
4. Spend some time teaching. There is so much to learn about the outdoors. Use every opportunity to teach them about weather, about the animals, or whatever else you can think is important. Make learning real by making the subject real. When a child experiences a subject rather than just hears about it, he or she will form a much deeper understanding and appreciation for it.
5. It’s about leadership. I have a masters degree in organizational leadership. I believe a very good argument could be made that one of the best leadership development programs that exists happens naturally when children learn foundational ethics from their own parents. Anyone can be taught how to set goals, how to transact with others, and how a corporate culture develops, but none of these leadership elements mean a darn thing if the foundational ethics and ontology of a person is missing.
You want your kids to be authentic, affective adults. Catch them while they are young, get them outside, and start developing there character as soon as possible. And parents … you are the best teachers. As Proverbs 22:6 says: “Raise a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
You might have noticed that I excluded every picture of a bird from this post. Yes, we had a successful hunt. But, that wasn’t the point. If we want our kids to be intentional about things, we must be intentional about them first. This article is about developing children and lessons in leadership, not just for kids, but for us too.
A special thanks to our guide Pat Smith and to Glendorado Shooting Preserve for a great day!