5 Tactics for Hunting & Fishing with Kids
The more I learn about hunting and fishing, the more I recognize how much I don’t know. Adding a kid to the mix has really driven that humbling realization home for me. Not only do I have the perpetual need to refine my approach in the field, but now I also need to develop tactics that will help me succeed with a kid in tow. There’s certainly more of that learning curve ahead of me than behind. These 5 key tactics though, have already proven their value.
Bring a Wingman – You’ve been watching the big snout slurp bugs for 20 minutes. With each glimpse you realize the fish is even bigger than you thought. By the time your legs have fallen asleep from squatting behind the willows, patiently tying on fly after fly, you’re convinced this is the burliest rainbow you’ve ever laid eyes on. If you manage to land it, you’ll quit your job and live on endorsement money and speaking engagements. Finally your 17th offering, a #22 zebra midge emerger on 8x tippet, gets sipped under, and you set the hook. In the exact same moment your kid lets out a war cry and sprints with a sharp stick for the poison ivy infested, thorn-bush covered cliff. What to do?
Enter the wingman. Iceman will handle that Bogey for you, freeing you up to focus on the task at hand. If your wingman has a kid of his own, better yet. You can take turns running interference, and the kiddy companionship will extend everybody’s day.
Bring a Kid Carrier – “Nooooo! I wanna hike… Big Kid.”
He really means it in the garage, believes it with every fiber of his little body. Give him 15 minutes of hiking uphill in the sun though, and he’ll change his tune (usually right after you’ve cut the day’s first set of elk tracks). If you’re caught without a kid pack when he does, your range, and your options just vaporized. Plus, you’re faster and stealthier wearing the kid than with both of you afoot.
Leaving the pack gets more tempting as they get bigger. But even when they’re pushing the weight limit, it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. You have to pack your gear anyway; might as well use something that can schlep the kid too.
Under-promise & Over-deliver – If he’s counting on a pony ride to a cupcake party at Superman’s house, you’ll both be disappointed. But if you’ve front-loaded the expectation that you’re not likely to even see a bird, much less shoot one, and that it’ll be a long day over rough, steep, windy terrain, the two shots you do take at a breaking covey will make for the kind of memorable action that will bring him back next time.
Stick To Your Guns – Three year-olds have terrible judgment. We can all agree on that. So why do they often get so much input on when we quit the field and head home? Will he get bored at times, whine, fuss and ask to go back to the truck? Of course. Will he get over it and find a way to entertain himself? Yep.
It’s tough out there for a kid, and obviously we need to be attuned to their health and safety. You have to work at keeping them fed, hydrated and protected from the elements. But with those basic needs met, they’re no reason to be more solicitous in the backcountry than we would be in the living room. By maintaining control of the agenda, you get a better day afield today, and a more reliable hunting and fishing partner tomorrow. Meanwhile the little one learns about resilience, and benefits from longer hours exploring the natural world. He won’t get either of those back home on the couch.
Celebrate Small Victories – Do a touchdown dance when you land a “big fighter” 6-inch brooky. Exchange high-fives and fist pumps for the mallard who almost fell for your spread. Make a big deal out of the deer you find, even though you’re elk hunting. Keep repeating how much fun you’re having. As we get older and more “accomplished” we tend fixate on arbitrary measures of success. Kids haven’t put those blinders on yet. Share and accentuate their excitement over the little things and you’ll both have a lot more fun. It’s a worthwhile aim in its own right, but more fun also means less maintenance. Less maintenance will translate quickly in greater success. Which of course will mean more fun…