If you're a hunter, chances are, you intend to introduce your kids to hunting. You probably have a rough idea of how you want to do it.
Maybe you've been anticipating their first hunt with you — their maiden hunting trip or deer season. Whatever it is, getting kids into hunting can be a rewarding experience, but it requires adequate preparation and patience.
First, young kids have shorter attention spans than adults. Besides, they don't have patience and weather tolerance as adults.
So, if you want to make your kids a member of your hunting crew, you'd better be ready. Here's what you need to do when taking the young hunters into the woods.
1. Prepare Them Mentally
You can't simply take your kid straight from the backyard and expect them to sit quietly in a blind and watch you shoot an animal. There's a lot of preparation that needs to happen prior.
Preparation allows the young hunter to understand and enjoy the new hunting experience.
Let's go over two crucial aspects of preparation to help you know when and how to introduce the hunting season.
At What Age Should You Introduce Your Kids to Hunting?
The age when a kid or young hunter can legally carry a hunting rifle and shoot big-tag differs from state to state.
While some states have no age limit, others allow youth hunting for kids aged from 10 to 16 years old. Others have legal requirements about hunting with kids or as an apprentice. Many states require a hunter safety course.
Find out hunting age regulations for your state.
Deciding when to teach kids how to hunt is an individual decision. However, for most hunting enthusiasts, the hunting tradition doesn’t have a specific start date; it’s ingrained in the family culture and passed from generation to generation.
How to Explain Hunting to Your Child
There’s more to hunting than harvesting deer or good buck. It’s also about exploring, bonding with other hunters, and enjoying mother nature and wildlife.
Sharing this excitement with your child and explaining the life cycle can give them a reason to look forward to their first hunt. Think of it as a way to start conversations around hunting.
You’ll need to talk to them about what to expect in the woods. Narrate real-life situations. Explain why you hunt — whether for trophies, conservation, food or adventure — and what’s involved.
Let the young hunters know there’s a chance they can shoot and kill an animal. Explain what you’ll do with the meat. Gauge their reaction and answer any questions they might have. Are they receptive? Or maybe they aren't interested?
Some kids aren’t going to be receptive. Others can’t handle the thought of seeing an animal getting killed. They don’t understand the reason for deer hunting and don’t want to be involved. And that’s perfectly in order.
If your kid isn’t interested, don’t force them. They may not be into hunting.
2. Participate in Hunting Related Activities
Kids hunting shouldn’t be an annual event. If you want your young ones to appreciate kids hunting, you must make it part of their livelihood.
You can, for instance, encourage kids to hunt by letting them manage your land and deer herd all year round.
Other hunt-related activities for your young child include:
- Shed hunting
- Calling out animals
- Plant food plots
- Recreating hunting situations, such as canvassing your land or spending time in a blind
- Watching outdoor TV shows
3. Teach Your Kids Responsible Hunting
Your kid can only learn good shooting habits from the person who takes them to hunt most of the time; you. So, polish up your hunting ethics to help any child involved be a good hunter.
Hunting with kids requires you to set a good example for the new hunters. Practice good habits, and respect the land, animals and your hunting ammo.
Some excellent youth programs to prepare and educate hunters at a young age include:
- The National Archery in Schools Program, created for grades four to twelve. It teaches archery and ethics.
- The Quality Deer Management Association Mentor's Guide
- The 4H Shooting Sports, a course designed to teach first-time hunters archery principles, marksmanship, hunting safety, conservation ethics, and responsible use of firearms.
Side Note: There are many hunting safety courses available in the country that teach state-specific laws and regulations, game identification, and gun safety.
4. Start Small
Young kids can be noisy and restless. They’re eager to explore, talk and ask questions. So, instead of forcing them to stay still in the ground blind or deer stand for extended periods, keep the first hunts short and active.
Small game hunts are great to introduce kids to hunting because they allow them to talk and move. If you take your kid to hunt their first deer, limit the time to one hour before shifting to a walking/moving session.
Slip along through the hunting ground. Pause and talk about what you hear. Remember, taking kids hunting boils down to creating a memorable experience.
Speaking of starting small, some excellent first hunt options for kids include:
- Duck hunting
- Turkey hunt
- Dove hunting
- Squirrel hunting
5. Stay Safe
Safety should be a top priority when hunting with kids. Accidents can happen, and hunting with inexperienced young hunters increases the likelihood.
Even if you’ve had a successful deer hunt a couple of times with your child, don’t assume they know the ins and outs of hunting safety.
Spend quality time teaching hunting safety and explain the bad habits your kid needs to avoid during hunts.
The right gear is crucial for a successful hunt. Ensure the kid knows their equipment. Whether a bow or gun, using the correct gear provides safety, control, and confidence.
Also, make sure your child is dressed for the weather and hunting conditions. Check out our hunting day essentials guide to help you prepare appropriately.
One more thing; when using guns to hunt, make sure you and your kid have proper ear protection.
Getting kids into hunting can be a delicate balancing act. But with the right approach, it can be a rewarding experience for your children.
Be patient, and focus on safety and ethics. Hunting with kids can create some of your most memorable moments. And if you do it right, you can help the little ones develop a lifelong passion that’ll be passed along for generations.