Hunters are some of the greatest conservationist on the planet. They are dedicated, passionate and educated about the animals they hunt, their gear and the outdoors.

But what about the next generation of hunters? Hunting is a way of life. If that it is going to be preserved, this generation of hunters has to bring up the next generation to love and respect this way of life. This is any outdoorsman’s true legacy.

This article is going to combine two of my greatest passions, hunting and my kids.

Being a stay-at-home mother of three munchkins means whatever I do my kids do with me. Hunting included. As with most things with kids, this can make for some unusual challenges and incredible opportunities.

Teach. Lead. Inspire.

Just like introducing a new math concept to a room full of first graders, when it comes to kids and hunting, we must teach them how. Communicate with them. When you are doing something related to gear, the outdoors, shooting, etc., don’t tell your toddler “not to touch” or push your inquisitive 5-year-old away. Teach them about what you are doing and why.

Teach them what it means to kill their own meat, what wildlife conservation is, why it’s so important and how hunters fit into this very delicate system. Involve them in the process. Keep communication age-appropriate but start them off as young as possible. Make up games. Quiz them on animal species, parts of a bow and how to care for your gear. I reward my kids for spotting big game animals when we are driving. Certain animals are worth a sticker (mule deer) while other are worth a new Lego set (mountain lions).

Next, lead your kids. Show them by example. When I go shooting, I bring one of the kids with me (yes, it’s easier to get a tight grouping at 50 yards with 1 “helper” instead of all three). If I am going on a run, my kids are strapping on their helmets and biking along with me. They come scouting. On occasion, my son comes on hunts. The older they get, the more they will do with me.

When an outdoorsman separates hunting and kids, he/she is robbing both parties of a vital component for a strong, healthy future. I’m not saying EVERYTHING has to involve your kids (there is a lot to be said for hunting and alone time), but I’m sure with a little creativity and a LOT of patience, you’ll find that hunting and the next generation fit perfectly together!

Finally, inspire. Teaching is done with your words. Leading is done by your actions. Inspiring is done with your soul. I can think of few things more powerful in shaping a child’s future than the inspiration of a significant person’s passion.

Dropping an animal is an experience that taps into the core of your being. It shapes us. It pulls us to the mountains. It drives us to train, focus, to push harder and go farther than we did last season. If you know why you do what you do, as any true hunter does, your children will see that passion. They will be inspired by your soul. They will see your connection to the high country and the animals that live there. And they will want to be a part of it too.

Teach. Lead. Inspire…a kid to hunt!