Can you relate? There are many times I have questioned whether or not I should endure the struggle that can sometimes happen when taking my kids into the field for a day (or entire weekend) of hunting. For some reason it always seems to take significantly longer to prepare when I am considering the kids’ needs as well as my own in preparation for a day of hunting. The older they get (mine are currently 9 and 13), the more groans I get at their initial thought of being removed from video games, youtube and social media. The anticipation of their early morning grumbles as we drag them out of their warm beds and into the cold morning air is sometimes enough to make me consider leaving them at grandma’s the next time we head out.
But then I have that tug at my heart. That deep down feeling that reminds me how important these life experiences in the field really can be for our children. It is like a tiny voice that causes me to remember that these current battles are small and insignificant in the grand scheme of what I am trying to teach them by taking them hunting with us. Like many aspects of parenting, you have to get uncomfortable in order to find comfort. After all, building lifelong stewards of the outdoors takes time and perseverance.
Not too long ago, I sat down to really think about what life skills my kids were gaining by participating in hunting adventures. I had a long list of words and phrases. But after much consideration, I was able to classify it all into 3 broad categories:
#1 SELF CONTROL (noun) control or restraint of oneself or one's actions, feelings, etc.
I don’t know about your children, but I’m pretty sure my daughter doesn’t know what it means to have an inside voice and she is constantly dancing or moving her body in some way. When hunting, children are constantly having to control their speech and body movement. Through this experience, children become more aware of appropriate volume levels when talking. They learn when they can be loud or maintain normal talking levels, when they need to whisper, or when to be completely quiet. They learn how to control their emotions and how to express them in appropriate manners as it relates to the activity we are engaging in. Their bodies learn to stay still in order to not spook animals during the hunt. They learn to move quickly and “light-footed” to keep sound at a minimum while getting to and from a hunting spot. Self control is such an important life skill that can be applied in a multitude of ways as we go from childhood to adulthood.
#2: FOCUS (noun) a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity
Some children struggle to keep on one task for very long. Especially in today’s digital era, they are constantly bombarded with different stimulus which can make it difficult for them to focus at any length. Hunting takes away these distractions and allows them to practice focusing on what they see and the sounds they hear in the field. With very few distractions, it is amazing how fast they can spot coyotes and deer, or the sound of a field mouse as it runs through the blades of grass or leaves next to where we are sitting. The ability to focus this intently will serve them well in classes at school, while doing homework, any extra-curricular skills building exercises, and any detail-oriented work they may have in their future careers. The ability to put your mind into focus and turn off all outside distractions will serve them well over time.
#3: PATIENCE (noun) an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.
In the age of “instant gratification”, patience is somewhat of a lost art. We can order from amazon and have it to our doorstep the next day. We can fast forward through commercials or skip them altogether. We can watch shows instantly, rather than waiting for the next time it is on cable TV programming. We can put food in a special cooker and have it go from frozen to fully cooked in minutes. Our lives are moving quicker and quicker with more available at our fingertips in less time than ever before. Now, this is not inherently a bad thing. I am not against progressive technology or societal cultural shifts. But I do think this is causing a lack of patience in many of our young people who are so used to these quick luxuries that many of us did not grow up with as norms. When hunting, children often have to sit still, keeping their mouths quiet, their bodies still, and their eyes and ears focused for many hours at a time. They learn that hunting is not instant gratification, in terms of the kill. Sometimes an animal doesn’t show up altogether. Even during post processing of an animal, they learn that the meat does not merely show up in the freezer as if you purchased it from the store, but rather the time and skill it takes to carefully handle, cut and package the meat from field to table. The ability to remain positive while waiting is a skill that will serve children well as adults. This can translate into many aspects of life from finances to family planning, and so much more.
These are all important skills that translate into so many areas of our lives from school, family gatherings, events, church, and eventually, the work place. Parenting isn’t easy. It takes a lot of dedication and repetition in hopes that they, too, will grow to love the outdoors, and all it has to offer, as much as I do.