Start Hunting with Kids: When and How to Take a Child Hunting
March 21, 2022
Do you want to take kids hunting, but not sure when or how to start? Here are three ways to prepare a child for hunting and lessons they can learn.
As the cooler weather sets in, much-anticipated fall hunts begin. It’s the season for brisk mornings, crunchy leaves, gearing up, and finally wrangling in that big buck—and maybe a kid or two.
Do you have plans to take a kid hunting this fall? There's a unique kind of magic in that experience—plus a lot of valuable teaching moments. And now is the time to start preparing for them. But how exactly do you do that? And how do you know if hunting is even something a child will like? Finding out starts long before their first hunt. Here are three ways to prepare a child to hunt and three lessons they can learn from it.
3 Ways to Prepare Kids for Hunting
I chatted with Gene Price—avid hunter, long-time Redmond team member, and grandpa to an enthusiastic, camo-clad nine-year-old—about the topic. Gene lives in Ohio and manages his own land and deer herd with grandson Carson as his sidekick and right-hand man.
Carson is a dead aim with a crossbow and has already used it to snag an impressive number of deer. He’s been hunting with his grandpa since he was five and is one of those boys that naturally took to it.
“He just gets it,” Gene said.
But not all children do. So how do you know when or if your child is interested in the sport? Here are three things to do before your little’s first hunt to find out if they’re a hunter candidate. We call them the three P’s: prepare, participate, and practice.
1. Prepare Children Mentally
Preparation is essential to helping a child understand and enjoy a new hunting experience—and a critical aspect of that is mental preparation.
“You can’t just take a kid from playing in the backyard to expecting them to sit quiet in a blind or watch an animal get shot,” Gene said. “There’s a lot of preparation that needs to happen before.”
Let's cover two important parts of preparation that will help you know when and how to introduce children to the activity.
What Age is Appropriate for Hunting?
The age when a child or youth can legally carry a gun and shoot a big-game animal differs depending on where you live. Some states have no age limit. Others range from 10 to 16 years old and may include requirements about hunting as an apprentice or with a mentor. Many states also require a hunter safety course. Find out here what hunting age requirements your state has. Then watch the video below to see one of our Redmond team member's 14-year-old on his first big-game hunt!
As with most things in life, knowing the right time to take your child on his or first hunt is an individual decision. However, for many the hunting tradition doesn't have a specific start date; it's simply ingrained in the family culture. It's passed down from generation to generation and is part of everyday life.
So, if your child isn't carrying or shooting, the overall hunting experience can be enjoyed at nearly any age! Consider introducing youth to some of these hunting-related activities to start your own traditions. They're a great way to teach kids about safety, give meaningful education in the field, and help them gain valuable experience and appreciation for the outdoors.
How to Explain Hunting to a Child
Hunting is about so much more than just harvesting an animal. It's exploring, bonding with family and friends, appreciating nature and the wonder of mountains and woods and wildlife. Sharing your excitement for that and explaining the circle of life—nature's way of taking and giving; when something dies, it gives new life to something else—is a great place to start a conversation with children and even toddlers.
You'll also need to talk to kids about what actually takes place on a hunt. Tell them real-life situations. Explain why you hunt—whether for food, adventure, conservation, or trophies—and the process of harvesting wildlife. Carefully explain that the chance of shooting and killing an animal exists. Be clear about what you'll do with the meat. See how they react. Answer their questions. Do they seem receptive, interested? Or not?
“Some aren’t going to be,” Gene said. “Some can’t mentally get over seeing an animal harvested. They don’t understand it and they don’t want to be a part of it.”
And that’s okay. If your child isn’t receptive, don’t force it. Hunting may not be their thing. Or they may become interested as they experience other activities like the ones listed below.
2. Participate in Hunting-Related Activities
If you want your youth to appreciate every aspect of hunting, make it an active part of their life—not just something that happens once a year. For Gene and his family, there’s a lot of work involved in the lifestyle. Managing the land and a healthy deer herd is a year-round responsibility. It’s also one that provides opportunities for fun, teaching moments, and quality time together. Here are some hunt-related activities you can participate in with kids year-round:
- Go out scouting. This is a great opportunity to give youth a firsthand glimpse at animals in the field. Activities might involve spotting animals, looking for food sources, or teaching about deer sign, like scrapes and rubs.
- Prepare mineral sites. Scoping out a site and putting out minerals on your land is a deer management responsibility that can also be a fun outing. (Need deer minerals? Stock up on natural Redmond Trophy Rock and Cherry Bomb.)
- Share trail cam pics. Kids dig animals! Take time to show them cool shots and video you pick up on your trail cam.
- Plant food plots. It doesn’t get much better than climbing in a tractor with your little, taking care of the land and talking about deer.
- Go shed hunting. Who doesn’t love an outdoor treasure hunt? Searching for antlers is a fun expedition at any age.
- Watch a show. Cue up an outdoor TV series you and your kids can enjoy and talk about.
- Give em' a call. Pull out your deer, duck or other animal calls and let kids experiment making noises. Teach them which sounds belong to which animals.
- Recreate hunting scenarios. Spending time in a blind or canvassing your land helps children see animals up close and discover what a real hunt might be like.
- Help harvest animals. Teach that harvesting an animal is part of taking care of it. Encourage kids to help cook and eat harvested meat.
3. Practice Responsible Hunting
A child's most influential teacher when it comes to good hunting practices is the one who takes them out most. If that’s you, polish up your own ethics then help youth learn to be good stewards.
“Be very cautious around kids,” Gene advised. “Make sure you practice good habits and show respect for the land, animals, people, and your weapons. They will see your example and follow your footsteps.”
There are also great youth programs to prepare and educate children. Here are three hunter education courses we recommend:
- The National Archery in Schools Program is a program for grades 4 to 12 that teaches archery and ethics.
- In 4H Shooting Sports, youth learn marksmanship, responsible use of firearms, archery principles, and develop life skills, self-worth, and conservation ethics.
- Hunter Safety Courses are available nationwide and teach students responsible firearm handling, laws and regulations, and game identification.
3 Lessons Kids Learn from Hunting
From preparing for their first hunt to bagging their first buck and beyond, youth can learn valuable life lessons from heading into the woods. Here are three Gene feels it teaches:
- Stewardship and respect. A good hunter learns respect for the animals, the land, and to accept stewardship over both.
- Skills to help provide. Youth learn about resources in the world they can hunt and harvest. They develop skills that help them provide for themselves and their families.
- Patience, control, and confidence. Hunting is a sport that requires diligence, discipline, and courage—all attributes that help youth gain self-confidence.
Reflecting on his grandson’s first successful deer hunt, Gene recalled the confidence in Carson’s voice after he made the shot.
“He just looked at me with this big grin and said, ‘I knew I could do it,’” Gene said. “That kind of confidence that comes from hunting can really grow a kid. When life challenges come up, they can reflect back on their experience harvesting an animal and know they can handle this situation facing them too. That’s why you take a kid hunting.”
Did you know taking kids hunting is a foundational part of Redmond's core values? Heritage, tradition, and passing it down is a big part of why we hunt! Click below to find out what our other three values are.
© Redmond Hunt 2022. All rights reserved.
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