By Ryan Grubb
The challenges for taking a child hunting, especially for the first time, are vastly different from those of an adult beginner.
Anyone who's tried to sit quietly with a youngster can tell you about the fidgets. But if you can keep kids comfortable and entertained, you'll keep them in the stand longer and cut down on fidgeting, thereby enhancing the hunting experience.
What follows are several helpful considerations.
Foremost, an uncomfortable kid is a fidgety kid. Bring extra clothes in case the temperature drops suddenly. Extra clothes can also be used to drape around ladder-type stands for concealment, or to sit on if the child is too small to see over the shooting rail.
Kids' feet and hands are the first to get cold, so hand warmers, gloves, a gaiter and something besides metal to rest their feet on are good ideas. An extra jacket can also act as a blanket.
A cushion or seat pad is a must. If the child needs to sit up higher, he or she can sit on it. It can also be used as a rifle rest or a footpad to insulate and buffer between their boots and a cold, metal stand. Remember, metal draws heat out of feet, even through boots.
Snacks or candy are also a great diversion. Educate them how to cut wrappers open with a pocketknife rather than noisily tearing them off. Promise them a treat every so often to encourage them sit quietly. And don't forget water.
Be sure to choose those first hunts in an area where the likelihood of seeing game is excellent. Even the sighting of a single deer can fascinate a child and be the difference in them becoming an avid hunter or begging to stay home and play Wii.
It's important to make fun the primary goal, not filling a tag. The joys of seeing birds, tracks, insects and squirrels are new to them, so don't overlook the little things. Point them out during the hunt to help occupy their minds and pass the time.
Don't forget to make sure they use the bathroom just before heading to the stand. Having to leave the stand for a potty break after you've settled in greatly cuts down on the chances of seeing game.
Keep the session short. Two to three hours might seem brief to you, but it's an eternity to a youngster.
Evenings are usually better than early mornings for small children. It's warmer, they can enjoy the sights while hiking to the stand and they don't have to get up unusually early.
There's nothing wrong with bringing a hand-held game to help them stay occupied through the lulls. Just make sure you're not playing Angry Birds on your smartphone when Ol' Mossyhorns steps out!