Early hunting experiences may determine if a child wants to hunt later in life. Problem is, you can’t generalize children, all are different. Some kids may never enjoy hunting and that’s alright.
The first hunts must involve game you plan to eat. This gives your child a sense of importance for providing the evening meal and a sense of reasoning why they took an animal, bird or fowl’s life.
Beginning hunters should watching hunting shows or videos with their hunting mentor. This allows opportunities to answer questions and for your youth to understand hunting.
Start with hunter’s education classes, then spend plenty of time at the shooting range. Spending a lot of time shooting is fun, but more importantly, it promotes safety and good marksmanship for the important one-shot kill. Familiarization with a firearm is essential to good, safe hunts.
Harvesting an animal or fowl is part of hunting. Make sure youth understand that this is a small part of the overall experience. For example, learning about the outdoors first hand instead of on a computer provides the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
Mistakes on a hunt happened to novice and veterans. This may mean missing the shot or making a critical error that spooks the wildlife. Never scold your novice hunter, just explain their error and encourage them to try again.
What can you youth gain from hunting? On a hunt, your senses are sharper and your boy or girl will become part of the environment. Hunting challenges the mind and body in many ways will bring us closer to nature.
Hunting involves beauty mixed with good dogs working, viewing different animals and birds plus actually being part of nature. Sun rises and sun sets create even more beauty to enjoy. The rewards of hunting are too numerous to mention.
So, what species will your child hunt first?
Squirrels: Many of us started squirrel hunting. This is a sport filled with beautiful fall leaves and pleasant temperatures. The question is, will anyone in your family eat a squirrel?
Kids can learn hunting patience on squirrel hunts. Make sure they have insect repellent adequate boots and good camouflage. Sit with your child on early hunts to explain what to do in whispers. This is a good opportunity to learn how to sit still while studying the trees with eyes and little or no head movement. Squirrels are not demanding to hunt and your child has a good possibility of success if they have spent the proper amount of time at the shooting range.
Remember to slow down so your child can keep a comfortable pace when moving place to place. Will you child make mistakes and spook squirrels? Naturally. Just be patient, smile and move on while remembering, this is your child’s experience. Mistakes will make their first squirrel harvest even more special.
Fried squirrel is an early American favorite meal, but many these days consider them disgusting. Nothing is farther from the truth. Squirrel meat in a Brunswick stew or fried squirrel is fine table fare and not undesirable meat.
Rabbits: Rabbit hunting is a good sport to start if you can find rabbits. More furbearers and changing farming practices have made wild rabbits somewhat scarce. Some areas still have wild rabbits however, and few meals are better. Fried wild rabbit is some of our best wild meat.
Your child should be fitted with good brush pants, boots and a hunter’s orange vest and hat. His firearm should be light weight and fitted to the child. Some start their child with a .22 rifle, but I recommend a 20-gauge shotgun with modified or improved choke.
Doves: Doves are one of the best shotgun species to start with. Doves are not hard to hunt, requiring head and shoulder camouflage with a healthy dose of mosquito repellent. The real key to dove hunting is remaining completely still. Doves rely on their sharp eyes to determine movement on the ground that almost always means danger.
Dove hunting allows a mentor to sit with their child and talk them through a hunt. For example, doves occasionally present easy shots, but don’t count on it. Watching your youth shoot at a bird passing by at 60 miles per hour allows the opportunity to coach them. I strongly recommend that your new hunter spends some time shooting trap, skeet or sporting clays before dove hunting. Sporting clays may be the best choice.
Dove breasts are very good on the grill. There are many recipes, most requiring bacon wraps.
Ducks and Geese: Waterfowl hunting is a social event where hunters talk between flights, pass a box of donuts around and generally have a good time between flights. This is colder weather, so dress your youth in hunting clothes that will keep him or her comfortable. Then, like in dove hunting, watch your youth’s earlier shots at ducks and then give them constructive suggestions if needed.
I prefer taking kids on hunts with less hunters on the first outings. This makes them less self-conscious. Remember to provide good hearing protection in blinds or anytime your shoot. Many of us have hearing problems today because we did not take proper precautions.
Finding ways to cook duck breast is easy. We prefer wrapped in bacon on the grill.
Deer Hunting: Deer hunting is a sport every young hunter looks forward to. This can be tricky because shooting a big game animal can be intimidating for a young hunter. Some adults stay with their youth in a tent or double deer stands and guide them through their early harvests.
Practice at the shooting range is important for that one-shot kill. Use various deer pictures to point out where to shoot when the deer is facing different angles.
Venison is very good meat, no matter how you prepare it. Learn proper field dressing techniques and allow your young hunter to help. After all, they shot it, so they should help clean it.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.