A child’s first hunt can be an exciting and scary event; do your best to make sure they’re prepared.
They’ve got their license, an orange jacket, hunting boots and hand warmers. You’ve packed the snacks, and the guns are clean. But that’s not enough for your child’s first hunting experience. You want them to stay safe and have fun. You need to make sure they know what to expect, so their first hunt isn’t their only hunt.
Make sure you do these seven things to prepare you kid for their hunt and, hopefully, a lifetime of loving nature, wildlife and sportsmanship.
1. Planning the first hunt
Get your child excited by having them help you plan the hunt. When you go scouting, take them with you. When you set up your stand or blind, have them help. The night before the first hunt, have them get everything they need ready, making sure that their gun is clean and their snacks are in their pockets. There’s so much more involved in hunting then getting up on the first day and heading into the woods. Make sure your child knows that.
2. Handling the gun
Make sure your child has shot their gun before you take them hunting for the first time. They need to know how to load and unload, check the chamber and turn the safety on and off. Your child should have enough practice that they understand the mechanisms of the gun. They should feel confident enough to pull their firearm to their shoulder, get the gun’s sights on the animal and pull the trigger.
3. Correcting expectations
Talk to your child about what to expect from their first hunt. There’s a chance that your child thinks you will find a deer standing perfectly still in the woods, and they’ll shoot and it will drop. What your kid doesn’t see in their mind’s eye is the blood or the mess. They don’t expect the cold, wet weather or the hours of sitting in a tree stand and not even seeing a squirrel during the entire trip. Explain to your child that they’ll need patience to become a good hunter. Explain how to be quiet and still. Let them know what happens after the deer’s been shot, from tracking to field dressing. This way, there’s no surprises and hopefully, no tears.
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4. Teaching them it’s more than the hunt
Teaching your child to enjoy hunting involves more than just the hunt. It’s about learning to love the wilderness and nature. It’s about enjoying the peacefulness and the quiet of the woods. Give your child an appreciation for the forest, wildlife and nature. Point out the chipmunks playing tag on a broken log. Stop and enjoy the sun rising over the mountains, the rays of light breaking through the clouds. Have them sit and be still, just enjoying life and the moment, whether they get an animal or not. Make sure to reinforce that hunting isn’t just about the hunt. It’s about the experience.
5. Handling their emotions
Be prepared for a range of emotions during your child’s first hunt. They’ll be excited and thrilled on their way into the woods. They’ll be nervous and apprehensive when they see a buck stroll into a clearing. And if they get a kill shot, there’s a good chance they’ll not only be happy, but the may feel sad or guilty. It’s a big deal taking the life of another creature and most children don’t understand those feelings when they occur. To help with this transition, take them hunting with you a few times before their first hunt. When they do get their first shot in, don’t track the deer right away. Seeing it struggle for life isn’t something kids need to witness when they’re dealing with their mixed emotions.
6. Being safe
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your child before their first hunt is to make sure they’re safe. Have them take a hunter’s safety course. It will teach them the basics of gun safety, the ethics of the woods and the rules and regulations of hunting. Make sure you’ve discussed all aspects of gun safety from how to carry a rifle to understanding where you’re shooting to being on the lookout for other hunters. Nothing is more important than their safety during the hunt. Make sure they understand that.
7. Having fun
Don’t forget to show your child that hunting is fun, no matter what happens out there. It’s a time for the two of you to be together and share in a long-held tradition. You want your kid to have fun whether they get an animal or not. To keep it fun, make sure not to criticize them, even if they miss a shot. Keep the experience light-hearted. Joke and play around. If you make the day a fun one, your child will want to keep going back. Your ultimate goal should be to have your child become a lifetime hunter and always appreciate the majesty of the woods.