How to Introduce Your Kids to Deer Scouting

How to Introduce Your Kids to Deer Scouting

When Wisconsin dropped its minimum deer hunting age to zero, a whole new world opened up for my family. My twin daughters were quickly approaching the age where I felt they could hunt whitetails with a crossbow, considering they had already successfully hunted spring turkeys.

What I didn’t realize was that in my excitement for them to become deer hunters, I did everything for them. From scouting to setting blinds to meticulously planning our time during the season, I did it all. That made them shooters, but not really hunters.

After their first season, I set out to make them a bigger part of the pre-season work. This involved them taking an active role in scouting, which taught me a few things about kids in the outdoors.

Bite-Sized Scouting Missions

I’m sure every generation of parents, since we came down from the trees and headed for the caves, has joked that kids have short attention spans. They aren’t built for eight-hour-long scouting missions, which means your best bet is to choose wisely.

My first attempts with my daughters involved pleasant summer evening glassing sessions. Sitting on the edge of a soybean field or an alfalfa field with a spotting scope is a great way to see deer and introduce your kids to the idea of stealth in the woods.

The downside of these sessions can be multi-fold. If it’s too hot, it’s no fun. Try to go when the temperatures are t-shirt tolerable. Also, try to anticipate and prepare for insects. Mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and gnats can all turn a deer scouting mission into low-level torture. Post up where there’s a breeze if you can, and don’t be afraid to employ a Thermacell for the mosquitoes. If you’ve never used one, buy one. You’ll thank me later.

Educate & Entertain

The key to being a good podcast host is to understand that your job is to appear mostly as an entertainer but to secretly work to educate the audience on interesting topics. The same rules apply when you take kids on a deer scouting foray.

Whether your little buddy tags along to check a camera or helps put up a blind for the season, explain what you’re doing. Let them ask a lot of questions, and try to remember that what’s interesting to them might not even show up on your radar. The amount of times my daughters and I have stopped to look at bear tracks in the mud, an interesting spider web, or maybe a shed snake skin is more than I can count.

Where we hunt whitetails is generally interesting, way beyond the fact that deer live there. Slow down, talk about anything and everything, and let the kids experience the outdoors.

Light Work Equals A Lifelong Love

As I mentioned, when I first took my daughters hunting, I did all of the setup work without them. They didn’t appreciate the first deer or turkeys they killed as much as I had hoped they would, and it was my fault. They had nothing at stake, nothing invested, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t value the accomplishment as much as I thought they should.

When you include them in scouting, you alter their course as future hunters. The work we put in is the secret sauce that makes success so special. If it’s too easy, it’s just not that fun. I realize this is contrarian messaging because there is an entire industry dedicated to creating products with the sole purpose of making hunting easier.

It’s not supposed to be too easy, though.

When it is, the value of the experience and a successful outcome are diminished. Make your kids put in a little sweat equity. They should carry some gear, help stake down the blinds, trim some shooting lanes, whatever. This process allows them to own their hunt in a different way. Just remember that what seems like a small, menial task to you might be a lot of work for them. Try to toe the line between having them pitch in and going so hard that the fun disappears.

Many of these foundational layers of becoming a hunter can be established on lazy summer scouting missions. Include them, teach them, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll create a hunting partner for life.

For more information about getting kids into the outdoors, check out these articles: The 6 Best Youth Deer Hunting Rifles, What to Look for When Purchasing a Youth Bow, and How to Be Safe with Guns and Kids in Your Home.

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