I have shared several successful adventures with the Little Gal (LG). What you do not always hear about is the work that goes into helping her attain her goals. Throughout the years, I have learned some tricks to keep her inspired. Those methods have created a self-motivated teenager.
When you are climbing large hills or steep mountains, it can become a project to keep your child motivated. There is sometimes an option to sit and wait, in hope that an animal comes your way. Other times, it is more efficient to go to where the animals are. When you and your young one have to climb a mountain to get to the animals, a little extra motivation may be required.
Some parents choose the “because I say so” way of teaching. You can force kids to go outside or climb a mountain, but, the key to outdoor success is getting them to love being out there in the first place. It is important to allow them to have fun, learn and grow while they are in the outdoors. Here are some ways to include them in the process and keep them motivated:
Start them young
LG has been tagging along on my adventures since she was a baby. If you want your child to enjoy the outdoors, you have to take him or her with you. Think about how a child learns to behave at the dinner table — you spend time with them at the table. It is the same with the outdoors; you have to take your child along with you.
Don’t make excuses
I’ve heard a lot of friends say they can’t take their children hunting. They give a plethora of excuses as to why they can’t take their child hunting, like: sore feet, boredom and noise. The excuses go on and on. Rather than making excuses, think of all the tools you can use to allow your child to be with you. If you are prepared before you go, there will be no excuse for not wanting that child with you.
Having the appropriate gear is a must for any adventure. Think ahead and make sure you have proper clothing, backpacks, flashlights, gloves and shoes. Don’t be afraid to take your child when it’s damp and cold. With any luck, and the correct clothing, you may even end up dancing in the rain. Try it. Your child will love it, and you just may, too.
Along with gear, it is a MUST to pack snacks for your young one. Pack food that has quiet wrappers. Dried fruits, nuts and jerky provide energy. You can pack these in paper towels, baggies and pouches. Be sure to rehydrate while you are replenishing your child’s fuel cells. Remember to pack water or filtration bottles, along with the food.
Keep your child busy while on the trek. Look for animal signs. Point out tracks. Ask him or her to identify tracks from animals other than the one you are hunting. Ask which direction the animal was traveling.
Scrapes and rubs are great to look for, too. Point one out and then challenge your child to find the next one. It will give your child something to look forward to and shorten what seems to be a long hike. Consider purchasing a tracking app for your phone, such as MyNature. By the way, you can also identify scat.
Be sure to discover nature’s other amazing things on the way up the mountain. Rocks are always easy to find. Look for varieties of colors and shapes. In the fall, have your child collect colorful leaves. They make for a light load and a great craft project when you get home. Glue them to paper, and make a colorful reminder of your trip and the fun you had in the outdoors. In fact, this time of year, if you collect a variety of colorful leaves and paste them on paper, they can become a turkey’s fan. Ask your child to draw the rest of the turkey in front of the leaves.
Songs and games
I have a special memory of a hunt with LG. It happened on a cold, snowy afternoon. We spotted elk up a draw. To get a shot before dark, we had to get up the hill quickly. As we got about halfway up the hill, LG slowed down.
“I’m tired,” she said.
“You can do it. They’re just on the other side of the hill,” I whispered to her.
“I can’t hike that fast,” LG said, frowning.
“Whistle while you work. Dah daht, dah daht, dah daht!” I quietly sang. She grinned and began moving her feet in the direction we needed to go. She had a little more pep in her step and moved with determination.
Don’t be disappointed
Sometimes, it takes a while for a child to grow to love hunting and the outdoors as much as you do. It may take a few seasons, or even a few years. Be persistent. Include your child, and always teach along the way. It will be a true reward when your child is leading the way up the mountain. Even if later, your child decides not to hunt or spend a lot of time outdoors, the memories you’ve made together will last a lifetime – for both of you!