It’s not much of a secret that lady hunters are the fastest-growing demographic in the hunting community. Part of that is due to families starting their daughters, nieces, neighbor girls, and granddaughters early, and making it fun for them with no pressure. My daughter is not an avid hunter, but she has hunted and has a javelina under her belt. As a matter of fact, she got her first javelina before I did! My friend Chris McCotter is well-known in Arizona hunting circles for not only his hunting prowess, but his support of wildlife organizations. He is also well-known for getting his entire family into hunting, including his wife and his daughter, Cidney. Recently, someone asked Chris for some tips on raising lady hunters. His advice was as thorough and well-presented as I have seen. With his permission, I have reprinted it here.
I’ll go on record that I have not pushed Cid to do any of this, but instead asked if she wanted to and let her make the call. I probably learned more from her while taking her hunting over the past few months than she did from me.
A few I have learned along the way, and in no particular order:
- Relax. If you’re overexcited and losing it, then chances are she will be too—or worse yet, she won’t want to be in that situation as she won’t want to see you like that again. Just “let it happen”—don’t try and make it happen. And if it doesn’t? So what, laugh it off.
- Don’t get frustrated when you’re sneaking around the hill putting on a stalk and you look back and she’s lagging behind picking flowers along the way. Expect a frustrated look from her when you tell her to throw them down and get ready to shoot a javelina.
- Invest in one of these portable toilets. Store it in your hunting rig and never forget it and you will be the greatest dad in the world.
- Never let a question she has go unanswered ,and no question is stupid.
- Being a great shot at the range bench doesn’t mean jack when you’re in the field on live game (this is true for most adults). But if you can provide lifelike targets of the animal she’s hunting, use them after the gun is dialed-in and she have the basics down.
- Surf the internet and download or print off live photos of the animals she’s hunting—in all different positions. You’re looking for “shoot” and “no shoot” scenarios. In the weeks leading up to the hunt, review “yes” and “no” shots. The night before going out hunting, review those pics again.
- Never underestimate the leg power a little kid has. They aren’t lugging your body weight up the mountain and it will surprise you. But don’t walk them to death, either. If they want a pack make it, ultra-light—carry your gear and theirs and shop for a kid’s pack if you can. There are cheap ones out there—I bought my kids’ packs for $20 to $25 each.
- If your kid is going to carry a pack, inspect it twice a day for items they may have added. A 10-pound rock lugged 1.5 miles back to the truck will explain why she’s so tired and can’t make the trek be one that could have been avoided.
- Camo is not mandatory hunting attire and any Hello Kitty clothing she wants to wear is completely acceptable (pink is not mandatory for her, either). Let her wear what she wants within reason given weather conditions.
- Long hair held back in ponytail and or braid keeps it tucked out of the way and out of the way of a scope or rifle’s action. Simply put, it’s a distraction just not needed and take care of it at camp.
- Don’t go cheap on boots and socks. Blisters on her feet mean an end of the hunt, period. They won’t play through the pain and you shouldn’t make them. When you think about it, tossing in another $25 at the time to purchase boots will help pay back all you’ve invested in gas and time off work.
- Carhartt youth pants will allow her to blaze through stickers like they aren’t there. Truth be told they are sold as boys’ pants, just don’t mention that and cut the tag off.
- If while you’re glassing you find an animal, show it to her. This doesn’t matter if it’s a rabbit or a chipmunk—let them see it through the binos. It’s both practice getting them used to seeing game in glasses but also a distraction to the mind-numbing, boring-as-heck dead silence we call glassing. But to them, it’s brutal nothingness and they want to do something.
- I’ll add this one for those of you thinking of taking your older daughter or wife out hunting, and I mean it in all seriousness. Keep your hunting rig stocked with feminine hygiene products.
- It’s blazing hot out and you just finished the gutless method on two javelina, and she wants you to cut open the guts and see what’s inside. You do it and give the best review of organs you can. If she wants you to cut the heart open, you do. You never know, she might find it so fascinating that it leads to her becoming a heart surgeon. If she wants you to cut the stomach open you do, but hold your breath before you do. I don’t think she’ll ever ask me to do that again. We laughed quite a while over that one.
- Make it fun and try to book hunts with her friends or other kids her age. Get her out to youth camps and let her mingle with the other kids and hear the stories they have. They seem to learn a lot from others their own age, and not us old farts.
- If you can, let her choose some of the details about the hunt. If it’s the third day of the hunt and you’re stumped where to go and what to do, give her some ideas and let her pick. If it turns out you find critters and she gets one she gets the credit. Got that, dad?
- Take photos—tons of them—and let her take photos, too! Kids take the coolest pictures.
- Lastly, and the one I failed to master, but learn how to not cry your eyes out that first time she fills a tag. If you figure that one out, let me know. I have a second kid to go through this all again.
Editor’s note added 3-20-2014: The top image’s caption has been corrected to indicate who is present in the photo.
Image courtesy Marshall MacFarlane/The Desert Rat