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I'd like to take my oldest boy out hunting with me. He's 7, and like most 7 year olds, he has a lot of energy and a short attention span.
I was thinking of taking him out in a ground blind, portable heater, and snacks. Plan to stay for a few hours - try not to drag it out, but hopefully enough time to least see some deer.
Any thoughts, tips or suggestions from those that have been there?
yes to all i would take a large Thermos of hot water [ hot Chocolate = cup of soup ] a sleeping bag can seep or use as a wrap
Don't push a successful hunt on seeing deer, when a squirrel russel the leaves point it out, show him the blue jay or crow. most important is be patient . Been through it with 3 kids and loved every minute of it . when he's done that's fine take a hike back and show him the outdoors . Good luck
I took my two daughters with me all the time. Always took a sleeping bag for them to nap in. Took books and crayons. Now a days when they go with me they always have electronics with them to help pass the time. Always made it fun and wasn't too hard on them if they weren't super quiet (unless it was crunch time:D)
All very good suggestions. Make it fun and enjoyable but keep in mind their level of patience will be short. I like taking kids for morning hunts this time of year. For a morning hunt the best times to see deer are early, so if they are ready to go home after 2 hours you've probably not missed the best part of the day. Early (warm) season evening hunts are ok too as you can arrive 1.5 hours before dark and you've not missed anything. I've been asked many times on an evening hunt "can we go now" just before dusk. I have a hard time leaving at that time of day. Morning hunts are usually nap time hunts too. A kid napping on a morning hunt is a wonderful thing as they are quiet, still and content. Your job is to watch for deer and wake them when there is something to see. There is nothing better than napping in the woods. It's something I remember doing since childhood. Go make some memories and have fun.
Best thing I can tell you is keep in mind this is for them and not you. Don't expect to see deer. Take them where they can get in and out and have lots of room. Ground blinds and shooting houses are great because you can heat them. let them take their electronics as long as it has a mute function. Plan on 2 to 3 hours tops - I prefer mornings as the day will warm and they sit still vs. get colder and colder with a setting sun. Point out as much as you can - let them rattle and use the grunt call and use the Binos - whatever keeps them connected. You may spook every deer in the area, but this isn't about you. IF they get comfortable enough to sleep let them. Make sure it isn't all about shooting a deer. Have everything as ready to go as possible. They won't help you much so having as much at the set-up as possible ahead of time works best. Try to keep reaching the location pretty simple - no mile hikes and the like. Lots of snacks and the like as well. if they fear the dark - give them their own light or leave late to early to avoid the darkness. Now because of all of this - I try to pick a location where I think we have a chance to see deer, but I don't go to my best spots. They are going to make noise and the like so just roll with it. If your trying to seriously hunt....your going to A - miss the point, and B - be very frustrated. I always introduced my kids to hunting in general with squirrel hunting - where they can work off some of that energy. First deer hunts are an exercise in will be tested! but with the right mindset - you will be rewarded as well. Good luck.
With limited time to hunt, I have chosen instead to take my kids out to the local nature park (700+ acres of woods) to try to watch wildlife, call squirrels, etc. The wildlife has no hunting pressure at all, and doing it on non-hunting time takes the pressure of me, too. :) (My kids are 3 and 5, so they're OK with "pretend hunting" like this. I realize older kids might want the real thing.)
Sounds like you have the right idea. All I can say is make it fun. Keep it short, if they start to get bored wrap it up. Especially with young kids. I make the whole thing an adventure. We usually went to a diner to eat before or after a hunt, which was a big deal to the kids. My kids like the social aspect and now enjoy the weekend at camp before opening day more than the first day I think. Focus on fun and don't worry about whether you bag anything and you will have some quality time and probably end up with future hunters.
Years ago a buddy that had lived in Colorado while he was a kid told me that they required hunters to be at least 13 (don't know if it is still that way) and I thought that was a good law. When my own nephews were born I decided that was what I was going to require. It has worked out well. By 13 they have matured enough to sit a little more still and be a little more patient. It is still a challenge that first year, but they both managed to kill a deer their first year.
I know some guys that take out kids as young as 5....I would lose my mind! ha ha I would plan on a very short hunt and would not go into an area you are chasing the big boy. I would set up in an area that has a high doe and fawn count and make sure I had plenty of hot chocolate and snacks.....but sugar free might be a good choice! ha ha
Make the 7 year old feel special - you know he is but we want him to think being in the deer woods is special. Let him select the snacks within reason. I think morning hunts work better - if a nap is taken you may get to hunt.

Before they go with you, expose them to the sound of gunfire. If they need ear plugs, by all means, use them. Their comfort level to the environment has not been developed. I would want them in a doe rich environment so the possibility of seeing deer is better.

If they go at 7, do everything you can to allow the younger kids to go at or before 7. Many times the oldest blazes the trail and the younger siblings can't wait for their turn.

Don't violate what I call "The Law of Readiness" which means it will happen when they are ready and not before.

I guarantee one thing - If any parent is determined to make their child a hunter, you have high odds of creating a non-hunter. Go easy and make them feel special and just may have a future hunter in the making.
One way to make a child feel special is to name a hunting spot after them. Name it and always call it that. We have three grandkids and built shooting houses for the oldest two. I purchased a nice wood plaque at Hobby Lobby and painted the Date The House Was Built and the Child's Name. The third grandchild will get his built in 2017. At an early age, he informed his granddaddy his had to be 50 feet tall.

I promised him his would be no shorter or taller than the other two. He has shot some targets and has seen some deer just not from a hunting setting. I know he wants to see his name on the wall in his shooting house. He was taken on a pruning trip recently before the state Youth Hunt to help his older cousins shooting lanes. He is old enough to read.

Pruning Trip 4 Future Hunter.jpg
As said before; make it fun.
My oldest (when he was 7) was very serious about hunting. You had to be quiet and still. He would have long sits and be very patient. His reward was seeing critters.

My youngest likes to hunt but is impatient. I often take him to a stand that is close to our house or grandpa's house. When he gets board he walks home. He likes to make a pack of snacks and drinks to take, it's his thing and he can't wait to open it up and have a snack on stand. Forcing him to stay on stand is tough and not fun. So we go with expectations that he can leave whenever he wants.

No matter what, we plan it in a way that they have fun!
I tool my youngest (12 y/o) out this weekend and things didn't go according to plan, but we made some memories and she learned that good things don't come easy. I was out there for her....not for me. I was kicking myself about a missed opportunity with a buck a few weeks ago and this weekend presented the chance to make it about something more important than some buck on the little girl. Those memories will be those things that you will both share for a long time to come.