I was eight years old and anything but calm as the lone doe approached my dad and I hidden in a ground-blind…the kind that didn’t pop-up in eight seconds. We’re talkin’ made-by-hand, sticks & brush, ground blind. Since I wasn’t old enough to hunt yet, I accompanied my dad on his hunt, but I did manage to talk him into letting me bring my own little 20 pound compound. Since this doe was not something he was going to shoot, and our morning hunt would soon be over anyway, he whispered, “You want to take a shot at her?”, knowing full well my lightweight, wooden arrows (yes I said wood) would merely bounce off if by any stroke of luck I managed to hit it.
“Yeah!” I answered back.
Dad talked me through when to stand, when to draw, and when to shoot. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I missed that deer by a mile. But what stuck hard that day were the memories of the hunt; the smell of dad’s skunk cover scent, following his exact footsteps into and out of the woods, the little diner we ate breakfast at before daylight, the pancakes, the camouflage face-paint, mom’s too-big-for-me Army camo.
Today, I’m a father with my own eight year old son. I took Jacob on his first youth deer hunt recently, and in many ways it felt like I was back in that blind with my dad 30 years ago. I hear many mixed reactions to youth deer hunts. Well, I don’t know what Jacob will remember about this in thirty years. If his drawings from school are any indication, they rank pretty high on his list of fun. The memories I have of youth and hunting are priceless and worth passing on. Here are five good reasons to take part in youth only hunting:
We didn’t use to mentally measure G2’s before shooting a deer, or look for roman noses or swaybacks, and we didn’t measure trophies in inches. Kids are just looking for fun and excitement and they don’t judge their hunt’s success on what their buddies will think or how many Likes they’ll get.
I was sitting with Jacob in the rain in an eight-second pop-up blind, of course, and suddenly he explodes with excitement as he points out the window… I’m thinking he’s just spotted a big buck!
“Huh?” I’m puzzled.
“Right there on the tree!” Jacob exclaimed.
He didn’t need to constantly see deer. He was taking it all in. Almost every experience in the woods for a child is brand new and unexpected. Observing this really puts my own hunts in perspective and makes me appreciate everything else going on out there.
Time to focus on your child
When the adult isn’t distracted by his own motivations for being in the woods, he will focus more on the child’s needs and interests. Kids cherish individual attention from their parents and will thrive when given the “wings” to lay their own tracks and star in their very own adventures.
New life for old equipment!
We’re all guilty of wanting the latest and greatest gadgets and technology. Yet, I look through some of my older hunting equipment and see that it’s still perfectly fine. It’s time to pass it on down!
You won’t have to hunt for your kids
There are so many facets of the outdoors to be enjoyed beyond deer hunting. Give kids an exposure to the outdoors and you won’t have to worry about them hanging with the wrong crowds in the wrong places.
Be a Teacher
Ben Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Having to explain what you know to someone else really tests your true knowledge of it and enables you to retain that knowledge even better. Taking kids hunting improves your own skills as a hunter because, believe me, they’ll put your theories to the test!
Last fall, on November eighth, just after noon, a typical 7×6 made his appearance out of the thicket just fifty yards away. I reminded myself of my dad’s advice from years ago to take deep breaths. I calmly kept repeating, “You can do this.” As the 140 class Wisconsin bruiser worked a few scrapes and made his way into my shooting lane at 22 yards, I had years of instruction, years of my own trial and error, and the right perspective to help me make that shot. I celebrated a beautiful buck that night and was thankful that one day, 30 years ago, someone took the time to take me hunting.