by Beka Garris
I have always been a hardcore hunter. From the first time I went hunting as a kid, I was all in. Nothing could keep me out of the woods during deer season, to the point my mom wanted to schedule an intervention and my dad just laughed and said it was fine. When I first started thinking about having kids for myself, my biggest worry was that I would no longer be able to hunt. This may sound silly to some, but the outdoors is such a big part of my life and the idea of giving it up wasn’t something I wanted. I knew if I wanted to be a mom, I would have to figure out a way to be a mom AND hunt.
So I did. I took my baby girl along with me on hunts. It was either that or not hunt.
I have gotten both negative and positive comments on this, but I honestly believe that you can’t start them too young. I’ve had a lot of questions on the best way to take a baby along and I’m going to share my best tips here. These can pertain to dads as well as moms!
How to Haul Your Baby
Getting your baby in and out of the woods is often an overlooked aspect of the hunt. We’re use to packing all our gear in and out, but when you add a baby to the mix, things can get interesting in a hurry. Baby carriers are amazing. If your little one is still only a few months old and can’t support their head yet, you’ll want to make sure that you get a carrier that supports their head and wear it in front of you. Once they’re about 5 months to 2-3 years old, a backpack carrier works great, and you can even shoot with them on your back. This also works amazing for bowfishing. There’s a number of quality baby carrier backpack options from places like REI and other backpacking and hiking outfitters.
Proper clothing is important. Keep in mind they can’t stay as warm as we can so if it’s cold, layer up. If it’s hot, make sure they’re in breathable clothing. I planned most of my turkey hunts around the weather. If it was going to be extremely cold, rainy, or thundering I opted not to hunt. Hunt at your own discretion. Just remember, everything in the way of weather and temperatures will be exaggerated for a baby. Don’t simply go off of how you feel. Keep their comfort priority #1.
Food and snacks are pretty key to making a hunt with a baby work. What to bring will be a little different for all ages. If you’re hunting with a toddler, snacks are fairly easy (make sure you bring water or juice as well). With a baby that is still on formula or breast milk, you can put a warmed up bottle in a thermos and bring that along. Teething biscuits have been a perfect distraction for my 8-month-old when I’ve had animals headed in my direction.
Practice Before Game Day
Make sure you practice shooting, calling, and other aspects of the hunt with your baby beforehand. You need to go through somewhat of a trial run before you head to woods. Can you shoot with baby on your back or in your lap? Will they freak out at what they see or hear? I was worried my daughter wouldn’t like turkey calls. But after trying them at home with her, I found she loved them. The key is to know how your baby will respond – good or bad – in a variety of scenarios. Eliminate the surprises. And if your little one scares easily, I recommend bringing along a pair of ear muffs for them to wear.
Keeping Them Quiet
Probably the biggest hurdle to hunting with a baby is keeping them quiet. You better have your toys for this one! Just make sure they’re quiet toys. No one wants to have a deer coming in only to have your little one suddenly start shaking a loud rattle. I used a lanyard to secure soft toys and teethers so they couldn’t be dropped on the ground. A pacifier clip would also work well. For toddlers who get impatient, bring a kids iPad loaded with games. Just don’t forget the headphones!
Protection from the Elements
Sunscreen and bug spray are the key players here. Baby and kid-safe sunscreen is pretty easy to come by. As far as bug spray goes, I recommend something that is all natural, and don’t apply directly to their skin. I sprayed down my own clothes, my daughter’s outer clothes, and her carrier and it worked great. Just keep in mind, the products you have used for yourself in the past are likely not baby-friendly options, so do your homework on these.
An extra blanket can go a long way for added warmth, shade, and comfort for your baby while on the hunt. And don’t forget the extra diapers and wipes!
How to Hunt with a Baby – Conclusion
It seemed a little overwhelming the first time I planned a hunting trip with my baby. There were so many things to consider, and I worried she would hate it. Our first hunt was in a blind and since we had gotten up extremely early, she slept most of the hunt. Know your kids schedule and take advantage of those early morning wakeups. It’s pretty cool to take your kid along and see the whole outdoor world all over again through their eyes.
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