Living in Africa can only be described as amazing, especially living in this country of wide open spaces and clean fresh air. A Lifestyle for children that money cannot buy!
The way you introduce your child to hunting and the outdoors is by teaching them that it is a privilege to hunt not a right, and to have respect for mother nature and the animals in it. Getting kids to understand that they have to be quiet and organised while hunting, is far fetched, rather teach them to be proud of the outdoors and conserve nature. Bare in mind… they are kids. You can not change the fact that they will get tired or hungry or can not be quiet.
Keep the following 10 things in mind, this may help to culture hunting as a love for your little-ones.
1. This will not be your normal, quiet, hunt.
Young kids want to explore by asking questions about all the unknown things they come across.
Encourage your child to ask even more questions, by answering the questions enthusiastically it will make them even more curious about what they see. This allows them to learn an enormous amount of information in one day. When hunting, keep it short and active. Because in that little brain there are so many unanswered questions and boredom will cause them to “give up” on their curiosity – our aim is to give the kids the same proud, adrenaline filled experience that we as hunters experience, and keep them hooked for life!
2. Safety is priority number one.
Accidents happen quickly, and working with an inexperienced person, makes the chances of an accident happening much higher. Make sure you help them to practice enough. Teach them that it is dangerous and they should be extra careful at all times. Set an example, rather than just to try and tell them how to do it – let them see how you do it.
3. Fill the trip with fun.
Kids hate being bored. Keep them interested by teaching him/her about the trees and all the different grass/plants types you pass. Allow them to take a toy with, so they will be able to show you when they are not interested in the hunt anymore and then try again on another day. Or give your child a “play” gun or bow and make them pack their own little bag. By carrying their own “hunting backpack”, they will feel more involved.
4. Go prepared.
Pack everything that your child is used to having with them at all times. Depending on your child’s age: Toys, to ensure they do not feel lost in the wild. Food, snacks and drinks, as us parents all know, kids prefer to eat at times that are usually most inconvenient for any adult. Take with that special pillow and blankie, to avoid them crying when they are tired or irritated. Don’t forget to pack enough warm clothes, kids get cold much faster than we do. Pack it in a way that it is easy to reach, so when they get difficult, you can just reach out and give it to them.
5. Most kids are not emotionally ready to kill.
You might have told them lots of stories. They might have played “guns & gangs”. They might seem to be ready to shoot an animal like Dad or Mom do, but the reality of shooting a beautiful animal, may still be too much for your child’s feelings. Do not push them to shoot! Let him/her tell you when they feel ready. And even then, be ready for the reality that might make them cry. Always discuss the whole hunt that evening, allowing your child to give their full input and show your children how proud you are of their determination and efforts.
6. If the weather is bad, make it quick and effective.
Hunting can include bad weather conditions. Take them on that hunt, even if the weather is terrible. But make sure that you only go out for a short period of time to prevent the kids from getting sick and creating a bad experience of hunting. Put on warm clothes and make it fun – perhaps get the same style gloves or warm hat or buff as your child so you “in-it” as a Team. They have to learn that bad weather is part of the fun…life is not always moonlight and roses, and when they finally hunt on their own the luxuries may not be included and they will lose their love for hunting.
7. Practice makes anything perfect.
If your child tells you that he/she is ready to hunt, one of the first and most important lessons is firearm-safety and respect. Practice firearm handling and target shooting daily before each hunt. Your child might just miss or wound the animal making them feel like they failed and that could cause them never to try again. To have a bad day does happen, however try to avoid it on their first hunt with as much preparation and practise before-hand. Having a Professional Guide help a child with their first hunt, often helps the child’s confidence as should he/she fail at the shot, they sometimes don’t feel they have directly disappointed their Parent.
8. They cannot just get everything on a tray.
If you decide to go off on a hunt, please make the kids help you with the preparations. He / she should pack their own hunting gear, food, maps, caps etc. (Obviously as the parent you need to double check everything). Hand the map over to your child, and let them help with planning the route. If you shoot an animal, help them follow the blood trail. In this way they will feel involved and needed enticing them to want to do more and indirectly learning every step of the way. By doing this you will culture not only the love for hunting, but also the love for being Adventurous and Responsible.
9. Don’t Shame them, after a kill.
Each child will react differently after a successful hunt, some may even cry. Do not ignore them. Do not try to dismiss their feelings. And most importantly – DO NOT shame them for their reactions! Rather use this opportunity to talk to your child about how hunting contributes to Conservation, provides healthy meat for the table and is an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. A successful shot is only 10% of the hunt, taking in the whole aspect of what your child is learning around them is the balance!
10. Everyone is different.
Not every child wants to go hunting, and this is okay. If you have 3 children, they will have 3 different personalities and perhaps none of them want to hunt. Do not force it. The more you push it, the less they will want to do it. And if you keep pushing they might even hate it, just out of revenge. If you used to hunt with your child and he/she suddenly stops [especially when entering their teenage years], do not stress, they will 9 out of 10 times pick it up again when they are adults.
The above points are 10 suggestions based on our experience hunting with kids to try and ensure that your children can share the same love for nature as you do. Remember that enjoying quality, focused time with your children is a lot more important than to culture the love of being a hunter or to try to make them love the outdoors. Time with your loved ones is always time well spent!! And always take photos of your time together, these memories are priceless…