Teaching a kid to hunt can be the most rewarding experience.
As a hunter and a parent, there's arguably no greater moment than the day when you get to take your son or daughter hunting for the first time.
For many of us, deer hunting is just about the ultimate family tradition. We remember the early mornings spent in the field with our fathers, and we want our kids to have those fond memories when they grow up as well.
If you really want for your kids to become lifelong hunters, you need to understand that there is a "right" way to go about teaching hunting, and plenty of wrong ways.
Follow the 10 tips provided in the slideshow to make sure you're doing things in the most effective manner possible.
1. Don't push it
The last thing you want is to push your kids to do something they don't want to do. If you are too insistent about bringing your kids along for the hunt, they may feel obligated to do so, or like you are forcing them into something.
Needless to say, either of these feelings doesn't exactly translate into a lifelong love of hunting. Instead of pushing your kids too hard in a certain direction, try to lead them there indirectly. Speak fondly about your hunting experiences, and especially focus on the relationship you built with your parents through hunting.
In short, make it clear to your kids how important this is to you, but always give them a choice about whether or not they want to come along with you. In the vast majority of cases, doing so will get your kids excited for the hunt.
2. Plan the hunt ahead of time
A great way to build anticipation for the hunt is to let your son or daughter in on the planning. Let them discuss the location and date of the hunt with you, and draw out the plans for the day, from the morning wake-up call to the pre-hunt breakfast and beyond.
You can even bring them into the pre-season prep stages, like scouting the property and shopping for gear. Letting your kids help you plan the hunt will engross them further into the experience and will give them plenty of concrete things to look forward to when the day finally comes around. Furthermore, by planning ahead of time, you can spot any conflicts in your schedule that might disrupt the plan. Kids are busy in the fall, from friend's birthday parties to soccer games, so make sure you are planning your hunt around their schedule instead of assuming that they will be okay with missing something else to hunt with you.
3. Make sure they're comfortable with the gear and the guns
Since you're not sure if hunting is going to catch on with your kids, it's understandable if you want to hedge your bets and not spend too much on gear for them. Hand me down items can be perfect for this purpose, and you can probably throw together a comfortable outfit from stuff you have lying around the house.
However, the most important items - boots and pants that fit well, warm and comfortable gloves, etc. - are worth springing for if you want your kid to enjoy his or her experience.
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Finally, give your son or daughter a chance to get acquainted with your rifle. Take a trip to the shooting range for a pre-hunt shooting lesson, or head out to the backyard for an archery session. Taking these preparations will make sure that your kids feel much more at home when you hand them the gun on their first-ever hunt.
4. Look for youth hunting days
Want to make sure your kid gets the warmest welcome possible to the hunting community? Look for a youth hunting opportunity before the traditional Opening Day in your state.
The event will make your son or daughter feel special and valued, and the lower pressure a pre-season hunt will be perfect for giving them a chance at a kill on the first day. Who knows, by taking advantage of a youth hunting day, you may be giving your kid an opportunity to land the kind of monster buck that will instantly convert them into a lifelong hunting devotee.
5. Turn the trip into a bonding experience
Don't worry too much about bagging a buck on the first hunt with your kid. If it happens, great, but don't feel like you have to get a kill to make the day worthwhile. Chances are that what your son or daughter really wants is a chance to bond with their parent, so make the day fun by telling hunting stories, giving tips and pointers, having a few laughs, and just enjoying the atmosphere. The deer will still be out there tomorrow.
6. Make sure you have snacks
This one is a no-brainer. While you may be able to hunt for an entire morning or afternoon with nothing to eat, your kids won't feel the same way. Bring a few snacks or lunch options to keep them nourished and focused, and make sure they don't leave the house without having something for breakfast - even if you do.
7. Take breaks
The concept of taking a break in the middle of a deer hunt may sound crazy to you, but for your kid, it's an expectation. Remember that your hunting attention span has been honed over years of experience and dedication. You can't expect your first-time hunter to have the same longevity, so take breaks to have a snack, tell a story, or leave the stand or blind to go scout. You might end up spooking a few deer or losing your chances as a buck, but just remember that the biggest goal of the day is to get your kid interested in hunting.
7. Take breaks
The concept of taking a break in the middle of a deer hunt may sound crazy to you, but for your kid, it's an expectation. Remember that your hunting attention span has been honed over years of experience and dedication. You can't expect your first-time hunter to have the same longevity, so take breaks to have a snack, tell a story, or leave the stand or blind to go scout.
You might end up spooking a few deer or losing your chances as a buck, but just remember that the biggest goal of the day is to get your kid interested in hunting.
9. Skip the rainy days
Just as your attention span has been honed and expanded over years of hunting, so too has your dedication. If you're a true die-hard hunter, then you actually pride yourself on going out in any weather, rain or shine, hot or cold, snow or sleet, etc.
Taking your kids out for their first hunt on a crappy day is arguably the quickest way to make them loathe this sport, so if it's raining or freezing outside, give them an out and reschedule your hunt. You'll be glad that you did.
10. Make the hunt about them
Ultimately, all of the previous factors boil down to this simple point: if you want your kids to fall in love with hunting, then you have to make their first hunt all about them.
Let them in on every aspect of the planning stages; teach them the ropes of the hunt; let them explore the deer property with you; ask them what they want for breakfast before the hunt; ask them what snacks they want to bring along; ask them how long they want to hunt for, or what they want to do afterward as celebration for their first day in the field.
Having all of these conversations and more will make your son or daughter truly feel like they matter to the hunt, instead of being just an accessory to it.