By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
The little critters that scamper around rustling the leaves, climbing limbs, chattering amongst themselves and bringing action to an otherwise tranquil scene can make for an unforgettable outdoors experience – and they’ll remember it when it’s time for them to take their own kids hunting down the road.
Countless youngsters will spend deer hunts in box stands and shooting houses overlooking green fields this fall, and these are hours that will be treasured throughout the lifetimes of teacher and apprentice alike, but don’t overlook the value small game hunts can provide.
The chance for a new hunter to see a pack of beagles run rabbits or watch a mountain cur tree a squirrel can be the line that connects the dots of interest and opens an avenue of excitement and enjoyment that will last a lifetime.
Whether it’s an afternoon in a deer stand or a morning in the squirrel woods, the most important part of getting a new hunter started is making sure the hunt is about them. This way, you’re more likely to create a new hunting buddy for life.
A child will lead them
Make sure they have plenty of warm clothes and carry along water. A couple packs of nabs and a candy bar for them will be good additions, but they’ll be thirsty right away, so a canteen or bottle of water is critical.
If you’re going to be walking very far, make sure they have good boots or shoes, and be willing to go at their pace. Don’t worry about trying to hunt all day or fill out a limit. If you’ll start them slowly, you’ll be the one struggling to keep up soon enough.
Crunching through the woods on a squirrel hunt is an excellent time to show them how to be quiet, how to move slowly, how to look and listen and tune in to the world around them. It lacks the intensity of trying to keep them shushed and still just as they’re reaching the end of their rope of patience, right at the last 15 minutes of shooting light in a deer stand over a trail the biggest buck in the woods is using, and that’s a very good thing.
The hunt’s intensity needs to be what they want it to be and, like their attention span, that varies from moment to moment.
Walk the talk as you walk
Whether it’s woodsmanship, lore or safety, the words you say to a new hunter are just words until they see you doing what you’ve told them to do. And any walk outside with a firearm should go into their memory banks as an example of how to put safety first, no matter what, without excuse.
When they’ve seen enough examples and had enough instruction to take to the woods by themselves years hence, they’ll continue to run into safety problems they’ll solve by remembering the example you set and doing what they think you would do.