Opportunities abound for young people these days. Good or bad, there’s something that’ll grab the time and attention of most kids. The question is, what is it that consumes your child’s time?
I’ve had friends say, “All my kid wants to do is play video games.”
My immediate response is typically, “Kick them off the video games, and get them outside!”
Sure, I know not every kid is gonna develop a passion for hunting and the outdoors. I get it. But if you fail to provide opportunities for the outdoors, and allow your child to choose between being lazy on the couch and living life outside, you can bet that they’ll miss out on the good stuff of life.
So how do we get kids up and off the couch and focused on bowhunting and the outdoors? Read on for a look at what’s worked well for me in my quest to build bowhunters.
Limit Screen Time
Parents need to remember, they are the ones that call the shots. I don’t allow my child to call the shots regarding the time they spend on the phone, iPad or TV. I can only laugh when they say things like, “Well, it’s my phone!” I quickly remind them that until they are paying for the phone and paying for the monthly service for the phone – it’s my phone. They are simply allowed to use it, when I allow them to use it.
Sound harsh? I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to raise kids that are addicted to a gadget in their face. I’m raising men. I want young men that love the outdoors and desire to be in wild places. Not on the couch.
You call the shots. Limit their screen time, get them outside, watch them grow physically and mentally.
Offer Better Options
As mentioned above, something will consume your child’s time. The question is, what will it be that eats that time? You can bet they will plug into something. And to avoid being consumed by negative things, you better have some good alternatives for their time.
You tell them to cut down on the time they sit and play video games, but what better options will you provide? You don’t have to do it for them, but you need to at least be prepared to guide them in the direction toward the desired outcome.
Telling your child, “Find something to do!” is too vague. It can also be dangerous for your child’s well being. But you do need to provide better options, like shooting the bow outside, practice shooting from a treestand, ride the ATV around the property, check trail cameras, help in the garden, mow the lawn, etc.
Yes, some of these are chores. That’s okay. They need to be done as well. The bottom line is to make sure you provide positive alternatives and options that push them outside.
Keep It Fun
I’ve rarely ever found a child that didn’t like shooting a bow. I’ve had some that were scared to try it, or some that tried to act too cool to give it a shot, but most every kid that gives it a chance loves it. The flight of the arrow is a fun experience.
But it’s also important to keep it fun as they progress. Changing things up will keep them engaged and coming back for more. Add different targets to the mix. Introduce new 3D animal targets to the range.
Put balloons on the targets for an added challenge. Shoot from a ground blind, sitting down, on your knees, standing on one leg. Anything that’ll keep it fun and engaging will work. The key is to keep them motivated to get out and sling arrows.
Get Them Geared Up
Few things will motivate your child for the hunt like new gear. Think about it. We all love new gear. Gear prep is nearly as exciting as the hunt itself. It’s no different for kids. And buying them their own gear is one of the best ways I know to seal the deal on their desire to hit the woods.
I know it’s tempting to pass down all your old gear leftovers to your child. But ensuring they have their own gear, stuff that fits, goes a long way here. And don’t skimp here. They want the same quality camo you have. You like high-tech gear? So do they. Make sure they have it, and they’ll be fired up to hit the woods to try it out.
My oldest son, Aidan, knew he was getting less than the best with some of the beginner bows I put in his hands in the early days of his archery career. He wanted a “real bow.” I shoot a Mathews bow, so he naturally wasn’t going to be content until he had a Mathews bow as well.
I couldn’t blame him. So when his size allowed, he received the Mathews Stoke for his birthday. It’s the best youth bow on the market, and it was the perfect motivation to kickstart a bowhunting passion that continues to this day.
Don't Give Them the Leftovers
I’ve seen some parents give their kids the leftovers when it comes to hunting opportunities as well. It happens on outdoor TV, as well as folks I know at the local level. Their child only gets to hunt once Dad gets his big buck. It’s honestly pretty sad.
I’m not saying to give the kids freebies, but make them work for it. Get them dialed in with the scouting process. Let them glass and see where bucks are making their move. If they’ve worked for it, don’t short-change them by giving them your leftovers.
Aidan felt like this was happening several years ago when he’d hear stories about the deer I was encountering at a spot we call, The Gauntlet. He was aware of the deer that moved through there. He was watching it all go down from a ground blind I placed him in hundreds of yards away. He was tired of watching from a distance. He was ready to get in on the action.
“I want to hunt the Gauntet,” Aidan said with a stern voice and a serious look on his face. “I want to hang a second stand. I’ll be the shooter and you can film it,” he said.”
The stand setup was a bit of a challenge with climbing sticks stretched out a bit more than what Aidan would need. But with him safely anchored to the Lifeline, we were confident that he could handle the setup and get him in place for a shot at the Gauntlet.
On the afternoon of the hunt, I climbed up into the stand ahead of him and then helped him monkey his way into the shooter stand. I got the camera set up while Aidan got settled in and pulled an arrow from his quiver. Little did we know that we’d have a very short sit before the action unfolded.
Shortly after getting settled in, I saw Aidan reach for his bow. I honestly thought he was pulling his bow off the hanger to make a practice draw and get things loosened up. But then he looked up at me and said, “Do you see that deer?”
I thought he was just messing with me. Then I looked up the trail and saw a buck following a doe down the trail that would lead past our stand.
We both went into stealth mode as we turned in our stands to prepare for the shot. The pre-rut was just getting cranked up, and the buck was already harassing the doe pretty heavy.
At just 20 yards away, the buck turned to take a side trail away from us. I told Aidan that if he had the shot, he better make it happen. I grunted to stop the deer, and Aidan dropped the string.
The shot looked good, and the buck crashed off in a short circle around our stand. Everything went silent for a moment before we looked up and saw the buck come staggering sideways back down the trail toward us. He ran up to about 12 yards from our tree, stopped, and tipped over dead. It was truly one of the most exciting hunts Aidan and I had ever experienced.
Watch the hunt in the video below…
What investments are you making into the next generation of bowhunters? Whether it’s your own child, a friend, family member, or neighbor, the opportunities are wide open to share the passion we have for bowhunting.
Use the steps mentioned above to help build a bowhunter this season.
Comment below, and let us know who you’ll be taking to the woods this deer season.
Also, be sure to check out the Mathews Stoke, as well as the complete lineup of Mathews bows, at www.mathewsinc.com.