When I tell people we went elk hunting with our five-year old and five-month old I get the classic eyebrow raise with the question, “And how did that go for you?”
I was fortunate enough to draw a special permit elk tag this year. I am trying to make the most of every chance I can get to go elk hunting and so last weekend we took a family trip into elk country near Fort Peck Lake, Montana.
Preparing for a hunt for just yourself is one thing, but getting things ready for an overnight with little ones? Let’s just say there is a whole lot more to it. My man and I used a divide and conquer strategy. For our great elk hunting adventure, he took care of the camping equipment and I handled food and youngin’ support gear.
Once we loaded everything into the truck we hit the road. After almost two hours of driving we found a good spot and set up camp. My husband is a connoisseur of ultra light camping and so our little slice of wilderness was an eclectic mix of efficient, light weight gear and mommy must haves, like our pack-n-play and Luggable-Loo.
One thing I have learned as a mom is that it is best to keep your kids entertained. A bored child can be a handful, especially out in the field. Here are some tips I have found useful for taking kids outdoors and camping:
- Children often get restless when you need to get something accomplished, like setting up camp. A pack of crayons and notepad can keep kids entertained for when you need them to stay put.
- Get them involved! Give children fun, easy tasks that will make them feel helpful.
- Establish an exploration boundary line, lay down safety rules and then let them loose to create their own fun in the surroundings.
- Make sure young ones are as comfortable as possible. Even if it means more to haul, bring extra clothing and blankets to make sure kids stay dry and warm.
- For little girls especially, bringing a portable toilet seat like a Luggable-Loo mounted on a 5-gallon bucket can make using “the facilities” much easier.
- For the babies, a new environment can be a bit overwhelming. Packing a couple of favorite toys can help them adapt to their surroundings.
- Little ones also need a safe place to be set down when you are busy and to sleep for the night. Whether it’s a pack-n-play, carseat or other safe sleeping situation, make sure your baby has a place to rest.
Once we set everything up and baby yeti was fed I got camo’d up in my Prois, grabbed my bow and pack and struck out on my own. I knew I couldn’t go very far with another feeding on the horizon, but it was my best chance to learn the area. My plan was to walk for about an hour and then head back. My chances of seeing elk were very slim considering the number of hunters in the area and my limited amount of time, but I was ok with that. Within just a few minutes I was rewarded with the most spectacular views.
I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to be alone out there. This has been my first bit of true “me” time since my youngest was born in April. Just being able to explore on my own was exhilarating.
I found a patch of milk weed that brought back bittersweet memories of my dad teaching me how to hunt using the fluff to read the wind.
Everywhere I looked it was beautiful, from open green meadows and rugged hills to patches of badlands and the sparkling glint of the lake in the distance.
When I got back to our camp I felt rejuvenated. My husband had taken the girls exploring too. Munchkin was thrilled when they found a mule deer shed and was very helpful in collecting sticks to built a fire. We feasted on fire roasted, nitrate free hot dogs and hot chocolate and tea before settling in our sleeping bags, listening to the wind blow and coyotes howl.
In the predawn hours of the morning I thought for sure I heard a bugle, but I did have elk on the brain. As the wee ones stirred we watched a brilliant sunrise. After a light breakfast we broke camp and explored a different area with the truck before heading back home.
It wasn’t the most productive scouting/hunting trip for me, but being able to spend time outside in such a beautiful area of Montana was reward enough. Getting to share that with my family? Priceless. After all, elk have nothing on magical creatures like munchkins and yetis.