How To

Keeping Kids Interested in the Outdoors

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The secret to keeping a kid fishing? Sometimes it's catching a fish!

The secret to keeping a kid fishing? Sometimes it's catching a fish!

I know you’ve all heard it a thousand times. When I was a kid, we didn’t have all these new fangled do-dads. We had the outdoors and a stick and a rock to play with, and we turned out okay. Well it’s not so easy today, is it? Have you seen the video games kids have today?

As both an outdoorsman and a parent, I want my kids to experience the outdoors and love it as much as I do. My kids love to do things outside, but they are young and there are so many distractions for them. Saying that kids like video games is almost cliché, but it’s true, and now tablet computers have all kinds of easy games for kids. How can the outdoors compete?

Patience, my son

The most important thing to learn is patience, and I don’t mean the kids. Sure, taking them hunting or fishing can be a quick way to try each other’s patience right to the boiling point, but they have to learn that they’re not always going to catch a fish or see a deer. You’re going to have the hardest time adapting, though.

My daughter is all about speed! She loves to ride in the ATV and go fast. I'm in serious trouble when she gets older!

My daughter is all about speed! She loves to ride in the ATV and go fast. I’m in serious trouble when she gets older!

Think about it. All those years of teaching yourself to be quiet in the woods and relaxing while fishing—your kid hasn’t learned that yet. In the fishing video game, you catch a fish on every cast. So you get to teach them how it really is. After hearing your son say for the one-hundredth time, “Dad, I’m bored.” You’ve got to keep your cool. You can’t blow it and yell, or cave in and go home. All you can do is smile and try to enjoy the time.

I take those moments as opportunities to pass along other things. If we’re fishing, I’ll get my son to see which one of us can cast further. If we’re walking through the turkey woods, I’ll take a moment to show him something about a tree, or the way grass grows in an area. Kids love science, you know. Pass along some ideas to your kids.

On an ice fishing trip recently, my son was getting a little bored because nothing was biting. I knew he was bored even though he didn’t say anything. We talked about how the ice formed, how thick the ice was, and how ice moves and cracks. We got so involved with the talk about ice, we missed the bobber going under. Oh well.

Shop till you drop

One thing that I have seen build enthusiasm with kids, especially mine, is to get them their own specific gear. If you spend $300 on a new hunting coat for yourself, why not spend $100 and get your son or daughter one, too? Make sure it has the same features your coat has.

My kids love camo, so getting them to be excited about it is easy. I went to my friends at ScentBlocker and got my son a full outfit in Realtree Xtra that matched what I was wearing, so that when we walked into the turkey woods, he was dressed out like his old man. It sounds silly, but getting them gear like your own really helps keep that excitement up.

And it goes beyond hunting. I got my son a heavy parka and bibs from Bass Pro Shops for hunting season so he could go deer hunting with me. I even got him some sweet boots from Bushnell. Some of his gear was cooler than mine. Keep in mind, he’s eight! Well, he loves it so much that he wears it to school everyday now.

The H&R .17 HMR is, in the author's opinion, one of the greatest rifles to teach kids proper shooting techniques.

The H&R .17 HMR is, in the author’s opinion, one of the greatest rifles to teach kids proper shooting techniques.

Range time

Every kid I’ve ever met, including mine, like to feel accomplished at something. They like the praise we give them for good grades, or other projects done well. I mean, really, who doesn’t like a little praise? That is where the shooting sports really shine for kids.

I know, I know. In this day and age, it’s not the “in thing” to do, taking kids to a shooting range and teaching them to shoot. Of course, we all know that teaching kids the right way to treat and handle a gun leads to good things, like a healthy respect for firearms. Do you really want to leave this to video games?

I take my son to the shooting range all the time. He has his Daisy Red Ryder, of course, but we found something else that works better. I am of the firm belief that the .17 HMR is the best round ever for teaching kids to shoot. I have a .17 HMR single-shot Harrington and Richards with a bull barrel. It’s topped with Cabela’s Caliber-Specific scope for the .17 HMR. With the bull barrel, there is hardly any felt recoil, which is good for young shooters.

The best part of this round and firearm combo is that it has proven to be very accurate. My son can hit the bull’s-eye repeatedly at 50 and 75 yards, and even further. Talk about confidence-inspiring! Of course, he then picked up from his mother that teasing dad about being the better shot is fun, too.

Some technology is good

We can’t fight the wave of technology these days. Heck, I don’t hide the fact that I dig all the cool toys we have. I love my iPhone, and so do my kids. I like gadgets and do-dads, and so do they.

For example, the other day I got an Aqua-Vu AV Micro Plus underwater camera to use for ice fishing this winter. My son, like any kid, loves to fish. But ice fishing can be a real challenge. It’s cold and you’re typically in one spot. If the fish aren’t there, it is a real trick to keep that kid starring at a bobber floating on eight inches of open water. To say that my son enjoyed watching what was going on under the ice with the camera is an understatement. Oh, and dad got a kick out if it too. We don’t just use it for fishing too. I took it deer hunting with us one time. We’d use it to see if anything was sneaking up behind our blind. Silly fun stuff like that makes for good trips.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is to spend time with your kids outdoors. Be patient and look for ways to include them. Be creative! Kids are the future of the outdoors. If we want to win the war against video games, we need to get them outside. After all, it’s a great place to be!

Images courtesy Derrek Sigler

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.