Start Kids Hunting the Right Way
Bob McNally 09.28.15
Too many parents whose hearts are in the right place start their children on the hunting road with too serious a regime.
A trophy whitetail hunt in the dead of a Northern winter isn’t something a 10-year old kid likely will find fun–at least not all-day sorties for a week with long pauses between action.
Instead, do something simple, preferably an outdoor trip with just you and the young one. A squirrel hunt is a perfect hunting venue for beginners. Make sure he or she carries a gun, even if it’s just a toy “pop” gun or BB gun. Work to bring him or her into the big hunting fraternity. Don’t keep him in the woods so long that he loses interest, or he’ll dread going back again.
Let him play with ants and caterpillars when squirrels aren’t co-operative. Show him how to spot a squirrel nest, how to identify nut-bearing trees, and listen for a squirrel’s bark to pinpoint the bushytail. It’s all part of the outdoor game, and that’s what makes it fun to a youngster–and you, too.
You’ll never hunt to the best of your ability when youngsters are pulling at your coat tails, but taking a limit of squirrels isn’t what’s important when children are along. It’s having them with you that matters. It’s watching their excited eyes when squirrels suddenly start leaping around in the treetops that makes a father-daughter or mother-son hunt something special.
Dove shoots are ideal to get even very young children excited about the outdoors. Dressed in camouflage, they automatically feel as though they belong to a special club or group, like all the other hunters. Have the youngster bring along a toy gun and let him or her sit on their own stool beside you. If you have a gun dog, let your daughter have a part in working the dog. Just being there with you, time and again outdoors, will get her started on the right foot to hunting enjoyment that will last all your lives.
Kids perceive and hear everything during hunts. Practice and preach conservation ethics as though they were the Holy Bible, and your kids will turn out for the better outdoors, and indoors, too.
Be sure to point out wild flowers, a hawk or osprey soaring overhead, or a turtle on a log. Thrill to the sight of a hummingbird or a butterfly, and they will, too. These things wild and exciting–besides the actual hunting–will go a long way in a youngster’s understanding of the environment, of conservation, and of the importance of the real outdoors.
Talk to them about game laws; about why there is a limit on quail, but not coyotes; why only drake mallards and cock pheasants should be shot; and why at times it’s important to shoot only bucks, while other times only does.
Point out the beauties of running water, of a spider’s web holding morning dew, and multi-colored leaves falling in an autumn breeze. Take the time to show a child a fox track or where wild hogs have rooted ground. Stop to show youngsters a persimmon tree, and tell them why there are deer tracks and droppings on the ground beneath it. Emphasize safety afield, how to cross a fence with firearms, and how to carry guns with companions at your side.
Through the early outdoor stages with youngsters, adults should constantly remind kids about courtesy shown others afield and respect for wildlife, water, and landowners. Safety also is paramount. Most states offer firearms safety courses, and every youngster should attend one of these well-structured and usually free schools.
As outdoor youngsters get older they’ll desire more responsibilities afield, and they’ll invariably ask to do many of the things they’ve seen you do. This happens very quickly if you’ve taken time over the years to explain things outdoors to them. When they want to run the duck boat, let them (under proper supervision, of course). When it’s time to clean birds or dress deer, they should help. It’s the same with wrapping and freezing of harvested game and the cooking chores, too.
Youngsters should learn sometime about how to put out decoys, and when they want to help, gladly accept their offer. Rejoice at their requests to get involved.
As I grow older, I find my kids have better outdoor instincts, eyesight, and drive than me, and that’s as it should be.
It’s all part of America’s unique hunting tradition and heritage. It’s the natural order of passing the hunting baton from one generation to the next.