The future of hunting lies in the hands of our children. Hunting is important for the conservation and management of wildlife, without a future generation of hunters, the sport and wildlife will eventually disappear. Here’s how to introduce kids to hunting.
Don’t be afraid to take on the tough stuff. Explain Openly, figuring out how to explain the death and killing of an animal can be the hardest part of getting kids involved and it can sometimes be the factor that turns them away. Explaining it to them will depend on how you have raised them. Involve but Don’t Pressure. Try to involve them when it comes to skinning and field dressing the animal and if they don’t want to help then don’t pressure them. Kids are usually pretty curious and they may decide to watch or help later on. For example, my son saw his first deer on the ground when he was 2 and he wanted nothing to do with it, but my second deer for that season he wanted to help drag it and spent some time examining it.
If they are wanting to examine the animal, give them the chance before you start to field dress, answer any questions they may have and examine it with them. The more comfortable they get and the more they understand, the better chance they will continue on with hunting. The earlier you can involve a child in hunting, the easier it can be for them to understand and accept the sport as they get older.
6 Tips to Start Kids Out in Hunting
1. Be Aware of Safety First: When bringing young ones out on a hunt there are some safety concerns you should think about depending on the age of your kids.
- If your kids are young consider keeping knives, saws, and weapons out of their reach or secured
- Watch that they don’t wander off
- Make sure they don’t eat any plants or bugs
- Keep an eye out for snakes and predators that could hurt them. This is important with young kids that don’t know what to look for and have no way to protect themselves, making them an easy target.
- Be aware of temperature and come prepared. If it’s to hot make sure you have sufficient water for them and cool clothing, if it’s cold make sure they have enough warm clothing and that they are comfortable
If your kids are older you can be a little more relaxed because they tend to know what they can and can’t do. Make sure they follow proper safety when handling weapons.
2. Take Them Out for Hikes and Shed Antlers. We take the kids out as often as possible, sometimes that might mean we drive the roads a little more often. A good way to introduce them to the outdoors is taking them on hikes, if they are small enough you can carry them in a child carrier backpack, and take them shed hunting. It is hard to determine a specific timeline for what is too long for kids as it depends on the child and their age and personality.
3. Your Blind Can Be a Family Friend! Blinds are a great way to introduce kids to hunting because they hide a fidgety kids movement, and if you pack toys along they are able to play quietly. Blinds also keep them contained so you don’t have to worry about them wandering away, letting you keep a better eye out for animals you may be trying to hunt.
As they get older you can take them out hunting with a rifle in a spot where you can sit and have a good length of distance to shoot. Allowing yourself 100+ yards to shoot will lessen the chances of being busted by an animal if the kids move a little bit or whisper. You can usually get more of a timeline in a blind then being out in the open just for the fact you have full cover.
4. Increase Skills as They Age. As they get older, you can introduce them to other styles of hunting like a treestand, spot and stalk, and overnight backpack trips. For treestands, get a 2 seater to start with, so you can sit with them and teach them proper safety, how to set up, and how to shoot from it. Ladder stands tend to be easier to get in and out of so they can be great for beginners.
5. Keep Them Involved. Whichever way you chose to hunt, it’s important to make sure they are comfortable and having fun. We like to bring along snacks andwater (or juice), blankets, small quiet toys and extra clothes. Getting them a pair of small binoculars can make the outings fun and involves them in the hunt. It will give them a sense of importance that you need their help looking for animals and will keep the boredom at bay for a little longer. Teaching them about the trees and plants can keep them interetsed in being outdoors and will help with survival skills that they can use as they get older. Getting them to identify tracks, feces, rubs, animals, she antlers and hair will get them involved in the hunt while making it fun for them as well. Doing these things can help them focus- giving them a task or puzzle to figure out and teaches them some survival skills.
6. Let Them Know You Can’t Always Bring Them! Right now with my kids being young still, there are some outings that we will not bring them on. If we plan to do an overnight backpacking trip, trips with a lot of hiking, sitting in treestands and trips that require us to go into steep terrain. They are either too dangerous for the kids or to far for them to travel.
Getting your kids to grow into responsible, ethical hunters is a life long process of teaching and mentoring. Every outdoor experience can help grow and guide them into good outdoorsmen and women. While having the knowledge to track, identify and hunt animals is part of being a good hunter, the more important part of it is the morals and ethics you carry with you and pass on.
- Teaching our kids respect for fellow hunters and nature is very important. Common courtesy for other hunters, especially when someone is already hunting in the same area, it’s not only being respectful of them but is a matter of safety .
- Making sure they are ready and confident in their shooting abilities, teaching them proper shot placement, and putting them through a hunters education program are all steps in becoming a responsible hunter and should be well covered before they are allowed to hunt.
- Letting them know it’s okay to let an animal walk if you don’t have variables in their favor is good to teach them. That way they don’t feel pressured to take a potentially unethical shot and risk wounding an animal.
- Teaching them the history and importance of hunting for our ecosystems and for balance of wildlife, will give them a better understanding of why we hunt.
No matter what age you are, there is always something to learn and help you grow into a better outdoors-person. By helping your child learn and explore the outdoors, you are bound to learn something new yourself!