The best way to forge a life-long hunter is to allow them to start young. Hunting isn’t just a good way to bring your kids outdoors and to bond with them. But, with proper teaching, your child will also grow up with great values, too. Patience, responsibility, an ethical view on the world and a deep-seated respect for nature.
However, since hunting is undeniably a sport with a greater amount of danger than most, most parents are rightly cautious.
“How young is young enough to start bringing my kids to the hunting fields?” is a very common question that we receive.
That’s why this guide exists. Today, we won’t just tell you how to determine when’s the proper time to take your child out hunting. We’ll also show you a few tips and tricks to build them into competent hunters, as well.
When Is the Right Time to Take Your Child Out for Their First Hunt?
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a definitive answer, you won’t find it here. As a matter of fact, you won’t find it anywhere.
Every child is different. So, there’s no ‘magic age’ that would miraculously turn them into a good hunter once they reached it. There’s no legal age for a child to shoot his/her first animal, either.
Instead, you have to watch for some signs that they are mentally ready for the rigors of the hunt.
The greatest sign is extremely simple: that they ask to tag along with you. If you feel like they’re physically capable of walking for a few miles, do bring them along!
You don’t have to take them to a hunting field proper. Instead, you can bring them out on mock/simulated hunts where there isn’t any danger (a national park, for example).
Along the way, encourage them to ask questions about hunting and show them the craft. Teach them the different animals and how to recognize them. Ideally, you should put them into situations where they get to discover the art of hunting themselves. That will get them far more excited.
A second sign is that they show interest in what you do. If, after a hunting trip, your child asks you all manner of questions about hunting, then it’s best that you show them rather than just tell them.
But one important thing. Before you bring them along, make sure that your child is well into the age of reason (around 5 or 6). They should be able to comprehend the world around them as well as understanding the fundamentals of hunting and firearm safety.
What You Have to Know When You Bring Your Child to a Hunt
The preparedness of the mentor (in this case, you) can make or break a prospective hunter. Before you take your child out for their first hunting session, make sure you’re prepared mentally.
A critical quality of a good hunter is patience. But in this case, it doesn’t apply to an animal or even the child, it applies to you.
Most children are impatient. Mixed in with their inexperience and, at times, they could feel like an annoyance. They will walk loudly and scare all the games off, they will make simple mistakes, they also won’t pay a lot of attention to you and their surrounding environment.
Whatever you do, do not lose your patience with them. You have to be able to command their attention without becoming frustrated. Turn simple mistakes into learning experiences. That is how you build characters as well as forge a budding hunter.
An Eye on Their Own Emotions
Children have very volatile emotions. There’s no telling how they will react to seeing a large animal die for the first time. Or how they will react after making their first shot and, ultimately, their first kill.
So, keep an eye on their emotions.
If they look a bit squeamish after their first kill, teach them about nature’s life cycle and how it is important. Nevertheless, although it is important, you also have to teach them proper respect for the game and why killing should never be treated lightly.
If they missed their first shot and are down, pile them with encouragement and tricks on how to perform better next time around.
All in all, aim to turn frowns upside down and negatives into positives.
How to Arrange Their First Field Trip?
Start with a small caliber rifle that’s not too heavy and doesn’t have a lot of recoil.
A .22 LR-chambered beginner rifle will do the trick for 90% of kids. The recoil is feather-light, but the power is still decent enough to take out a small game like a squirrel from 50 yards out.
Such a rifle is also great for introducing your child to firearms for the first time.
Before bringing them to their first field trip, go through firearm safety carefully. If there are courses at your local range, bring them along. And, of course, depending on the regulations in your state, check to see if they are legally able to hunt or not.
Start first with smaller games. Squirrels and rabbits are both great ‘beginner games’. While you’re at it, you can teach them all of the basic hunting skills. For example, how to move around so as to make the smallest amount of noise as possible. Or how to listen in and check for animals.
You won’t be able to teach everything in a single day, of course. So, don’t be too frustrated if they don’t understand immediately.
Moving Up to Larger Games
Most children will be stuck in the ‘small game’ stage for a year or two. So, by the time they’re ready for larger ones like whitetails, they have a decent belt-full of experience behind the trigger, already.
So, you can upgrade them to better gears. Give them a larger caliber rifle.
Still, it’s important that you understand that they’re nowhere ready for tackling buck hit-lists yet. Scout for where to shoot deer for quick kills. Give them the easy ones first before moving onto the harder, tougher, and shrewder ones.
While handling larger caliber rifles, we highly recommend you to give them a bipod for recoil management and stability. For example, if you’re looking to introduce them to the AR-15 platform, consider these best AR15 bipod foregrip for stable shooting before setting out.
Hunting is a great hobby to teach your children about. It is also highly educational and could give them excellent characters. So, don’t second guess your decision on introducing them to the sport!
As long as you keep a close eye on them and teach them everything about safety, you will both have an excellent time on the field.