The Things You Can't Forget About a Kid's First Hunt

Take a walk down memory lane and experience your kid's first hunt all over again.

When a youngster makes it his or her decision to become a youth hunter, it can be a life changing experience for themselves and the people around them.

We were all a first time hunter at some point, and when you reach a certain part of your life, it's time to relive those experiences through your kids. It'll make you remember what you went through before, during, and after it happened, and you'll get to see it through a more experienced, knowledgable, and relative perspective.

A first time hunting experience can come in multiple forms. It could be a big game hunt or a small game hunt, but the things that lead up to that first hunt, along with the things that they encounter afterwards, count just as much.

Kids are sponges for information and once they've set their minds to something they take to it like a fish to water, and watching them swim into waters we enjoy as well is the stuff that makes our hearts soar. 

A youth hunt has many factors attached to it and we should never take things too lightly, but we also shouldn't forget to focus on having a good time. Try to take yourself back in time and put your youth hunting boots back on, because these are the things that should matter.

Prepping for the First Deer Hunt

We may as well start with the big one. There is no question that a first pheasant hunt, first duck hunt, or a first time turkey hunt can be the experience of a lifetime for your kiddo, but when it comes to the real deal, that first deer season was the one that we still think about.

It's arguably the most iconic and quintessential hunting experience an American can have.

Showing them how to scout and what to look for got them excited. Leading them through the woods and coming across a ground rub and a tree scrape made them enthralled. We saw tracks in the mud, a little hair on a bramble, and then low-and-behold, there were a group of deer trotting away from us. If any of that sounds familiar, imagine what your kid will think when they experience it.

Oh, and remember that sleepless night before? Remember having to be told to settle down and stop talking?

There was the ride to the spot, which was hard enough to endure, even if it was just a few miles. There was the double checking of the gear and then it was time to start walking through the pitch black woods with only the help of a headlamp.

Just like you were at that age, they might be so eager they need to be told to slow down.

We have only our own memories to tell us what that first glimpse of the treestand meant to them in the dark of a morning that was still an hour before sunrise. How that final climb felt, and the utter thrill of finally sitting in with all of the gear, the calls, and their favorite first firearm or bow.

Remember how quickly you learned some patience when you're experiencing your first deer hunt?

And as the light started to glow in the eastern sky and the songbirds began to skitter about and talk to each other, they brought it to your attention that they saw some movement in the woods. This brings to light the shear joy of the hunt and the reason why we will do it for the rest of our lives. It also gives us our next topic:

A Kid's First Deer Harvest

We all know that with youth hunting, it's not the size of the animal so much as it is the memory of what it took to get to this point. Older hunters who dream about whitetail deer have spent a lifetime thinking back to this very moment, and now we have to sit by and watch it happen to our child.

You've talked to them about gun safety, what to be ready for, and especially how to ensure a good, ethical shot. The best thing that you can do for your new youth hunter is to just let it happen. Resist the urge to tell them what to do, and let them make the choices as they line up the crosshairs or draw back the bow.

When that successful shot happens, it comes with an even more exciting moment. You've given them the congratulations, hugs, and high-fives, but you both saw that deer hightail it out of there. That means it's time for the next, most difficult lesson in patience that they may ever have: giving your prize time to expire before trying to track it.

Now as you both dismount the stand, discussing the lessons you taught them, you meander over to the spot where you are certain the deer was standing when it was struck. As a parent you can pass on advice and make suggestions about following a blood trail, but it's hard not to stress the importance of finding a potentially wounded animal.

Still, as the adult in the group you must stand back as they search the leaf litter looking for something to tell them that it truly was a good shot.

Then you hear it: "Look dad, blood!"

You thought they were excited the night before, on the way, and once they were sitting beside you in the tree at first light? Well, give it a minute dad, because they're about to jump out of their skin!

You've given them the lead and now you're watching them connect the dots and follow a path.And then it happens: the sight of their first deer laying on its side.

It is no longer running away, but resting right there forever. The reaction is priceless. For some, it's a religious experience.

And that's something that none of us will ever forget! But it doesn't end there...

First Field Dressing Experience

The sight of their first deer harvest laying right in front of them can induce elation, one that we constantly try to relive every year, but that eventually needs to be tempered. The fact is, the work has just begun.

We taught them to respect the wild game, be thankful when it died before us, and to understand that the deer hunt isn't over once the trigger is pulled or the arrow connects. No, not by a long shot.

This is a process that is taught by parents and hunter education course instructors alike, but since we all know that you can't teach experience, there's no way around it. It's time to get your hands dirty!

Even the most ardent hunting parents can have a little trepidation the first time that they hand over a large, extremely sharp hunting knife to their child. All the same, if you've practiced smart safety skills, you should be able to back off and let them execute most of the steps.

The process of opening up the body cavity and unleashing an odor that they have certainly never experienced before will be unforgettable to say the least.

Now is when they will learn what a deer is really made of. You and I have already done this plenty of times and we know every nuance, but this is their first try and you need to let them learn.

The point is that they will never forget it, and neither will you.

First Shed Hunt

Travis Smola

Instead of sticking strictly with hunting events, we thought we'd cover something that doesn't happen in the autumn. The fact is that shed hunting is a great way to introduce even the youngest of children to the hunt.

They won't need a hunter's safety course, firearm safety instruction, or a lesson in animal identification. That will all come with time, but for now they will only need your guidance and a little motivation for a walk in the woods.

Here's where they find the first deer sign of their lives in the way of tracks beaten down to the mud, probably through the snows of February. You can point out the tree rubs of the previous fall and talk about why the deer scratched his "horns" there. I remember asking my grandpa if that's why they fell off!

But there can be nothing greater than their reaction to walking up on a shed antler. Then starts the ensuing discussion of how a deer was standing right there when it fell off of his head.

Kids love a mystery and hunting deer sheds is one of the best. It's like a treasure hunt with prizes, and if you're lucky enough to live in elk country, you may just watch them find one that's bigger than they are!

First Turkey Hunt

It seems like every spring we dig into our kit around March or April and pull out our favorite box call, diaphragm, or slate and start driving the family nuts practicing. It's inevitable: the kids want to play too, and it's time you let them.

It's almost the same as getting them their first musical instrument: you're going to hear it a lot, and it won't be good, but be patient. The end game of letting them get their hands on your favorite turkey call will put them in a ground blind right beside you, eventually pulling the trigger on a big Tom.

This starts like any first time hunt. There's the scouting, the preparation, and the excitement of opening day. But one thing that they likely have not experienced yet is the real life sound of a boss gobbler bellowing back at their hen call.

It's an incredible thing that has to be heard to be believed for a new hunter. Since they will usually hear the bird long before they see it, their heart will be in their throat. And they thought they were nervous when they saw that first deer!

Hunter Education Course

What other things compliment a kid's first hunt? Or the question could be, what else do they need to be successful?

A Hunter Education Course can often be the first real introduction to hunting practices a child gets. It is a rite of passage for youth hunters and rightly so, as it comes with a resounding fact of life: there are folks out there in the world that will expect something from a kid besides their parents.

Hunter's education and safety is paramount to having knowledgable and safe hunters in the field. The class will have an instructor that will be tough but fair, and they will have the expectation that you not only want to be there, but are willing to put in the work to finish.

This is the kind of environment that can make a hunter out of a child, and a safe one at that. It's vital that kids learn the game laws that we all have to abide by, that there are limits to their take, and that seasons can change year after year.

Kid's Hunting Gear

I coached youth football for many years, and one constant was the fathers that bought their kid every bit of new equipment they could get their hands on, whether it was necessary or not. Much the same can be said for the gear necessary take a kid on their first hunt, but maybe more so because it can really begin to dig into your wallet.

Since nothing may be more important than their first gun or bow, that's a good place to start there, and the choices can seem daunting. You will need a solid treestand or a comparable ground blind, but it doesn't end there. Eventually they will need a good knife and a day pack to hold calls, scents, and even their food for the day.

That first set of camouflage clothing may be the most memorable thing as they may even keep it for their own son or daughter, just as you did. What matters the most is having you at their side while all this occurs.

Their first hunting season, hunting license, and hunting trip all came because they wanted to be just like us: the next generation of sportsmen taking kids hunting and contributing to the conservationist in all of us. 

And maybe that's the best hunting experience of them all.

Hunting during youth seasons, when you aren't even allowed to pull the trigger, can be some of the best times spent afield of your entire life.

Trust us when we say, these are the things you should focus on and set to memory when it comes to any kid's first hunting experience.

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