Case: Babes in the woods grow up be great and grateful outdoorsmen

Photo contributed by Larry Case / While there are some finer points to taking kids hunting and fishing, the first step is to help them appreciate the outdoors simply by being there from a young age, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case.

Some of you out there may know that we just welcomed our second grandkid. My daughter just had a little boy who hopefully will go on outings with his girl child cousin and me, their old granddad, into the trackless wastes of the wilderness and on the back 40 of some familiar farms.

Being a new granddad tends to bring on a sense of all-knowing, all-seeing grandfatherly wisdom and knowledge, which of course you want to impart on the less fortunate and those not blessed with your wisdom. (Honestly, you guys may just have to put up with this for a while,)

As we have discussed here before, getting outdoors and introducing youngsters to the wonders of hunting and fishing is a great way to bring up and raise a better class of children. Better for them, and better for society and the world in general.

You don't think so? Stay with me here while you eat your Wheaties or have another cup of bad coffee.

Here are some of the ways to raise that kid in the outdoors. Remember: Muddy boots make a happy kid.

Start them young.

Now just how young may be up for discussion, but you can figure it out. Even if you are still carrying them most of the time, though, take them with you. It doesn't have to be a daylight-to-dark excursion (in fact, don't do that at first), but short trips to acclimate everyone to a hunting or fishing environment is a good idea.

The idea is to start very young so the kids can become familiar with these outings and will start to enjoy it.

Several years ago, I happened to be in the company of some very avid outdoorsmen, one a full-time hunting and fishing guide and the other a game warden who is an active hunter. We were in the middle of the early goose season, and when they both showed up with young children that early morning, I was a little skeptical. In the predawn darkness, getting kids out of car seats while they were still asleep seemed a little strange to me. I was doubtful about the whole thing, but I shouldn't have been.

Once everybody woke up and we got in the blinds, everything was just fine. The three youngsters were not one bit of trouble. They sat still when they needed to, played quietly when no geese were around, and I realized they added a lot to the trip. When some honkers did come to our decoys and the shooting stopped, I think a couple of them outran the retrievers to pick up geese. They loved it. They were having fun. (Remember that part about having fun.)

Let them do it.

The tendency for most parents, and I was certainly guilty of it, is to jump in and do everything for the kids so they won't "mess it up." Instead, turn them loose and let them do it.

You need some close supervision when dealing with sharp knives and firearms, of course, but if you are only worried about the possibility of making a little mess, or that they might do it "wrong," don't worry about it. Give even the small children a free hand and watch what happens. They will love it.

Kids catch on fast that you are letting them do something that is a little out of the sphere of what children are usually allowed to do. It makes them feel important and like they're part of the things that need to be done. Kids want to do this; they want to jump in and be a part of the whole outing, not just be told to "sit over there and be quiet until we shoot something."

So let them help build the blind, skin a deer or clean a turkey, catch bait in the creek, wash dishes and build fires in camp. They will remember this and look forward to doing it again. They will actually think it is fun. (There is that fun thing again.)

Don't make a big deal out of it, and it won't be.

There are things in the outdoors world that adults sometimes want to be squeamish about. Killing game and taking fish to eat require care in field dressing and preparing it to be cooked. It is a fact of life, it is what you have to do, and if you go about it as a normal part of the process, most kids will catch on quickly.

Let them help you and get their hands dirty. If you start them out early on this, you will soon have a great helper who may surpass you in the skills of taking care of your game in the field. The idea here is to be positive about all of this, whether you are field dressing a deer or putting out a decoy spread.

Kids are a blank canvas and little sponges, so if you or a member of your party are negative about something, it may transfer to the youngsters. If you are serving wild game and one person says they don't like venison or squirrel gravy and biscuits, it may sway others, kids included. Be positive; let them make up their own mind.

Teach them to be better people.

Kids like to learn. Maybe you have caught on that there is lot of learning going on for the young person reared up in the outdoors. All of the myriad skills to be learned by the outdoorsman (remember that means both boys and girls) make you a better, more confident, self-reliant, well-rounded and well-equipped person to face all of the things that life will throw at you.

We didn't even begin to scratch the surface on the number of things they can learn in hunting camp and on the river bank. Kids trained in the outdoors will just naturally be well-adjusted and confident citizens, and who doesn't want that?

So take them to the woods. Take them to the creeks and rivers. Let them get wet and cold and cut a finger. Get them some boots and keep them muddy.

When they are grown, they will thank you for it.

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at