When you have kids, you hope and dream of the day when you can take them into the woods with you on their first hunt. It can be a challenging task at times with kids since hunting involves quiet and patience. There are several tricks I have used though the years not only to help the kids stay out in the woods longer, but ensure they enjoy the experience and look forward to heading out on a future hunting adventure.
When hunting on the ground, take a small folding camp chair. You can even stash it ahead of time at your favorite spot in a garbage bag. The chair allows the youngster to sit, reducing the fidgeting, moving, and the unavoidable “I’m tired”. When seated, they are far less mobile which creates less movement and noise. Also if your kids are anything like mine, they will take a good nap if they got up early that morning to hit the woods, breaking up the time spent there.
Take something for them to do. I always took a book for them to read. This will keep them occupied and allow them to stay out longer. My sons always took Calvin & Hobbs or Tundra. These books will really keep them occupied and pass time despite the occasional muffled giggle. Plant and animal identification books for your local area are also a great idea. A portable game system such as a Nintendo DS or Switch comes in handy. What kid can’t spend an hour or two playing video games? Just have them turn down the volume for no noise and turn down the screen brightness. Of course, set limits and times. Tell them they can play for 30 minutes and then look for game the next 30 minutes. This will keep them engaged in the hunt but also give them distractions to keep them out in the woods longer. A wrist band safety strap is a must on the portable gaming device for playing in a tree stand or even the ground.
In colder weather, a blanket is a must whether on the ground or in a tree stand. It is one of the best ways to keep them warm. Yes, it is not the easiest thing to carry, but is well worth it. The blanket will keep them out much longer and keep them much more comfortable. A camo fleece is light and compact while a wind break makes all the difference for comfort. Blankets will keep their clothes dry during a snow storm and allow you to easily shake the snow from the blanket. You can pick up the blanket and shake off the snow easily, keeping them warm and dry. Whether in a chair or in a stand, you can tuck the blanket in around them so there are no flapping ends for unwanted movement and the most warmth.
Then comes the question, how do I dress the kid? I always liked using the warm clothes they have rather than buying hunting clothes that would not fit come next season. My kids always had snow pants which are so warm, water proof, wind proof, and ohh…noisy. In cold weather, we always threw on thermal underwear, sweat pants, snow pants, and then put a pair of camo BDU pants over top. We could find old military camo surplus pants or jackets for $5-$10 at shows. Small adult sizes are easy to find, usually cheaper and more abundant than large sizes, and give the kids plenty of room for clothes underneath. Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot always had a good, cheap selection. Gun shows, military surplus stores, and gun shops are also a great source. The pants on top of the snow pants would completely silence the snow pants, creating a barrier so the pant legs won’t rub together. A great combination. The military BDU’s also have nice sized pockets for all of their extras. We would use thermals, a sweater, and their winter jacket. You can easily put the camo BDU over the jacket with an orange vest overtop. The BDU will cover whatever color their everyday heavy jacket was and provide a dark color with large pockets for their stuff. Once you have an orange vest, there was never anything special to buy other than a nice warm orange hat.
Snacks. Do I even need to comment on the importance of this? I know there are days my kids went out into the woods simply because they were carrying their favorite or special snack in their backpack. Often the snack they took was something that they weren’t allowed to eat at home. Simply put, it was a snack for hunting. A cosmic brownie or bag of goldfish was to blame for a lot of hunting trips.
Along with the snacks comes the hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is awesome for colder weather. They especially get excited when you give them a novelty type thermos. I received a thermos in the shape of a shotgun shell for Christmas one year. The kids just loved it and always asked if I brought the gun for it when we were pouring their drink in the stand. They always wanted it as soon as we were at our hunting spot. I always tried to hold out for a while, however, so I knew that it would warm them up later when they were starting to get chilly. Give them their own thermos for their backpack. They will think you gave them a bag of gold.
What kid doesn’t love hand warmers? Hand warmers go a long way. They not only keep their hands warm, but will also warm the body though their pockets. It is also one of the best toys you can give them. Kids will play with them and keep warm while providing a distraction to the cold and the time they spend out in the woods. Whatever breaks up the time works for everyone.
Kids love binoculars. Take a pair of compact binoculars or kid’s binoculars. They will spend a lot of time looking around at everything. However, be prepared to have your face closely examined. You can even let them use yours from time to time to cut down on weight. Make sure they are secured around their neck. You don’t want to watch them tumble to the ground, especially from a tree stand.
As I have mentioned several times, their backpack. I gave them their own pack when they were small simply for practice and a sense of ownership. Give them their own camo backpack for Christmas, they will love it. It gives them a sense of ownership and they instantly want to use it. However, keep the load in the pack minimal. Maybe a snack, book or game system, but keep it super light. If you give them their thermos, keep it to just that. When they get older, then you can load them up with all of their gear. If you take cookies to enjoy, make sure you take a bag specifically for them. They love a snack bag with their name on it in Sharpie. If you want cookies, make sure to put your name on bag also.
Do whatever it takes to get kids in the woods on ”their” terms and to keep them there longer. Simple tricks can make for an enjoyable day in the woods. One of these may work or it may take a couple. You know your kids best. Take what interests them and would quietly pass some time. If they go out the first time and they are cold, wet, tired, hungry, and/or bored - good luck. It will be even harder getting them out the next time. With a little effort and preparation on your part, you can make a great day, memory, and possibly a lifetime hunting partner.
Do you have other tips or ideas? Please post them below.
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