Hunting is a gateway to enjoying the outdoors. Outdoor activities can also lead to hunting. There is little hunting done indoors, so it goes hand-in-hand with enjoying nature. If we enjoy something, we hope that our children do, too.
Introducing your child to hunting can be controversial. There is debate, even among hunters, about the age at which a child can be trusted with the responsibilities of hunting. We can’t forget that we’re teaching our child to kill one of God’s creatures, and have spent a goodly amount of time teaching him not to do this. The nature of hunting, its purpose and history, must be communicated to the child. If one doesn’t feel capable of doing so, or the child doesn’t seem receptive, it would be best to wait.
The child is curious about what one is doing when one goes hunting. Since outdoor activity is part of one’s normal recreation, the child should be introduced to the idea of hunting. Game should be eaten at meals. Its source should be discussed, and the reasons for eating it. Children may be confused in these instances, but seeing that the parent is comfortable and enthusiastic goes a long way towards easing the child’s apprehensions. It helps if the parent can create tasty, flavorful dishes compatible with the child’s tastes.
Taking the child to a hunting venue is the next step. Children make a lot of noise in the outdoors, scaring off the wildlife. Acclimate the child to the environment and attempt to quiet him down. Take a snack into the woods and sit quietly near some cover while eating it. Tell the child he will have to be quiet if he wants to see any wildlife. Eventually the animals will become accustomed to the presence of the interlopers, and the first animal will be seen. Encourage and allow the child to be excited about it, whether it is a squirrel or a twelve-point buck. Repeating these trips allows the child to build his enthusiasm for the outdoors. If he never becomes a hunter, he has been given a gift that will last him forever.
The next phase should be an introduction to firearms. Many parents find that the best introduction is an air rifle. Cheap Asian air rifles can be bought for a bit more than an old-fashioned Daisy. They fire inexpensive BBs and, after instruction in safety, allow the child to spend some unsupervised time shooting. The parent must monitor his child’s behavior, making certain that he is adhering to the safety rules that were set down. When it’s clear that the child can handle an air rifle, and understands the principles of shooting, he can be introduced to firearms. This should be a .22 caliber rifle. The best choice is an inexpensive bolt or lever action. He should strip and clean it after every shooting session. Ordinary plinking is great for learning to shoot, and gun handling should be taught. Carelessness should be corrected immediately and emphatically.
The child should be encouraged to bring his rifle when taking hikes in the woods. This gives the parent the opportunity to teach field safety. If it is possible and permitted, some plinking in the woods isn’t a bad idea. Pack out any cans or targets that are brought in. The child must understand the rules of hunting, and respect both private and public property. When both feel that the time is right, hunting small game is the best introduction to the sport. If the parent is unfamiliar with it, most hunters being deer hunters, he should enlist the aid of a friend who engages in the pursuit. This gives him the opportunity to tag along and see his child interact with the hunter and the environment.
The important thing to remember is that hunting is not reading and writing. The child doesn’t need to hunt. Parents who enjoy hunting hope that the child does too, but should not be shattered if he doesn’t. Just getting the child into the outdoors, and showing him what a privilege it is, will teach lessons that won’t be forgotten. Hunting is the gravy on nature’s mashed potatoes, but some prefer butter.