By Mia Anstine, TheShootingChannel.com
Educated hunters ensure the future of our sport. One reason we introduce our children to shooting and hunting is to preserve traditions from long ago. Years ago people hunted out of sheer necessity. It was a matter of survival, and an avenue for putting a meal on the table. In this day and age hunting is that and so much more. Hunters contribute so much to our habitats and communities; it only makes sense to introduce your young shooter to the sport. So, how do you ensure your child has fun and becomes the next steward to the planet?
(1) Take them to a Hunters Education course – First thing’s first. Take your child to a hunter safety course. They are offered by most departments of fish and game as well as on-line. Due to the many hunter education programs around the world, hunting is one of the safest forms of outdoor recreation. Hunter education teaches ethics, respect, sportsmanship and wildlife identification. It will also teach the student to become a safe hunter and ultimately a successful one.
“I will do my best to acquire those marksmanship and hunting skills which will assure clean, sportsmanlike kills.” – NRA Hunter’s Code of Ethics
(2) Find the firearm or bow that properly fits – If you want your child to have fun on the hunt, it is important to have an appropriate firearm or bow. You will need to check local hunting regulations to ensure you are using the proper caliber rifle or bow with legal draw weight. There are many rifles and bows available in youth models which will allow your child to be more comfortable and accurate when making a shot.
(3) Practice shooting positions –Once you have acquired the proper firearm or bow, you have got to take the child to the range for practice. Take into consideration the difficulty of acquiring a target and the need for reloading. Make sure to practice this along with a variety of shooting positions so your young one is comfortable handling their firearm or bow in the field.
On a side note, be prepared to possibly have to pack said hunting equipment around in the field for your young hunter. We all want our children to be self-sufficient, independent citizens of society but it may not have to happen the very first time you head out. Depending on the child’s age you may have to be a Sherpa from time to time.
(4) No pressure -Along with helping the child out with the tools of the hunt, it will be a relief and much more enjoyable if there is no pressure. Sometimes we get so caught up in the goal of filling the tag that we may forget about having fun. If the child gets bored more rapidly than you would like, take a deep breath, and say “Okay.” It is alright for them to be a little slow. Based on their personality, you will be able to determine how much to push them. If you happen to be with a kid who has already been encouraged enough, start looking for sign of the animal you are hunting. Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated if they are not as gung-ho as you.
(5) Explore – As a good mentor it is important to include the child in learning as much as you can about the animals you are hunting. Do this both before and during the hunt.
In the field you may spot a rub and see if your protégé sees it as well. If they don’t, be sure to point it out and explain what it is and how it got there. Look for tracks, bugs, lizards, fossils and other “treasures of the outdoors.” If you find a good buck track and happen to be chasing one, ask your young hunter which way it went and see if they can track it. Do your child a favor by asking them questions. Include them in decision making during the quest.
(6) Bring games and snacks – You may have a young one that is fidgety and cannot possibly stay still, or it may not be appropriate to spot and stalk hunt in your neck-o-the-woods. No problem. Use a blind or tree stand. This will conceal movement and allow the child to relax a bit. Bring games for them to play or a camera to use as you sit in the blind or stand.
You will also need to be sure to pack food. Nothing can bring a hunt to a halt as quickly as a child crying “I’m hungry.” The child will be able to sit quite a bit longer and you will not have to lean over and “shoosh” them as much. When the animal makes its way into shooting range, you can gently motion to the child to put down their food or games and prepare for the shot.
Hunting is a very important tool for wildlife management. It will help ensure future health and populations of all animals. You and your child will spend priceless moments in the outdoors and for a connection with one another and nature that is invaluable. Be patient and above all have fun.