By Jill J. Easton
Be careful; be very careful when you take folks out there, a few bad moments can ruin someone's outdoor experiences and keep them out of the wild forever. Unless you plan carefully, you can turn that first crucial trip into a nightmare that will turn someone against hunting, fishing and camping.
Story 1. Start with a typical tween-ager. The twelve-year-old liked computer games, skateboarding and spending time with his friends. The thing he absolutely refused to do was shooting or going hunting, and there is a reason. When he was ten his dad took him on a youth hunt. He was cold, it was early, he was rained on and miserable; he was scared of the gun he'd only shot once.. A buck came by the stand where he and his dad were hunting. The boy sat frozen as the 10-point meandered by. After a few moments his dad couldn't stand it any more and forced him to pull the trigger. The deer went down, but the recoil kicked him in the arm and left a black and blue mark that lasted for weeks.
Since that day the young man refuses to shoot any gun bigger than one with pellets, and he is adamant about never going hunting again. It could have been very different.
Story 2. She was an ample grandmotherly African-American lady, probably in the woods for the first time, and she was on a turkey hunt. She was the kind of granny who would make champion lemon bars for the church social. The camo shirt hung to her knees and the gun stock was obviously way too long. Her hunt was at the end of a turkey video, you know the place where they put the footage with women, people with disabilities and children. The hunts that take place after most people stop watching.
She was practically dragged through the woods until the pro-staffer found a gobbling bird. Evidently a jake turkey came in and she shot at it, and missed. The camera was on her as she fell over backwards from the recoil of a gun she'd obviously never shot before.
The woman put a good show on about enjoying hearing the jakes call, but the chance of her trying turkey hunting again are nonexistent.
Story 3. It all started with a church couples' campout. He was a first-to-the-deer-stand kind of guy. She was someone who majored in makeup; to her the limits of outdoors was a careful trip to a backyard barbecue. After many promises of the great time they would have, she agreed to go. The first night in a tent was better than she expected.
The next morning most of the group was going to paddle across the lake. She decided to stay in the campground and read a book, but he was having none of that.
"Come on," he said. "Everyone else is going," he nagged. "I'll look stupid in a canoe by myself. You've got to come. It will be fun."
With heavy-duty reservations and carefully applied mascara, she got in the bow of the canoe. After about five minutes she was starting to relax her death grip on the paddle, and watching loons diving for fish.
Suddenly the canoe hit something. In seconds she was sitting in mud, makeup running down her face. Tears and mascara joined the general flow as she watched their cooler, lunch and dry clothes float away. He looked at her in total amazement as she sat there boo-hooing in the swirling mud.
"You're not having a good time, are you?" he said.
That was the last time she spent close to any nature that wasn't on the far side of a rolled up car window.
What could have been a great time, and a keyhole into what we find so amazing out there, was turned into something worse than punishment. Yet with a few simple precautions that first all-important trip to wild could have been the beginning of shared experiences together.
Here are a few ideas to make those first outdoor experiences memorable in a good way.
• Lower your expectations - The first time you take a newby out don't expect them to get it and be perfect right away. Be calm, patient and explain things as many times as it takes. Don't push to get there at your usual pace. Just because you love duck hunting, it doesn't mean that your son will find the magic in slogging around in too-big waders and the freezing in a duck blind at five in the morning.
• Make sure the equipment fits - Don't make your five-foot-tall wife shoot a deer rifle that fits your six-foot-two arms. Blisters and bruises are huge turn-offs for any beginner. VERY IMPORTANT! No matter how funny she looks getting knocked on her ass by a too-powerful load; don't laugh.
• Carry emergency supplies - bandages, dry socks, something to drink and granola bars eaten in the spring woods can go a long way towards lightening a bad situation.
• Let her know what to expect - The get up time is 4:30 a.m., we'll walk a mile in to the tree stand then sit there till noon waiting for a deer to come in. It's much easier to get someone going if they are mentally prepared. Also, they can't complain later that they didn't know what to expect.
• Be polite - Treat the newcomer like you are on a job interview and she will be your new boss.
There you have it, some of the reasons why more women and kids aren't hunting. But, by following these suggestions, and stretching your patience, you may be able to forge a companion that will share your experiences and love of the outdoors for a lifetime.
About the author
Jill Easton is an avid trapper, turkey hunter and award-winning freelance outdoor writer living in the Ozark National Forest near Calico Rock. For more information or articles visittreblehookunlimited.com