hunting with family

Hunting as a family can be a rewarding activity that strengthens the bonds within the family and creates wonderful shared memories. That first hunt can also be a nightmare (and a memory you hope you will laugh at one day). The right approach can make hunting instructive and enjoyable – here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Safety First

Safety is the single most important part of teaching your child to hunt. Whether your child is merely accompanying you on his very first hunt or eagerly going out to a favorite spot, it’s important to have rules and to reinforce them EVERY time you go hunting. The single most important rule is to listen to the parent or adult they are hunting with no matter what they are told to do. Teach your children responsible gun handling and safety, and remind them to always wear protective gear.

Learn to Shoot First

Before you take your child out for that first hunt, be sure you spend some time at a firing range or in your backyard learning to use a gun, to load, to aim, and to get the hang of shooting in general. There is enough to learn in the field that you don’t want to be teaching gun handling and safety on your child’s first hunt. Once your child seems comfortable handling and firing a gun, it will be much easier to teach your child what happens in the field, and you’ll be able to remind them of the basics without frustrating them.

Bird hunting with kids

Make it Fun

Sally may have been begging you to take her out hunting since she was three, but she may not be aware that hunting means being quiet and sitting still for long periods of time the first time she goes out. Start taking kids out just to learn about the woods, letting them ask questions and learning to move quietly. Try hunting small game first, like squirrels and birds, so that they can move around more and talk a bit while they are learning. Teach them how to use grunt tubes, rattling antlers, turkey calls, and drake whistles, and then teach them how they can be used during a hunt. This makes it fun for kids (who like to be noisy) while teaching them importance of the sounds of the field.

Think Like a Kid

Eventually, Henry may end up being so obsessed with hunting that he’ll go out in frigid and rainy weather to stalk a buck, but at first, choose nicer days in early fall to go for hunts. Bring snacks and keep those first few hunts short and fun. Spend time talking with them and don’t expect them to jump right into the routine of hunting – explain what you are doing and keep your expectations about actually making a kill realistic.

Be Patient and Understanding

Pushing a kid too quickly to shoot an animal, shaming them because they feel sad after a kill, or getting angry because a child continually misses or spooks animals are some of the most sure-fire ways to make your child hate hunting. Every child is different - Sally may be ready to shoot and skin her first squirrel on day one, while Henry’s just not ready to shoot or kill his first bird until he’s been out several times. Children will let you know when they are ready and excited to make their first kill, so let them enjoy the hunt as a whole without pressuring them to shoot before they are ready. Help them to understand the feeling associated with killing an animal, and let them know it’s okay to feel those things.

safe hunting with kids

No Questions is a Bad Question

Kids love to ask questions – it’s how they learn about the world around them! Expect that your child is going to ask you a million questions, and often ask the same questions over and over again. Be patient and find joy in helping them to understand by answering their questions as fully as you can. It’s okay if a question scares away a turkey – there will be other turkeys, but the fundamentals you teach when you answer your child’s questions are the foundation for a lifelong love of the hunt.

Get Them Thinking

For some children, it’s hard to understand and learn to enjoy hunting. They may be afraid to kill an animal or they may not have a comprehensive understanding of why we hunt. Talk about conservation, and discuss the food cycle – the fact that the meat on their plate was once a living, breathing animal. Bring the lessons home by getting them to help prepare animals you have hunted and let them cook with you. This helps them to understand all the different ways that they can enjoy hunting.

hunting with kids

Not all kids will enjoy hunting. Some kids just don’t like to be outside when it’s cold, or maybe they prefer turkey shoots to deer hunts. Don’t be disappointed if your child doesn’t immediately take to hunting. The most important thing is spending time together as a family. If you are patient and don’t push your children too hard, it is likely that they will eventually see hunting as a special activity shared with those they love.

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Winterhaven Game Farm & Preserve • 500 Venable Rd, Palmyra • Virginia 22963