Kids out-of-doors: Always leave them wanting more
We hear a lot about getting youth involved in outdoor sports and not enough about keeping them connected. There is a simple formula to ensure retention. It is: Fun plus proper equipment plus satisfaction equals a young person maintaining their love of the outdoor sports.
I was recently on a fishing trip with a guy and his 10-year old son. The boy was handed a rod that was a piece of junk, sent to the back of the boat, and told to fish with it while his dad casted from the front deck and caught all the fish. Forty-five minutes into the trip the child was whining and begging for the food in the cooler.
On a hunting trip to a piece of public ground some years back, we were joined by a father and his three sons. They were wearing blaze orange vests that looked like they had been used as grease rags. Their boots were barely adequate for the cold and their guns were old, rusted single-shots that came right out of a bargain basement. I would have wrote it off as a poor family just trying to put meat on the table if dad hadn’t pulled up in a brand new Suburban wearing clothing that looked like it just came off the rack and sporting a brand new rifle with $3,000 optics. The kids looked excited to get into the woods, but by lunch, they were huddled in the vehicle with the heater on full blast.
Here are my tips to create longevity in a child’s desire to take full advantage of the outdoor sports.
Make sure kids have the best boots for the environment. The clothing should also match the conditions. It can be used or hand-me-down garments. You can find that all over on the stuff-for-sale web sites. Just make sure it’s in great condition.
The firearm should be what young hunters desire. If you are purchasing a new weapon consider an AR-style rifle in a caliber that will handily kill a big-game animal. For birds get a pump or semi-auto. Make sure the child can handle the weapon and understands its capabilities. This means visiting the range frequently.
Anglers need to forget about fishing on those early forays out on the water. The focus needs to be on the child until they are fully capable of casting, fighting the fish, and handling it after it’s landed. You don’t need tournament-quality equipment for a young angler, but the equipment must be sized to the youth. I started my boys on 41/2-foot spinning rods when they were 4 years old, and they were burning up baitcasters by the time they were 10.
Never keep a child on the water or afield much beyond their comfort level. Always leave with them wanting more. Then they will always keep coming back.