There was never a point in my life where I thought, “When I have a baby I’m going to take them hunting with me before they can even walk.” But that’s sort of what happened.
When I got pregnant I assumed I would be able to leave Isabella with my husband while I hunted. As it turned out, my husband’s schedule wasn’t ideal and I had two choices. I could either:
1) stay in the house with Isabella and not hunt,
2) take Isabella with me.
I was extremely nervous the first few hunts…you really have to pack and prepare carefully with a little one. But, our hunts went far better than I expected. My daughter just turned a year old and is my favorite hunting buddy.
I get a lot of questions on social media on taking a baby/kid outdoors. I’m going to share my best tips here. All of this can apply to taking your child hunting, fishing, or simply hiking in the outdoors.
1. Plan ahead. This is definitely BIG. Does your kid wake up early? Nap several times a day? Hunt around their schedules. Morning hunts worked far better for me than evening hunts as my daughter liked to be in bed by a certain time and would get fussy in the evening.
2. Clothing. Make sure your kid is comfortable. If it’s cold, invest in quality cold weather gear and pay attention to hands, feet and face as they will get cold first. Pack an extra blanket and layers and make use of hot hands. If it’s hot out make sure they’re in lightweight cool clothing and stay hydrated. Babies in particular can’t regulate their body temperature as well as we can so I chose to hunt mild temperatures and nothing extreme.
3. Bug spray/Sunscreen. Yes, so far everything seems like common sense I know! Keep in mind that a lot of bug spray and sunscreen isn’t safe for young children and babies and you’ll want to use something natural without harmful chemicals. I used Bug Off spray with good results, and there are several great brands of baby sunscreen if you’re going to be in the sun. Hearing protection is also another option to have if you are planning on loudly calling (elk, turkey etc) and don’t want to wake up your child if they’re napping.
4. Pack/Carrier. Isabella was only a few months old when I started taking her on hikes. Since 99% of the places I go aren’t exactly stroller friendly, I opted for baby carriers. If you plan on shooting/hunting you’ll want to get one. For smaller babies you’ll want a soft carrier such as a wrap, sling, or front carrier that supports their head and neck. From roughly 6 months to several years old, a backpack carrier works best. You can shoot with ease while carrying them, which is great. Many of them are pricey but you can find great used backpack carriers online for sale at a fraction of the price. You will want to practice shooting while wearing it, as it does cause you to distribute your weight differently
6. Snacks/water. This is a big one. For children under a year it can be a little tricky as babies tend to eat A LOT and mostly on demand. You’ll need to bring bottles if appropriate. For older babies and children, bring a variety of quiet snacks and water. I liked to use snacks strategically to keep Isabella quiet when I knew a turkey was close.
7. Diapers and wipes. Self explanatory. You’re going to need them.
8. Toys/Electronics. I brought along some soft (quiet) toys for Isabella to keep her distracted when she got fussy. For older kids you can bring an iPad with games and headphones as a last resort if they get antsy.
9. Blind/No blind. I’ve hunted out of a ground blind as well as spot and stalk hunting with Isabella on my back. Both seemed to work well, just do what is best for you. There is really no wrong answer. There is really no exact science to taking a kid along on your adventures. Stay flexible and remember you want them to enjoy the experience as well. You’re never too young to get out and enjoy the woods.
By Beka Garris
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