Dad so wanted his daughter to kill a spring gobbler that he handed his young lass a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with 3” magnum shells. Following dad’s prompting, she fired a practice shot at a target 30 yards away, but the recoil of the pump nearly nocked the 12-year-old over, and she immediately burst into tears.
Certainly dad had his heart in the right place, yet adults shouldn’t expect youngsters or adults new to hunting to step into experienced hunting and shooting roles without a gradual upbringing. Like baseball, youngsters begin by hitting a ball from a T, graduate to little league and work their ways up through age-appropriate competition. Hunters should be raised the same way, moving from one plateau to the next and using gear that suits their age and body build. Whether introducing a wife, youngster, or any new person, ease them into the excitement.
First and Foremost, MAKE IT FUN: Take the little ones looking for deer or on a hike to find squirrels or mushrooms. Children want to spend quality time with their parents and if you can accomplish this in the outdoors, the next four steps become easy. Part of fun for kids is food (snacks), drinks, and games. See who can find the first one, spot the most, identify a sound… get the idea? Make sure they are dressed for the weather with ample insulation in cold weather and bug and sun protection in hot weather. Pre-plan to avoid poison ivy or events that may be scary for youngsters.
Build in Success: A motivational speaker once told how he learned to bowl and nocked a pin down on every try. Quickly, a skeptical member of the audience asked how he kept the ball from the gutter and was quickly told, “Dad always put pins in the gutter.” If a youngster is learning archery, begin five steps from a target face with a giant bull’s eye. Big balloons are even more fun to shoot. Likewise with rifle lessons. At close range, plink at tin cans filled with water . Be sure to emphasize proper eye and ear protection and begin with a .22 rimfire.
Match Their Attention Span: Children get bored easily (as if you didn’t know that), so try to plan activities that will keep them busy and entertained. Sitting in a box blind while watching for deer to emerge is fun for teenagers, yet very slow for a ten-year-old. One savvy dad lined his box blind with carpet and padding so that his son could play with his trucks and not make noise. The advent of small portable video games may seem offensive to the outdoor experience, yet if it keeps your child entertained while you wait for the real show to begin, why not try it? Video games designed to teach hunting skills can be lots of fun at home, and may relate to real-world situations your sprout will likely witness with you.
Raise a Safe Hunter: Passing a hunter-safety course is a prerequisite to entering the hunting world in many states, and finding a course that is near you and convenient for your schedule can be difficult. Luckily, the new hunter-safety videos at hunter-ed.com are designed to be fun to watch while presenting need-to-know safety information. These short videos cover such safety topics as tree stand hunting safety, firearms safety, hunting from a ground blind, the effectiveness of blaze orange, and more. For more information or to take the online portion of the course, visit http://www.hunter-ed.com. You can download this material to your smart phone, tablet, or other device and you can practice the material while you are waiting for wildlife to emerge or on the way to the range.
Teach Conservation: Wadjaget should be the least concern when you take youngsters afield. A wise old hunter said, “Always bring something from the wild on every hunt,” and he wasn’t speaking of meat for the table. Nature is a wonderful teacher and youngsters are fascinated by all things wild. Teach them to identify bird sounds, that blue jays warn other animals, the leaves of a sassafras tree, and a myriad of other cool things. Be an ethical model by demonstrating gun safety, ear and eye protection, and strictly following hunting and fishing laws. Plant a seed of fun in the outdoors and watch a budding hunter spring up.