Think Before You Take Your Kids Hunting So They Don’t Hate It
It was the opening weekend for pheasant hunting in South Dakota. I couldn't go Saturday because my wife was working and I had to watch the kids. But Sunday was open for me and while I didn't want to drive two or three hours west and/or north to pheasant heaven, I still wanted to go kick the brush a bit.
I asked my daughter Jackie if she wanted to come along. After all, pheasant hunting alone, without a dog, is really hard to do with the sparse population of birds in the southeastern corner of the state. Plus it was an opportunity to expose the 7 year-old to hunting for the first time. Being the adventurous sort, she readily accepted the invitation.
The thing I didn't think about, with it being a sudden decision to take her along, was if she had the right gear to go walking around in fields with me. She obviously wouldn't be carrying a shotgun so no need for things like an upland game vest. I did have a hunter orange hat for her. We picked up a safety vest before leaving town. But she was lacking other things. She doesn't have a heavy pair of pants or jeans. She has a few pair of jeans but, like most jeans these days, are made of what feels like nylon or spandex and not denim that would offer her a little protection. She also doesn't have a proper pair of shoes or boots to be kicking grass.
I told my wife I would quickly look to see if we could find a cheap pair of boots that would work for hunting. She wasn't jazzed about the idea of spending $50 - $100 on a pair of boots that might only be worn once. I agreed with her, I didn't want to spend that kind of money either so I promised they would be cheap. We didn't find any so we just put her snow boots on her. We made due but should have skipped it until she could have the right stuff.
This all came back to bite us. Well, mostly Jackie.
We walked some public ground that I really didn't think would contain birds, but knew it would provide an interesting hike for Jackie. She was not only a trooper, she was enjoying it and asking questions. Best of all she wasn't complaining. Not yet, anyway.
After a good hike with no luck we drove to another patch of public land. We walked through some standing corn she tried to cut through some tall grass and weeds at the end of the field before making another pass. She was suddenly saying "Owie! Owie! Owie! Then it became a growing cry of desperate discomfort, much like the time she swam into some seaweed at the lake last summer and freaked out at the strange and icky feeling of it rubbing her arms and legs. But then she really started freaking out. She had walked right through a patch of sand burrs and her four-foot-tall body was getting attacked by them.
I won't say she was covered, cut she had enough of them attached to her from her feet to her shoulders that I never once thought of saying "toughen up." I wouldn't have wigged out too, had I been dressed as she was. Her jeans had over a dozen, her orange vest had five or six, but her old beat up snow boots had collected another dozen or so on the fringe. Making things bad, the legs of her jeans were too small to go outside the boots so her boots were collecting all sorts of things. Making things worse, her socks were below the ankle cut so she was in total agony.
The photos are after the sand burrs were removed. I couldn't take pictures while she was crying.
Hopefully I have not scarred my daughter for life from ever going hunting with me again. But before I do, I will have proper clothing and footwear for her to wear. Or just avoid the places where she might find sand burrs. This doesn't mean I want to break the bank on boots and clothing on a still growing child. I'm going to find deals and buy gender neutral things that my boys can use when they are older. But I'm not going to risk my kids hating something just because they didn't have the things required to make it enjoyable.