HUNTING WITH KIDS

If you are an avid hunter, chances are that you’ll want to pass hunting traditions down to your children. You may already have an idea of how hunting will fit into your life and how you want to introduce them to it. The greatest joy of being a parent is to be able to share your passions and traditions with your children. Spending time with them doing activities you love helps keep kids mentally and emotionally strong.

By including your children in hunting preparation and activities they will develop an appreciation for outdoor sports. They will learn how to aim, shoot and field dress an animal and learn self-reliance in the field. Below are some of the things kids can learn by hunting with you as well as some tips to be prepared to make hunting more fun.

Safety

Regardless of your child’s age or ability, safety is the first step you will want to teach your child. Hunter education courses are helpful to learn in an educational environment. Most states offer hunters’ safety courses and youth hunting educational classes through their conservation departments. It is also very important for parents and mentors to work on safety outside of the hunter education classes. The practice will help them get used to the proper handling of firearms. Proper handling includes storage, use, safety precautions, loading and unloading and shooting targets.

  • Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, especially when loading or unloading a firearm. Make it a habit to know exactly where the firearm is pointed at all times.
  • Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use. Firearms and ammunition should be secured in a safe place, separate from each other when not at the range or in the field. Never cross a fence, climb a tree or perform awkward action with a loaded firearm.
  • Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using

In addition to firearm safety, kids should be taught to be aware of their surroundings.  It is easy for them to get distracted but they should stay focused on key factors when hunting.

  • Blind spots that could be concealing a person, animal or object that should not be shot.
  • Where they are in relation to other hunters, homesites or the road.
  • Most importantly they should never shoot unless they are absolutely sure of their target.

You should also make sure that your child has the proper fit and level of gear for their hunt.

  • Their firearm needs to fit them and their abilities. They need to be able to handle the firearm for proper aim and control.
  • They need to have proper-sized clothing that won’t get in the way of their safety.  Making sure they have the proper cold-weather gear will help them fight off frostbite on their extremities (and enjoy the hunt much more!) The right gear is important, both for safety and to help build confidence in their hunting abilities.

These skills need to be practiced every single time you hunt or practice. As the parent or mentor, you should know all the rules and safety precautions and practice them the right way every time. This will reinforce proper procedures every time you are in the field or at the range.

Ethics

It is the parent’s and mentor’s responsibly to make sure new hunters know all rules and regulations of hunting. You can help them learn ethics and respect for the sport and other hunters. Some of the most important topics you should teach your children are simple, yet effective.

  • Ask permission to hunt on private land; don’t expect that it is ok to bring extra hunters once you receive permission
  • Be respectful of the property and all the elements on the land. If a farmer has crops in, don’t drive through a crop field. Close a gate if you open it, leave it open if it already was open. If you’re setting stands or blinds, don’t cut down trees or limbs without first asking permission.
  • Be respectful of other hunters: limit the noise you make and leave ample space between you and them.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and know where other hunters, vehicles, homes or businesses are and never point your firearm in that direction.

Respect For The Animal

Hunting can also teach children how to respect the animal(s) they are hunting.  When kids watch game being cleaned and processed, they get a sense of where their meat comes from and that it was a once-living animal.  It also teaches them how to properly care for an animal after it’s been harvested and how to utilize all of the meat from an animal that gave its life. It is important that they understand that if they eat meat, it comes from an animal.  Living by the rule “if you kill it, you eat it” will help them understand that animals are respected and the meat is not wasted.

The Importance Of Our Environment And Conservation

The role that hunters play in conserving wildlife does two main things: it acts as a funding source for state agencies that help conserve habitat and secondly it helps control populations that may have population explosions or disease. It is important for children to understand the balance they play in conserving the wildlife populations and the habitat they live in will help them preserve the hunting tradition for future generations.

Set Expectations, Let Them Have Fun And Enjoy The Time With Them

Setting kid’s expectations will help them understand that hunting is not easy and that you will not automatically get an animal. Mentally prepare them for withstanding the cold temperatures. Remind them that they’ll need to be very patient. Discuss the plan for what to do if an animal is seen and what to do after the animal is harvested.

Do not get wrapped in the details and the gear of the hunt. Kids just want to be out and enjoy their time in the field. Providing snacks can help pass the time while waiting for an animal to come into site. Let them enjoy the moment instead of being under pressure to perform to an adult’s expectations. They are more likely to come back to hunting if they have a positive experience and continue to learn the details of hunting.

Lastly- enjoy the time with them.  This is the time for you to let them experience the moment. Let them tell you everything going on with them or just sit in silence enjoying nature. It really is a great way to connect with kids outside of the busy day-to-day life.