There is no doubt that spending time in nature is good for everyone. And, while for some of us, it takes years to grow fond of the great outdoors, hunters’ children are very fortunate – usually, they get to spend time in nature from the very first days. Today, we are talking to four hunters and parents about introducing children to wildlife, hunting and teaching them respect for nature. Read on to see how Henrik Sproedt from Germany, Nathan Stuart from Australia, Erik Aspen Bakke from Norway, and Agnieszka Walczak from Poland are introducing their little ones to their lifestyle.
Nathan: Debate – no, discuss with my wife and consider things more broadly – absolutely. Ultimately, we have always made it our children’s choice to be directly involved with hunting or not.
Henrik: It was never a question. Hunting is the most natural thing to do, and there is no better way to learn respect for nature.
Erik: It wouldn’t even be possible to shield my kids from being introduced to hunting where I live. It’s so well-anchored in the Norwegian tradition and way of life, especially in the countryside. We have been hunting and fishing forever. Norway was a rather poor country before we found oil, so hunting and fishing were the ways to put food on the plate.
I also believe it is good to give them a realistic and respectful relationship with the nature that surrounds us. Some species need to be regulated for their own survival, and it is the basis of where our food comes from. I think the sooner they learn this, the more realistic view they will have of the balance of things and resources.
Agnieszka: It is my passion, and I share it with my children. They know that I hunt and what hunting is about. I want the world of nature to be close to them and for them to use the benefits of nature and respect and appreciate it. Thanks to me, they will get to know the world of hunting and whether it will also be their passion in the future, only time will tell.
Henrik: The first time I took my kids out was when they were 4 years old. By then, they had seen many times how I came back with the game, how it became food, and how it tasted.
Agnieszka: My children cannot participate in hunting because it is prohibited by Polish law. However, they spend a lot of time in the forest and in the fields. Both of them have spent time outdoors since they were born. I take them on walks outside the city to get to know the natural world. My children can distinguish a roe deer from a deer, and they know that the forest is the home of animals and we are guests. I teach them respect for nature and the time to participate in hunting will come when they turn 18.
Nathan: Both my children have been fortunate to grow up in a time when I hunt and shoot most weeks; it is just part of our life that I do this. They have been involved in some way since they were probably 3-4 years old. I think keeping expectations realistic on an outcome, or allowing for smaller distances they may be able to walk, is key.
Erik: The eldest one is the only one that has come along hunting. The two small ones are only 2 and 3. They are not silent enough yet, but we do go hiking in the woods a lot.
I took the eldest one out for the first time when he was 6, maybe. He had already been around us, hunters, a lot when we transported and skinned our prey. Not much preparation, really. He knew to be quiet and keep his eyes open.
While getting ready for bed this past Saturday, my 3-year-old suddenly told me that he wanted to go hunting with me. It came out of the blue, and we had not talked about it before. So he is obviously aware of my hobby and understands a little. And I said he could join me this autumn and that we had to be very quiet. So I might bring him for a try, although I don’t think he will be able to be quiet. But at least he has shown interest already.
Henrik: We need to see the world as it is. No matter if it is politics, economy, nature or whatever. Hunting has always been a part of nature. It requires respect, caring and taking responsibility for yourself, others and nature.
Nathan: Taking lots of snack foods and showing them everything from animal tracks, insects, and plants is also important. 100% they sponge all the information up.
Erik: We live in the countryside and are surrounded by forests and mountains. That is their playground already. And we see deer and roe deer a few times a week. The approach I use is to go hiking with them and let them explore on their own. Also, I do not push them to go too far, as they will not want to go anymore. Just small hikes at their pace. Let them be in control, so they can set their own limits. Teach them about the insects they discover and the animals we see. They can already spend hours looking for and watching different insects. We also go down by the shoreside a lot, so they can look for crabs and discover sea insects.
Agnieszka: In my opinion, everything should be done sensibly – you need to remember the sensitivity of children. The most important thing is whether children want to learn about the world of hunting because you can never do something by force. Hunting is a beautiful passion, connected not only with hunting animals. It’s culture, tradition, music, nature conservation, cynology, etc. We show children everything related to hunting. Children of hunters pursue nature with great respect and have a very large knowledge of nature. This is very important nowadays.
Nathan: Always safety first, but neither of my children are old enough to use firearms in my state of New South Wales. That doesn’t mean we can’t reinforce the fundamentals of field handling and awareness. The “why” we hunt or shoot is very important; showing them how an invasive species damages our environment or agriculture is very visual and something they absorb well.
Agnieszka: I want to teach my children respect for nature and awareness of the laws of the natural world. That the meat doesn’t come from the supermarket, and that the forest is the home of the game. Let’s protect our nature and use its benefits.
Henrik: Beyond what I said before, I want them to understand that life is never black or white; there are always more perspectives than what we expect. We need to be more modest with our judgements and actions. Otherwise, well-meant results in a disaster. We see this everywhere.
Erik: In this context, the main thing is to have respect for nature and animals. We never leave traces of our visits to the forest or nature in general. We treat animals with kindness and respect.
Nathan: It is proven that time in nature, opposed to a device screen in their face, is very important for development. Children relish the outdoors – sights, smells and touching a tangible, natural thing.
Henrik: I believe it helps them be grounded. These days, challenges are everywhere. If you observe nature, you know that the end of something is always the beginning of something else. I hope it helps them be more curious and brave than fearful when they create their future.
Erik: In general, I think they will be happier when enjoying the outside. Experiencing nature is good therapy for all. They will become more active and healthy. It will teach them to be appreciative of the little things and find joy in them. Their curiosity will be sparked, and that might help them to become self-thinking individuals with curious minds.
We have this saying in Norway, it’s not completely translatable, but it might resonate with someone: “Why stay in when all hope is out.”
Agnieszka: There are many benefits! Children are active, do not sit in front of the TV or computer, and collect great memories. Being active outdoors helps us stay fit and releases endorphins, and makes us feel happier. Children who spend time in the bosom of nature have a chance to experience many adventures, learn about nature, and gain experience and knowledge. In addition, spending time together in nature strengthens family bonds.
Nathan: I have always made it their choice; my 8-year-old little boy is very keen to go hunting with me. My 11-year-old daughter is not interested in taking the life of an animal but is excited to get a firearms license at 12 years old for target shooting next year. Something which I 100% respect and support either way.
Agnieszka: My children like to spend time outdoors, but of course, everything depends on the mood of the youngest. Like all human beings, children also have their moods and sometimes prefer laziness at home. Fortunately, there are not many such moments.
Henrik: Of course, that happens sometimes. I mean, they are teens, have friends, and are active on social media. Just like me. We are no savage islands in this world. If any of us doesn’t feel like going out, then stay at home and do what feels good. That is fine.
Erik: Never. Apart from my teenage son, of course. My youngest always wants to go out and never wants to go inside. The only exception is during winter when we have been outside for a long time. They will start to freeze eventually.
Henrik: I live in Germany, where the majority live in urban areas, so obviously, yes. But often, that was the beginning of very interesting conversations.
Nathan: Sometimes, I’ll see an internet troll on a picture shared – and block them quickly, of course. Rarely, a family member might question things, but it is short-lived when they see the passion in my children’s eyes for the outdoors as they explain something as only a child can.
Agnieszka: As for the fact that I hunt and have small children, no, I have never encountered a negative reaction to it. My relatives and friends understand what hunting is all about and they even willingly go with me, and their children for walks in the woods to listen to me talk about nature.
Erik: No. I cannot remember ever getting any negative feedback from teaching the kids about hunting. As mentioned, it is well-anchored in our society.
Nathan: Absolutely, we have a smaller pair of binoculars for them, and I have a spare thermal scanner for my children at night. It serves little benefit if they cannot easily view the things I am also seeing outdoors with visual aids. I say it is mandatory they can be directly involved, not just standing there while I, the adult, have all the toys and tools to enhance things.
Henrik: Well, yes. And the process is that they ask me when they do not get it to work the way they want. So basically, I let them play around with it, and they figure it out by themselves. Just like me. Who reads manuals? This goes for everything but guns, of course.
Erik: Gradually, I will. I try to teach them safe knife handling from an early age. We do some whittling and making bow and arrows. When they are a bit older, they can start shooting airsoft guns, and then .22 caliber and so on. My eldest started shooting. 22 weekly at the range when he was 10.
Agnieszka: My children are too young to use thermal imaging devices. They are 3 and 6 years old. However, once I showed them what the image looks like through the Pulsar Merger LRF XP50. They were very surprised that at night, when it is dark, you can see people on the street or pigeons in the trees.
Henrik: They know all of those that I own or have tested. My son’s favorite is the Helion 2 XP50 Pro. My daughter doesn’t care as much as long as it works.
Erik: None of the youngest ones have tried any Pulsar devices yet, as they are too young. But my eldest gets to test all the devices I bring home.
Nathan: Absolutely, they have looked through all my thermal scanners, but the Merger LRF XP50 I use is a bit big for my son. He really liked the Axion 2 XQ35 when I had this device from Pulsar for review. We spent a lot of time watching animals with the Axion on a family holiday to Dubbo Zoo, which was a very unique viewing.
Nathan: Mine is still the combination of the Merger LRF XP50 binoculars and Thermion 2 LRF XG50 for shooting. Sorry, that is two, but it is a killer combination – excuse the pun.
Henrik: So far, the Axion 2 LRF and the Proton FXQ.
Erik: My favorite is the Merger LRF XL50. There is nothing like using both eyes when scouting with a thermal device. The Merger is comfortable to look through over time. And it is so good that you can just enjoy the landscape through it if there are no animals to see. But I use the Axion line most. Any Axion fits easily in the pockets of my hunting jacket, and it serves my needs. I like to hunt lightweight.
Nathan: Yes, I do, but this is much more limited due to the lateness and environment at night. My son loves going on an early evening fox shoot if I am working locally. It’s pretty daunting for an 8-year-old in long grass, pitch blackness with feral pigs around us, though. But he has come on these trips and does enjoy it now he has spent more time doing this and becoming more comfortable in this environment.
Henrik: Yes, of course. Those are the most fun. We prepare basically like for every other hunt: something to drink, perhaps a snack, flashlight, knives, thermal.
Erik: When they start joining me on hunts, they will have to go out in the dark. We always go out before dusk in the mornings, and we stay out till after dark in the nights. And with Pulsar devices, there are no limits to light.
We do already go out in the dark. Using flashlights outside is a lot of fun for the kids. So we have a few small hikes in the night where they play around with the lights. For some reason, normal things are much more fun to look at with flashlights.
Nathan: I have many, but probably my daughter, when she was younger, using binoculars to view a feral pig. I was verbally instructed by her, a vivid description only a 4-year-old little girl can come up with, of where I should be looking to see this animal myself. Of course, I knew where the animal was, but the descriptions of the “near the big tree” and “under the dead tree” on an expansive hillside covered in trees were very cute.
I will be sharing a YouTube video hunting with my son for fallow bucks in the next few weeks, which will have some amazing footage in it. Certainly, more memories we will both not forget, and it is a special thing I have this saved on film.
Henrik: Oh, there are so many that it is very hard to tell. But there is nothing better than when the kids discover the right animal first, we hunt it, get it home, take care of it, celebrate the experience and finally fill the fridge with it. It is a very strong shared experience creating strong bonds and respect and love for nature.
Erik: Definitely the first time I went camping with my then 4-year-old son. We hiked up the mountain in the afternoon and spent the night in a tent. Eating outside, playing cards, and reading. Early in the morning, we hiked straight down to his kindergarten, where he spent the day. He loved spending the night in the tent and later spent many nights with a friend in a tent just outside in the garden. This summer, I have planned to try camping with my 3-year-old in the garden outside.
Agnieszka: Every time spent in nature with my children is special. Watching them enjoy running in the woods or watching animals is a beautiful experience for me. I answer all their questions because children’s curiosity about the world is unique. I want them to be delighted with the world and to have the desire to experience adventures in the forest or in the fields. Having passion in life enriches it. That is why I want to pass this passion on to my children.
Erik Aspen Bakken
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