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Hunting as a Family

By Amy Hanneman

I am a strong believer that even after having children that as parents we should not have to give up all of our hobbies.  I think it is very important to incorporate our children into the things we love to do so that we can continue to enjoy them as a family.  Whether it is backpacking, hunting, playing sports or star gazing- with a little bit of modification all of these activities can be “kid friendly” and lead to family bonding.  Being a bit of a restless spirit, I thrive on adventure and one of my worries with having children was that I would be cut off from doing the things I love and that my days of adventure would be over.  Since having kids, I have found that this is not true at all!  Every day with my boys is filled with excitement and new experiences.

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From pregnancy on each one of my boys has been hunting with me.  As babies, we would bundle them up and pack them along with us and as toddlers they started wearing their orange and bringing a toy gun.  Of course we are not doing any kind of extreme hunting with them, but they have had their fair share grueling hunts.  The key for us is to try to make it fun and exciting.  For example, we bring a lot of snacks we would not normally eat at home which is a real treat for them.  Depending on the type of hunt, we will set up the camp trailer or wall tent so they can stay warm and cozy.

Our boys are ages 6, 4, and 3 so it is still pretty tough to try to spot and stalk animals with them.  What Robert and I usually end up doing is one of us will watch the boys while the other one hunts.  One of our favorite hunts to do as a family is antelope hunting in eastern Montana.  A lot of the hunting can actually be done near the road.  We will find a heard with a buck worth taking and then one of us stays with the kids while the other takes off to make the stalk.  While waiting, the boys are having a blast doing boy things like throwing rocks, using sticks as their guns while pretending to hunt, and looking for lizards and snakes.  Once an animal has been harvested the parent who is hunting will radio to the parent tending the kids and then the parent and kids will hike out to the animal.  On one such hunt two years ago our oldest son Connor who was four at the time hiked over five miles while I carried Caleb age two on my back and Colter age10 months on my chest.  Robert and I took care of his deer while the boys played nicely together.

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Tent camping in Idaho has become one of our favorite spring traditions.  Either Robert or I will hunt bears at our bait sites in the evening while the other does fun camping stuff like roasting marshmallows for smores with the boys.  During the day we swim in the river, fish and hike.  They love it and it is something they look forward to each year.  In fact, just the other day I heard them outside pretending they were in Idaho hunting bears and that they needed to get across the river to get to the tree stand.

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I feel like by challenging them physically and mentally helps build confidence in themselves and helps build character.  We teach them about nature and animal conservation and how it is important to care for our planet.  They also realize that the animals we harvest become part of our meals and that we hunt with the purpose of putting meat in our freezer.

I do not expect that all of my boys will become hunters when they are older and Robert and I are absolutely okay with that.  I realize that we all have different interests and I want to encourage them in whatever area it is that catches their eye.  Whether it is sports, climbing, learning music…anything, I will support them.  However, at this point in our lives we use a lot of our hunting trips as an opportunity to spend time together as a family, and I think that even if one of them chooses not to hunt he will still look back on these trips with fond memories of family togetherness filled with lots of love and fun.

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I would encourage all parents to take their kids out even if it is just for a day of fishing or camping for a night in a campground.  It is easy to do and the rewards are endless.  Here are a few of my tips to parents with young kids who are thinking of taking them along on an adventure.

  1. 1.Keep it fun andDon’t try to do a really difficult hunt with the kids.  Do an easier hunt that won’t require tons of hiking and where there is a lot of down time for them to play.
  2. 2.Have the properThere is nothing more miserable than being cold and wet on a hunt, so make sure your kids’ gear is just as durable as yours. Layering clothing works well, and make sure they have water proof boots.
  3. 3.Have actual hunting gear for theOur boys have their own binoculars (a cheap pair), camo, and sleeping bags.
  4. 4.Invest in a DVD player for theThis has saved us many times on long trips, if a stalk on an animal is taking a long time, or if the weather is horrible.  
  5. 5.It really is that simple.  My boys will do just about anything for a piece of candy so it works as a great reward for being extra quiet while hunting or for maintaining good behavior.
  6. 6.Expect it to be moreWe have had our fair share of tired and crabby kiddos and it takes a while for them to adjust to being away from home.  If you can anticipate this by bringing along their teddy bear or favorite snuggle toy it seems to help.
  7. 7.Make sure they get enoughBeing in the outdoors and breathing all the fresh air along with hiking can tire a little one out quickly.  Allow time for naps and maintain early enough bedtimes that they are getting a full night of sleep.
  8. 8.Pack enough diapers and extraFortunately we are out of the diaper stage, but I cannot tell you how many times our babies have soiled not just their diaper but their entire outfit as well.  Having nice soft one piece sleepers works well and takes up less space than two piece outfits.
  9. 9.Gradually work intoIf your kids aren’t familiar with hunting or camping immerse them slowly into it.  You don’t want to burn them out.  Try a day trip or two and see how they like it before trying something more intense.
  10. 10.Lastly and most importantly remember that it is about spending quality time together as aIf you don’t harvest an animal that’s okay!  Your kids are going to remember that trip forever.  And even bad experiences can turn humorous with time.  I look forward to one day listening to my grown sons tell about these experiences from their point of view.  A child’s perspective is so precious and unique and it is funny the details they will remember compared to yours.

I plan to have many more adventures with my husband and our sons.  Life is too short not to enjoy each other as much as possible. 

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