Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Talking to the Kids...

Last year, working for Mossy Oak, I did a seminar at Cabelas for their Fall Classic show. I spoke about getting kids into the outdoors hunting and the changes that have taken place since we were that age. It’s been almost a year and I’m still getting folks asking questions and once again I’m giving a seminar on that subject. This year it will be for a local sportsman’s club gathering. If you would have asked me a few years ago if I could imagine myself talking to others about how to get their kids into hunting, I would have said you were nuts. Today, I wish I had been doing this years ago.

With the changes in our economy and the changes in attitudes on hunting and firearms in general, getting our kids involved is more important than ever and more endangered. When I was a kid, if I wanted to take grandpa’s old muzzle loader in for show-n-tell, no problem. Today, if our kids want to use a gun “shaped” prop for a play or presentation they get arrested and removed from school. The pressure is on to move our children away from our outdoors and hunting heritage and we need to understand what it takes to steer them back successfully.

Not to long ago, it was mostly the “boys” that had an interest in hunting that was approved of by their parents. It was grandpa’s gun or dad’s old bow that was our first introduction into the sport. This was great if grandpa’s gun was a .22 or a 20 gauge. At that time we bucked up and learned how to shoot to make our dad’s proud… no mater if we had to shoot that old 30-06 or try to draw back dad’s 55lb bow. We’re lucky we have the number of hunters today that we do based on those experiences. Today, we have computers and video games, texting and “networking” to contend with. We also, I’m happy to say, have a lot more young ladies interested in the sport. Grandpa’s old gun and dad’s old bow are now the wrong answer. They are great to hand down, when the time is right, but they’re more liable to push the child into those “other” entertainments than draw them in. Hard hitting rifles and shotguns, heavy draw weights on bows and the wrong equipment are quick deciding factors our children will experience to go back to those computers and video games. However, unlike when we were young, there are now products in the marked designed for children interested in the hunting and shooting sports that can grow with them and help encourage them to continue. Moms and dad’s can be happy that they will not have to buy new equipment every year.

Most gun manufactures produce firearms designed for shorter arms and lighter frames. They can be easier to use and less painful in the recoil department if parents do a little research before they spend any money. Now that there are firearms designed for children, parents need to pay attention to a few details before making any decisions. Look for those firearms designed to grow with your child. They will have changeable or adjustable stocks and fore arms of one design or another. Remember, lighter is not always better… the lighter the gun the harder it kicks. Look for firearms that have recoil reducing parts and are just light enough for your youth to handle without being awkward. Muzzle breaks and recoil pads, semi-auto versus pump (load one round at a time if you have to) and wood versus synthetic to keep the recoil absorbed. A bad recoil experience will shut down interest faster than anything else. If it hurts, why do it.

With archery manufactures, most companies have seen the need for lighter bows that have more value and useful life than the old fiberglass “kiddies” bow. Kids want a bow that looks like dads (or moms). Most of these companies now have models of bows that have draw length adjustments of 10 or 11 inches and draw weight adjustments up to 30lbs on a single set of limbs. There are even programs that allow for limb changes for vary little cost to move the bow up in weight as the child develops. This lowers the cost by keeping the child in a modern, working and proficient bow for many years, growing with them and not against them. They even have “Pink” bows to appeal to the young female crowd that is growing in interest of archery as a sport and hunting activity.

If you’re a parent that didn’t know about these products, salvation at last! If you already knew, great, but don’t forget the rest!

The Rest:
It’s not just about the gun or the bow; it’s about paying attention to what your child needs. They need to be warm and comfortable too. A proper set of clothing for the season is a must. You may need to change your hunting tactics from tree stands to ground blinds for example. While we can tough it out in the cold, kids will think your nuts and next time… back to the computer instead. For just the shooting sports, maybe a marathon 4 hour practice should be changed to 30 minutes and snack time. Maybe you should make a game out of it with small rewards for goals met, realistic goals based on the ability and age of the child. Make it Fun; you have a lot to compete against. Back to hunting; if they’re getting cold in the blind don’t push it, there is always next time. Next time take a heater. Best idea is to leave your gun or bow at home. Concentrate on your child and what they need. Show them what it means to be out in the wild and to watch game and listen to the wind. A lot of things we take for granted, they will be enthralled with… watching squirrels packing in nuts or birds looking for seeds and bugs. How the animals around you interact with the woods and the fields or how the trees grow and what types there are. Treat this as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and show them all the neat things. Make a game out of it. NEVER be critical. Learn how to communicate and build on that communication. There is always time to change and ways to make that change. Children are by definition not a hunter that can sit still for long periods of time. Prepare yourself. You need to change your Attitude more than they do. Patience. You won’t succeed unless you can be more patient than the trees you’re surrounded by. Learn to give. You are giving your time for Them.

The rewards are boundless if you succeed. Pride, Love and a better Relationship.

Some day, you will think as you’re heading out to the hunt with your child…” I’d rather be….” Then you’ll really know you’ve succeeded. Congratulations, you’ve passed on a heritage that will always be yours and gained more than you’ll ever know.

And for you dads out there…. NEVER forget mom. Whether she hunts or not, she’s as much a part of this experience as anything.


1 comment:

Timothy said...

Great blog Kevin.