There is no better way to understand the importance of what it means to raise a daughter outdoors then coming straight from the source. We spoke with four mothers across the country who are currently raising their daughters to live a lifestyle in the outdoors, and one that is inclusive of firearms. They have all had their positives of what it means to be a family who appreciates being outside, but with all positives come challenges. Whether or not you are looking to start a family or wanting to adapt to a new lifestyle, These mothers have all overcome those challenges to find success, and ultimately share their tricks on how you can raise your daughter outdoors.
Heather Iverson, while being a mother of two in Holland, Michigan, is an avid outdoorswomen who is active and open about her nature filled lifestyle on social media. She shares the triumphs and the hardships of what it means to enjoy the outdoors with children by her side. She enjoys hunting, fishing, kayaking, as well as a unique hobby of trapping. She believes to teach our daughters about the outdoors is to show them how to care for and utilize our resources that will help put value on our lands, waters, plants and animals, ensuring they will be there for generations to come.
Heather and her daughter with a recently trapped racoon.
“There have been many positives in raising our daughter to love the outdoors,” said Iverson. “She has learned so much about caring for the earth and also how us hunting, fishing, and trapping is beneficial. She is very social and has even explained the benefits to other people, which when you hear it coming from a child I think people who are non-hunters may have a more open mind. It also has really boosted her confidence and sense of adventure.” She notes that you're going to have to slow down and cut back on expectations. Your outings may have to be cut short and animals may get spooked. It is a reminder to learn patience.
When asked about her process for introducing her daughter to firearms, her best advice is to expose them to them and always use the opportunity to teach safety, but also listen to your daughter and go at a pace that is comfortable for her to learn. “We give her the option to try to shoot if she so chooses. She has shot our .177 air rifle and our .22 but hasn't been ready to try shooting a shotgun. We don't push it, we offer and respect her answer. We want her to wait until she is ready and feels comfortable,” said Iverson.
Heather’s daughter practicing her shooting skills alongside her father, Lee.
Erica Anne Hopkins is a mom to three children and lives in Columbia, Tennessee. Both her, her six year-old daughter, and the rest of her family love to go on short hikes, kayak, fish, camp, and swim in the creek. She believes that the outdoors is a place where they will always be able to go and find peace. No matter if they're sitting in a tree stand or floating down the river, in any state the outdoors gives them a place they can escape to, slow down and relax.
Erica assisting her daughter while fishing.
To her, being outdoors encourages her daughter’s imagination and sense of adventure, builds confidence and physical conditioning all a while tiring her out for a good nap. To introduce your daughter into the outdoors she states the best activity to start with is hiking. “Don't stress if they don't want to complete the whole hike, bring lots of snacks and water, wearing comfortable shoes is a must for them and you and be prepared to examine every bug, leaf and rock,” said Hopkins.
When it comes to firearms, Hopkins’ daughter has had much experience with shooting. “She has shot both my handguns, my 22 rifle and my 20 gauge,” said Hopkins. “I waited until she asked if she could shoot too, it was probably the 4th or 5th time she went out with us. She was not a huge fan of my handguns or the 20 gauge, but she's a straight shooter with my 22!”
Erica’s daughter showing off her shooting skills.
Kara Michaud is from Southern Wisconsin and is a mom to her four year-old daughter. While some of her favorite activities include hunting and foraging, Michaud didn’t grow up in an outdoor family that partook in the things she does now. Being able to teach her daughter what it means to live an outdoor lifestyle was a whole new task that she had to learn on her own.
“I simply allowed [my daughter] to understand this is just how we live,” said Michaud “She still loves baby dolls and dress up clothes,but she also likes holding dead ducks or helping mom or dad gut or butcher a deer. I think the best way to go about it is to keep it light! Make sure you don’t just throw them into fear of what’s happening. It’s important to lay down the ground rules first.”
Kara’s daughter after a recent foraging trip to find morel mushrooms.
Over time, Michaud has found many positives in teaching her daughter to embrace the outdoors. “My daughter is four and we do not own a tablet. she would prefer to go hunting or do farm chores versus sitting inside all day. She takes pride and responsibility for her choices and actions. Many things we do shape her as an individual and teach her to think for herself. I wouldn’t say I’m the mom that doesn’t allow cartoons, I would say she would rather ride her four wheeler or just be outside.”
Kara has already taken the time to introduce her daughter to firearms. She notes “they may be a little afraid and that’s okay. Don’t push them just take it as it is and try to make it fun. Praise them and let them know when they are doing it correctly. What you do in the beginning shapes their outlook.”
Kara teaching her daughter how to shoot a bow.
Angi Hilde is a mom of two living in Minnesota who loves everything from fishing, hiking, camping, and foraging. To her, she feels as if the outdoors provides a more hands on, grounded approach when it comes to learning. Kids minds crave new information and they will retain considerably more in a hands-on approach.
“[My daughter] is very independent and a leader amongst her peers. She is knowledgeable about where her food comes from and has a respect for wildlife/the earth. She is not afraid to get dirty.” said Hilde.
She notes that the hardest part of raising a daughter outdoors is “finding little girls camo is difficult. I have made some of her camo clothes.” said Hilde. She also notes that it’s not always easy to move around with a young child. “Her little legs get tired, so I have a backpack I carry her in while we hike or pheasant hunt”.
Angi assisting her daughter with shooting her BB gun.
Hilde shares a few different tips and tricks that help slowly introduce children to the outdoors. These include:
1) Go on a nature walk. Have them find 3-5 things to take pictures of with a camera/phone. Write down some descriptors of the object/animal. Then look them up online and learn about them.
2) Go to State Parks. Learn about different Biomes. Sit in the woods for 20 minutes and have them write down what they see/hear/smell. Then sit in a field/by a lake and do the same. Have them notice the different plants and animals that live there.
3) Build bird houses or duck houses. Learn the differences that the houses need to make different species inhabit them.
4) Hang bird feeders and get them a bird book. Let them check off all the different species they see.
5) Learn about how you can raise monarch butterflies and/or build a monarch habitat.
6 )The state parks and a lot of cities now offer informational/hands on maple syrup making classes.
7) Archery lessons.
Written by: Molly Kwakenat