If you are like me, then you want to teach your kids to love hunting and fishing. And in order to do that, you’ve got to make sure that expeditions are fun. Part of making it fun for your kids is to make sure that you’ve got them in the right gear. If your kid is cold or wet, has a hard time moving around, doesn’t like the gear you are making them wear or is just plain bored, then he or she probably not having fun. And until your kids become avid sportsmen, it’s your job to keep it entertaining. Here are some of the things I consider when outfitting my young boys for time in the woods and on the water. The criteria gets more refined as the children age, yet the basics still hold true.
Keeps Them Warm
Considering that much of the time spent hunting will be sitting and glassing, it’s critical that your children’s hunting gear keeps them warm. If there is a lot of hiking involved in the hunt, help moderate your children’s body temperature through layering and add and subtract layers based on activity level. Remember that ears and hands get cold quickly on the little ones and bring hats and gloves on most outings. If you plan to let your child roam away from you, consider an orange hat to make them easier to spot for you and other hunters.
Keeps Them Dry
At some point it will rain, and wet kids get cold and unhappy quickly. Gore-Tex is a solid choice for moderate conditions, but when the rain gets heavy, make sure to have a light set of truly waterproof jacket and pants, like Grundens or Gage, for your young hunter.
Looks like Dad’s or Mom’s Clothes
Your children are out there with you because they look up to you and want to do what you are doing. So having matching camouflage is a great way make them feel like your hunting partner. Stoke their desire to become a hunter in every way that you can.
Lots of Pockets to Put Stuff
My 4- and 6-year-old boys like to bring lots of stuff with them when we glass for deer, including deer calls, binoculars, snacks, Matchbox cars, pieces of wood, favorite rocks, wooden knives, more snacks, zip strips and water bottles. Look for jackets and pants that offer ample storage.
Not too bulky
Range of motion is critical, especially when hiking, and kids don’t like to be too restricted by their clothing. A one-piece extra-warm suit may keep them warm, but not allow them to move. Stick to thinner layers to regulate heat and minimize bulk.
Let them pick items
I get a lot more cooperation from my sons when I allow them to make their own choices. Narrow down the choices for a camouflage set to two options and let them choose. Have them try on a few sets of boots and decide which ones they want. By screening the options ahead of time, both you and your child will be satisfied.
Look for good brands that make kid-specific gear
One of our clients, Tuff Kids Outdoors, is in the business of providing top-notch gear for kids. The owner, Becky Schwanke, is a hard-core outdoors woman, and realized that Alaskan families have a need for high-quality kids apparel for hunting and fishing. Check out www.tuffkidsoutdoors.com for great options. Other solid brands like Sitka Gear offer hunting apparel for kids. Visit Full Curl Archery in Anchorage (www.fullcurlarchery.com) to try on and purchase gear.
Two other thoughts come to mind pertaining to hunting with your kids. The first is to spend ample time teaching safe hunting practices. It’s critical that they understand the basics of firearm safety, including but not limited to: 1) Treat firearms as if they are loaded and always keep unloaded until ready to use; 2) Always keep fingers off the trigger until ready to shoot; 3) Point the muzzle in the safest direction; 4) Be sure of your target and what is beyond.
The second thought is to learn about the animals that you are targeting. A great way to heighten excitement and become more proficient in the field is to take the time with your kids to learn about the animal. From track and scat identification, to coloration and markings, to food sources and patterns of movement, both you and your child will be better hunters the more you study the game you are pursuing.