Article provided by Jon Sutton, Outdoor Empire
Getting today’s youth involved in hunting and the outdoors comes with a range of benefits. On an individual level, it teaches the young person lessons about persistence and taking on challenges. Hunting also encourages quality interpersonal time spent with friends and family, something that many kids lack these days. Finally, it is an enriching activity, good for the body and soul, which gets kids off the couch and out enjoying nature.
It is also good for the mentor or parent. Most people who are passionate about hunting or fishing learn quickly the joy of getting someone new into the sport, whether it is kids or fellow adults. For moms and dads that love hunting, raising kids that share that love almost guarantees being able to spend more time in the woods each year.
Outside of the individual benefits, each child that takes up hunting as a hobby improves the outlook of hunting for generations to come. To many people, hunting is a throwback that seems against the natural progression of our society and culture. Gun and hunting rights, as well as animal habitat and land access, will probably be challenged forever. The next generation of hunters will be required to defend those rights and opportunities, and adults today must help by introducing that generation to the sport.
First Hunt Requirements
Let’s assume the young hunter-to-be has already shown interest in hunting and spent some time in the woods. They have been shooting their pellet or bb gun and honed their shooting skills. Before moving onto setting up the first outing where they are hunting, here are some requirements to consider:
They meet minimum age requirements for your state and are properly certified (hunter education) and licensed.
Make sure they are competent with the weapon of choice
Discuss that being a hunter means taking the initial shot, humanely dispatching and then field dressing the animal
Assure they not only understand the ethics of hunting but the rationale and safety behind the decisions they must make in the field
The First Hunt
If the child meets the legal requirements and you evaluate them as ready to become a gun or bow-toting hunter, it is time to plan and execute their first hunt. Here are some guidelines to making that hunt successful, even if it does not involve harvesting an animal:
Take advantage of youth hunting seasons: Youth seasons often offer better opportunity than adult seasons, and the adult is not worried about filling their own tag or shooting their own limit on those days.
Go when the weather is nice: Not many people love hunting in foul weather. Eventually, we may endure it for the love of the hunt or know that it helps our odds, but it may burn kids out quickly.
Pick a hunt where success is likely: Go on a hunt where there is a lot of action, like waterfowl or varmints, or a big game hunt where odds are good of a harvest, like a doe deer hunt.
Gear them up! Make sure they are dressed appropriately for the conditions so they are comfortable during the hunt. Give them a compass, two-way radio, binoculars, etc. Make them feel like a full-fledged hunter.
Pack snacks: Bringing food is a sure way to stretch the day out, which will increase chances of success.
Be patient: This is supposed to be fun for the kid. If the passion sticks, they will have their own nerves when they have that first animal in their sights. There is no need to impress your own stress in the moment, or take out frustrations on them after- either are sure ways to discourage your young hunter moving forward.
See more tips on Outdoor Empire.
After the Hunt
Be prepared that the hunt could go very well and the child could still not care for it. It may never be their thing, or they may come around to it years later. Let them know you are open to questions and discussion about how the hunt transpired. But with any luck, a positive initial hunt will be the first step to a lifetime of passion for the sport.