Before we get to the “meat” of this week’s column, there are a couple of things I’d like to point out. First of all, there is the new “purple paint law” in PA. This allows landowners to put purple paint on trees to replace No Trespassing signs. Why? Who sits around and thinks this stuff up, and how much do they get paid?
On another front, I have not seen even one grasshopper this year, although I have seen more katydids than normal. What’s going on?
With another hunting season getting started, a lot of kids will experience the sport for the first time. In this column, let’s look at some ways to make that first hunting season a good one, and something the youngster will want to repeat in years to come.
I submit that the single most crucial determinant of whether or not a kid becomes a lifelong hunter is the conduct of the adult or adults involved in their first hunting season. If you take a kid hunting, it is your duty to do everything you can to make the experience a pleasant one. Let’s start with hunting clothes, which are extremely important. Don’t just give a kid your old worn out stuff. Instead outfit them properly, with clothing that fits properly, and is appropriate to the type of weather involved. Good boots are nothing short of a must. It’s pretty hard to enjoy yourself if your feet are freezing, blistered, wet or sore. Good gloves that allow for proper gun handling are important, too.
One of the most commonly made mistakes when hunting with a kid is staying out too long. Maybe you like to hunt from dawn until dusk, but there’s a pretty good chance that a kid won’t. Especially if the action is slow, they can become bored in a rather short time. Force a bored, tired kid to keep at it for hours, and they’ll soon be finding reasons not to go with you.
If you take your son or daughter to a hunting camp, don’t get so busy socializing with your friends that you ignore the youngster. Nobody likes to be treated that way. Also, don’t allow the kid to become the “camp dog,” getting stuck with an inordinate amount of chores. I know that some hunters consider that to be appropriate, but it’s not. And, here’s another one. Sitting in a car in front of a bar can be a real turnoff, too. If you lack the self-control to keep from doing that, leave the kid at home. They might say that it doesn’t bother them, but, rest assured, it does.
Be patient when the young hunter makes a mistake, and they certainly will do that. Too much criticism, especially of the tactless, nasty kind, done in front of others, can turn a youngster into a non hunter quickly. Even as adults, we hate to be embarrassed, but think back to how much worse it was when you were an adolescent. Being berated in front of other people is one of the worst things that can happen to a kid.
If the young hunter bags something, be sufficiently congratulatory. To you, it may be just another rabbit or squirrel, but to your young companion, that critter, especially if it’s the first one, might represent a real trophy. Think back to the first game animal you first bagged. Along the same lines, don’t just say, “You shot it, you clean it.” Remember, you are a teacher, not the drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket,” and the kid is your student. Help out as much as is needed.
We are all, hopefully, aware that success is very important to a young person. Use your skill and knowledge to the youngster’s benefit. I sincerely feel that relinquishing the first shot when game is sighted is the only way to go. In fact, it might even be a good idea to leave your gun at home a time or two, and just act as a tutor. I guess the bottom line is, for the first hunting season, You have to put the kid’s enjoyment ahead of your own. That may seem like a high price to pay, but it’s really not. A hunting companion of many years, such as I have with my own son, and a treasure chest of memories, are the rewards.