Gregg joins us this week to talk about mentoring youth in the outdoors. He’ll hand out fun and effective ways to get kids involved to help them foster a love of hunting and the outdoors. Gregg says he just returned from Illinois where he was hunting the gun season with his two oldest daughters. He highlights the balance he tries to strike as a parent, allowing his kids to use social media and engage with friends while also helping them disconnect so they can enjoy the outdoors, too. When asked what their favorite part of the trip was, Gregg says both of his daughters loved building a Shadow Hunter Blind where they got to use power tools and feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment at the same time. As a dad, he says he wants to create memories with his kids, not just by spending time with them but incorporating a more active approach like a task, and building a blind was a great way to do just that. By allowing kids to help and get involved they feel more invested in the overall effort. Gregg says it’s also important to make the experience fun and points to an instance on his trip with his daughters where getting to ride a four-wheeler out into the field was a highlight for his daughter. Making things too serious, to stuffy and overly complicated can be a quick way to alienate a kid. Allowing them to have fun, get involved and learn will make a far bigger and positive impact. If you’ve seen Hunt Masters, you know that Gregg is a passionate hunter who works hard at deer management by utilizing food plots, improving habitat and more in order to grow awesome deer. Gregg has taken some tremendous bucks over the years, but when bringing kids along on a hunt he says you need to manage your expectations. Kids have short attention spans and limited patience, so he doesn’t set the bar impossibly high – if someone gets cold, hungry or something else, they call the hunt off. In the end, Gregg says for him success isn’t measured by a kill, but rather what he had an opportunity to do with his kids. While they may slow you down a bit, Gregg says it’s important that people stop and let kids tag along and get a taste for hunting and the outdoors. Hunting should be about more than just the singular aspect of hunting to kill an animal, it should be about the entire experience.
There are a lot of ways to include kids in your hunting pursuits and an especially important aspect is in the field dressing process. Gregg says that he requires his daughters to be a part of the field dressing process, so they understand the responsibility that comes with harvesting an animal and how to prepare the meat and take care of it. It’s part of a larger lesson too Gregg says, one that reminds young hunters that you aren’t shooting for antlers, and that any animal you tag is worthy of your respect.
Finally, Gregg weighs in on firearm safety with some analysis and tips about what to do and what not do when it comes to teaching your kids about firearms. First, Gregg says parents should never hide their firearms from kids. Out of an abundance of caution or fear itself, many gun owners will forbid kids from touching guns, tell them they aren’t old enough and then lock them away in the gun safe. While there is nothing wrong with securing your firearms, and in fact, it’s encouraged, the problem comes when you shroud firearms in mystery – it creates curiosity. Under your supervision, let your kids touch your guns, Gregg says. Then, use that as a teaching moment to remind them of basic firearm safety tenants like keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, opening the bolt, dropping the magazine, racking the slide, etc. With frequent exposure to firearms, you get the opportunity to talk about the fundamentals of safety more and the repetition is important to help burn those safety rules into their memory. Gregg notes that there are some 350-million people in this country and more than 100-million of them are gun owners. That means that 1/3 of all households have at least one gun, so teaching firearm safety is important. Making firearms normal and letting kids touch and ask questions helps to demystify them and also avoid accidents that may be caused by a curious kid who hasn’t learned the rules of gun safety.
Tune in for a fun talk with one of my absolute favorite people in the outdoors, Gregg Ritz, as he highlights the importance of passing the outdoor torch to the next generation.
Be sure to catch Gregg Ritz on Hunt Masters, Sundays at 8:30 pm ET on Outdoor Channel. You can also watch with the MyOutdoorTV app where you’ll have access to a complete archive of the Hunt Masters library of episodes.
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