Also, beware the weather. Freezing a youngster on a deer stand his or her first time in the woods isn’t a good idea.
Tips: Make a schedule and keep it, and talk up outings in advance. This builds anticipation and excitement, and allows kids to participate in the planning and equipment preparation. Also, proceed at your child’s pace. And mix in fun stuff. Stop at Dairy Queen. Stay overnight at a motel with a water slide. As much as possible, make every trip memorable.
Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. These and other relatives usually are the first touchstones parents leverage to expand and further their kids’ outdoors interests.
My brother-in-law, for instance, Rick Netko of Crosslake, initially exposed Trevor and Cole to muskie fishing. Not by requiring that they throw big plugs all day in hopes that they’d catch a monster. Instead, he took them trolling in the evening on a favorite lake, and they regularly caught muskies just at sunset.
Similarly, my brother, Dick, and his son, Brian, have welcomed our boys on deer hunts and walleye trips from the time they were very young. This gives kids a chance to learn from people other than their parents, while also (hopefully) exposing them to still more examples of proper field behavior. The latter can include everything from rifle and shotgun muzzle control to safe deer-stand use and respectful behavior in a hunting shack.
Scouts and certain other youth groups nurture outdoors interests in an organized setting and can be extremely valuable.
Signing kids up with the youth versions of Ducks Unlimited (www.ducks.org), Pheasants Forever (www.pheasantsforever.org) and similar groups also helps, as does attending their banquets, which usually is the first step in exposing kids to the idea of conservation volunteerism and fundraising.
Additionally, having outdoors and/or adventure magazines lying around the house expands kids’ horizons and notions of what’s possible.
Over many years, I’ve learned from better dog trainers than I am, also better wingshots, archers, naturalists and conservationists. In some cases, Trevor and Cole have learned from the same people.
A few examples: Dave Zentner of Duluth is expert in many hunting and fishing pursuits, but perhaps none more so than steelheading. He’s taught the boys more about North Shore steelheading than I ever could, and has been happy to do it. Similarly, the boys are as comfortable with my bird-hunting and fishing friends Will Smith, Denny Lien and Bill Marchel as they are with their own friends, the result of passing so many pheasant and duck openers with them.
And the shack Cole and I are staying in this weekend? It belongs to my friend Norb Berg — the same fellow who has welcomed the boys to his deer-hunting land since they first could walk — and who years ago passed on this bit of wisdom to a very young Trevor when he was a bit full of himself after shooting a buck: “Say little when you lose. And less when you win.’’
Another thought: Looking around, who among your friends do you want to emulate in the way you raise your kids, relative to the outdoors?
Dave, Will, Denny and Norb certainly would be among my picks, as would others, including Dick Hanousek of St. Paul. Every holiday season for years, Dick’s family Christmas card showed him, his wife, Kathy, and all of their kids somewhere in a river, holding fishing rods. Seeing the card the first time, I recall thinking how festively it spoke to the importance of shared family interests that can continue through generations.
As needed, parents should encourage skill growth by providing expert instruction. The subject might be archery, trapshooting, dog training — whatever.