"I'm Trying To Get My Daughter Into Fishing & Hunting. What Did Your Parents Do?"
Over the last year, I have received dozens of wonderful comments, and the ones that truely mean the most to me are from parents, telling me what a great role model I am for their daughters. My goal from Day 1 was to just make a difference or impact on one little girl, and encourage her to follow her outdoor dreams. That means more than anything in the world to me and all I wanted to achieve. One of the most asked questions I receive is, "I'm trying to get my daughter into fishing & hunting. What did your parents do?".
I think generally speaking, the best answer to this question is what my parents didn't do, which was force me to do anything I didn't want to do. Although my family was very much into fishing and hunting, they never pressured me or my sisters to follow in their footsteps. This was a key thing. If you force your daughter into a boat or a camo jacket and expect her to love it -- you aren't going to get very far. (If your daughter is anything like me, she is a sassy, independent little chicklette who usually wants to do the opposite of what her parents want her to do!) My parents supported me with whatever I wanted to do and never forced anything.
Most people wouldn't know this, but I was actually a very avid figure skater for years up until I graduated high school. It was the complete opposite of anything "outdoorsy" when I was a teenager. I was skating 5 days a week, sometimes in the early mornings, during lunch and after school all in the same day, and I had the fancy lace dresses, the expensive skates and blades, and I was always practicing my jumps in the house. I loved everything about it. Although I am sure my Dad would of wished I was spending that time out in the boat on weekends than at competitions, my parents were always my biggest fans. Both my Mom and my Dad spent countless hours dropping me off and picking me up at the rink at all hours. My Mom spent so many late nights making my costumes and scrubbing all the glitter out of my hair. In fact, my Dad even took us by himself to a couple competitions over the years. He helped us tie our skates, made sure we didn't have any red lipstick on our teeth, and always watched proudly from the stands in his camouflage jacket. (I always knew where to look for him in the crowd from the ice because he was the only Dad in camo in crowd!) My parents just wanted me to be happy and did anything to ensure of that. I am very grateful for everything they did and gave to me when it came to skating, and I feel so lucky to of had such supportive parents no matter what I wanted to do in life.
On top of that, when my Dad passed away when I was 15, I lost all interest in anything to do with the outdoors. I didn't want anything to do with it. I stopped pursuing my interest in hunting completely. As for fishing, I would go with family friends occasionally but it was hard for me. My outdoors time was always my time with my Dad, and it was a very hard thing for me to overcome not getting that time with him anymore.
With that all being said, you can understand that the whole fishing and hunting thing hasn't been my biggest passion my entire life by any means. I needed my time and space to find myself and see it as my true calling, and a little growing up to see the value in it all. However, this all being said, I want to be able to provide some parents with things that both my Mom & Dad did for me growing up, to help show me the value of hunting and fishing and spark my interest in it, and show me that it's more than just hobby -- it's a valued and respected lifestyle.
Buy her, her very own fishing and hunting gear. This is a huge selling point for any kid and the color is a big deal for any little girl. The key to this is letting her pick it out. Don't assume she is just going to want "pink everything". Not all girls like pink. Let her pick out her own color for her fishing rod, her tackle, her bow, or her arrows. She is more likely to want to go and use her gear if she likes it and picked it out herself.
Let her wear what she wants (to an extent), even if it is a tad ridiculous for fishing or hunting. Some little girls like their dresses, no matter how much you try to tell them otherwise. It's a battle you'll never win. If she wants to wear a damn dress in the boat, let her wear a dress! Girls are more likely to go if you still let them be themselves. That being said, make sure to still pack extra clothes. (AKA: Bring a set of pants and shirt for her secretly because we all know within 10 minutes they will be complaining they are cold or getting bug bites!) When it comes to specific clothing like waders or rain gear or camo gear, let her help you pick it out. Sometimes there isn't a whole lot of options for kids when it comes to gear, espeicially little girls, but you can always customize it for her too! Sometimes it's as simple as adding a little ribbon or keychain to the zipper to make it "hers".
On that note, don't cheap out on speciality clothes. Little girls are more likely to be happy and enjoying themselves if they are warm and dry, and in clothes that fit! I absolutely hated having to wear boots or pants that were too big, had holes, or fell apart the first use. It wasn't just the fact that I looked foolish, but it was also very uncomfortable and hard to walk in, on top of being soaked if it was raining. As soon as your daughter starts to feel cold, wet and/or has blisters ... your day is pretty much over. So, do yourself a favor and make sure everything fits her good and in good condition, before you leave the house.
Bring toys or games for the truck or boat. Kids need to be kept busy and any little girl is probably not going to be interested in sitting in a boat all day long just holding a fishing rod, at least not at first. I would sometimes bring a little backpack with colouring books, markers, Barbies or my Polly Pockets. This was a benefit not only to me, but also to my Dad because that way he knew he could still get in a full day out and not have to bring me home early if I was kept busy & occupied all day. If we were going hunting for the day in the truck up the mill road, I would also usually bring a pillow and little blanket so I could nap in the truck if I got tired.
Make the day special for her by bringing extra special snacks or treats that she wouldn't normally get to have on a regular day, such as candy, pop, chips, etc. This makes it all that much more exciting for a little kid to want to go. (I know I wouldn't be happy if my Mom packed us only apples and water for the day.) My favourite fishing treat to this day is ring-pops! I can wear them while I have a fishing rod in my hand. It's a cute little treat for any girl! Also, at the end of the day, make it a ritual to go get ice cream before going home. Me and my dad did this. If we came home with fish it was our celebration treat, but if we got "skunked" it was at least something to put a smile on my face and a "don't worry kiddo we'll get 'em next time" treat.
Always remember to bring things like bug spray, sunscreen, a blanket, sunglasses, a ball cap, etc. These things are usually the most common things to forget, so keep them in a little storage bag or rubbermaid tote in the truck at all times, and that way you'll never forget them. These are things that are just going to make the day that much more comfortable for her.
Take her alone on her own, designated days. I had plenty of days out fishing and hunting with my Dad with my siblings, but sometimes it's more special when you give them their "own" days. My Dad was always fair and made sure we got our own days with him, and I loved the feeling of being the center of attention on those days. What girl wouldn't?!
Let her do things. Don't do everything for her. Teach her to put on her own minnow on her hook. Let her drive the boat. Let her track the blood to your deer. Show her how to safely handle and carry a gun, and let her! I can't tell you how many times I went to school on Monday's bragging to all my friends about these types of things that my Dad let me do. They are, to this day, some of my best memories with him.
Show her proper ethics, laws and regulations. Teach her how to follow rules and safely handle and release fish. Teach her all of the hunting laws and that hunting isn't just about "killing things" -- it's about providing food for your family. Although this isn't something she'll always understand or see value in right away, she will when she is older. I am living proof of this.
Finally, but most importantly, don't force or pressure her to do anything she doesn't like or want to do. If she says, "Hell no!" when you ask her to hold her fish or get her hands dirty, she means it. That doesn't mean she won't eventually come around. If she is stubborn like me, she is more likely to come around if you just give her space to do it on her own terms. Trust me.
I hope you and your daughter get to share as many moments & make as many memories as I got to with my parents. Tight lines + stay wild, oxo.