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
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.
I have found with my kids being raised around hunting they seem to just accept it because they have grown up around it, but there are still questions that come up. Questions like, “Is the animal dead?” and “why is it dead?”. Make sure to reassure them and answer their questions truthfully; explain that this is a part of hunting and where our food comes from.
Involve but Don’t Pressure
Try to involve them when it comes to skinning and field prepping 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 2 year-old son saw his first dead deer last season and he was scared of it-wanted nothing to do with it, but my next deer after that he was in there like a dirty shirt – trying to help me pull it out and examining it.
If they are wanting to examine the animal, give them the chance before you start your field prep, answer any questions they have and maybe examine it with them. The more comfortable they get, the better chance they will continue on with hunting themselves. 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 Slowly 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 reach or secure
- Watch they don’t wander off
- Watch they don’t eat any plants
- Keep an eye out for snakes or predators that could hurt them. This is important. Little kids don’t know what to look for and have no way of protecting themselves -making them an easy target.
- Be aware of temperature, and come prepared. If it’s too hot make sure you have sufficient water for them and cool clothing, if it’s cold make sure they have enough warm clothing. 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 their weapons.
2. Take them out for Hikes and Sheds
We take the kids out as often as possible, sometimes that might mean road hunting more often. A good way to introduce them to the outdoors is taking them on hikes-if they are small enough you can put them in a child carrier backpack- and taking them shed hunting. It is hard to determine a specific time line for what is too long for kids as it depends on the kid and their age. Road hunting tends to have the longest time line for us because the kids can play, talk (quietly), and they are comfortable.
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 quietly play. Blinds also keep them contained so you don’t need to worry about them wandering away, letting you keep a better eye out for animals you may be trying to hunt.
As their listening skills get better 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 to have a couple hundred 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 time line 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 the more you can introduce them too, like tree stands, spot and stalking and overnight trips. Get a two seater stand to start with so you can teach them proper safety and how to setup and 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 choose to hunt, it’s important to make sure they are comfortable and having fun. We like to bring along snacks and water (or juice), blankets, small quiet toys, and extra clothes. Getting them a small pair of binoculars can make it 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 interested in being outdoors and will help with survival skills that they can use as they get older. Getting them to identify tracks, scat, rubs, animals 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. Know you Can’t Always Bring them Everywhere
Right now with my kids being 5 and 3, there are some outings that we will not bring them on. If we plan to do overnight backpack trips, trips with a lot of hiking, sitting in tree stands, and trips that require us to go into steep country. They are either to dangerous for the kids or too far for them to travel on foot.
Be a Role Model
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 outdoors men 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. I have noticed over the last few years that this has declined in the hunting community.
- 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, is not only being respectful of them but is a matter of safety.
- Making sure they are ready and confident in their shooting ability, 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 is ok to let an animal walk if you do not have variables in your favor is good to teach them so they don’t feel pressured to take a potentially unethical shot and risk wounding the animal.
- Teaching them the history and importance of hunting for our ecosystems and for balance 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 Outdoorsman.