By Mark Fike
I work with kids most of the day each day and I have noticed over the past decade or more that as parents have given younger kids phones, their attention spans have shortened considerably. With that in mind, it is tough to get kids to pay attention to anything unless it is incredibly interesting.
When trying to get kids involved in the outdoors in the winter, you need to consider a few things. First of all the hunt or event has to be interesting. For this reason I love to take kids waterfowl hunting, upland bird hunting or rabbit hunting with dogs.
When waterfowl hunting, there is plenty to do for the kids and they don’t have to be terribly quiet about it either. Let them put out the decoys after you show them how. Or, get them some waterproof boots or waders and let them do a little wading to work the dog. Hanging out in the blind is fun for kids too. It is like a fort to them.
Upland bird and rabbit hunting is always exciting because the dogs are steadily moving and the kids are following and watching. The action is usually pretty consistent. It beats sitting in the sub-freezing weather on a deer stand for hours for the kids.
A second factor to consider is snacks. A good break with some food will keep the kids rolling. However, while you want to get food they are interested in, don’t get empty calories and junk food. Try taking some jerky or granola bars or an apple. I can hear the crunch and taste the sweet juice dripping from a cold apple that just came out of a hunting coat pocket. The kids can eat healthier and still enjoy it because they are burning off those calories and they are actually hungry after following dogs and staying warm.
A third factor to consider is how you teach your kids to dress to be outside. Here is where an investment in time and some money comes into play. Any kid (or adult) that gets cold will NOT enjoy the outing. Be sure to teach kids how to layer the appropriate materials. If a lot of walking will be done such as rabbit hunting or upland bird hunting, then layer clothing but keep another layer in a game vest bag or in the truck if the truck is nearby.
Walking makes you sweat but as soon as you stop for more than a few minutes, the cold slips in and starts wearing you down in a hurry. When you know you are going to stop moving for a bit, encourage the kids to put on that extra layer even if they are warm at that particular moment. It is easier to let off body heat in the winter than try to regain it once it is gone.
Gloves and good socks as well as waterproof footwear are crucial. If it is windy, a face mask is a good idea too. Putting on 3 pairs of cotton socks is no substitute for putting on a good pair of wool socks, kids included!
Last, stay hydrated. Believe it or not, it is easy to get dehydrated in the winter. Keep the fluids in you and your youngsters and follow these tips to stay warm this winter while hunting.