KEVIN TATE: First footsteps on the path can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Introducing a youngster to hunting and the outdoors involves a great many things, some of which you can point out and many more they’ll have to reckon with on their own. Making the introduction, the part that’s entirely up to you, is well worth the effort though.
Although vast, the amount of actual woods lore to be taught and learned is finite, but the art of woodsmanship continues to reveal itself over a lifetime. Knowing which way the wind is blowing and how it affects a particular deer stand, for example, involves being conscious of a few pieces of simple information. Watching a deer walk into view and knowing from its body language when you can move and when you can’t is a different matter altogether, and one that takes a good deal of experience to grasp.
A lifelong path of knowledge and wisdom is waiting in the outdoors for all of us and, for most, it begins with knowledge, the easier of the two, when we’re young. More than just a running allegory for the rest of life, time spent outdoors can be an actual source of wisdom, moments when key decisions are made and larger answers are found, and it all begins with the first step. That’s why I like to show kids around the outdoors on a walk, because just walking itself provides a lot of answers.
Trying to be quiet, wanting to be stealthy, looking for critters and connecting with the ebb and flow of the world are easier for me to explain on a walk than a sit, because the critters we’re looking for are walking themselves. You may not see as many, but you can understand them better.
Attention spans of little ones are limited, but they can walk off that energy rather than repress it, throw a few sticks, pick up a few acorns and listen all the while just as well. They may not be paying attention but they’re always listening. Anyone who’s driven in challenging traffic with a kid in the back seat knows they’re attuned to key words at key moments, even if their eyes and attention are somewhere else.
A kid on a walk can be shown how to move quietly without being admonished to be perfectly still and silent, two things they’re hardwired not to be. Plus, on a walk in the woods, an error in stealth is just an error, not the end of the hunt, and it’s one of the first and best allegories of life to be found out here.
Whatever happens, don’t quit. Don’t give up. Just keep going.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.