Children can’t take the hunter education course or legally hunt as an apprentice until they are 12, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait more than a decade to take your kids hunting.
There’s much more to hunting than just the harvest of an animal, so teach and mentor them to understand what the hunting tradition is all about.
Taking a child hunting is clearly very different than hunting with an adult. There are some easy steps you can take to ensure a successful hunt — even if you come home empty handed.
1. Teach them how to scout
Before you take a kid out on an actual hunt, make sure you get them in the field and teach them how to scout. A walk in the woods looking for sign can be exciting for a kid and it teaches them that if they want to hunt, they need to do some legwork first.
When you see tracks, show your sidekick. Explain to them which animal it belongs to, and how you know. My oldest daughter is as girly as they get, but when she enters those woods her eyes are on the ground looking for signs of deer, turkey, rabbit, and any other critters that might be creeping about.
2. Prep the night before
If your planning an early morning hunt, get everything you’ll need out the night before. Have your clothes and those of your hunting partner physically laid out on the floor, and do the same with outerwear and accessories. The last thing you want to do is be searching for your kid’s boot at 4 a.m.
Make sure I have snacks packed, water bottles filled, and know exactly where the ammo and gun I’m taking are so it’s a quick grab-and-go in the morning. When it comes to snacks, you might think bringing anything for a short two-hour hunt is excessive but the alternative is to listen to kids complain they are hungry, when boredom strikes.
3. Minimize your drive time
Quiet time in the truck at daybreak might be an enjoyable part of the hunting experience for you, but let’s face it — most kids don’t like long drives. Minimize the “are we there yets” by securing land close to home for the day.
Consider hunting public land where hunting is permitted, knock on doors locally or talk to other hunters in the area to see if you can get permission to hunt on private property for a morning or evening hunt.
4. Use a blind to hunt
If you don’t normally use a blind, consider changing up your tactics. Sitting stock still for any period of time is going to be hard for a child — it’s hard for most adults.
If it’s the child’s first time hunting they will be excited and have lots of questions. Whether you use a pop up blind or make one yourself (click here for a DIY blind) a blind will make hunting a more enjoyable experience. Even better if you can get it set up before the big day.
5. Check your expectations
A morning or an evening hunt is what you want to aim for with kids. Little ones have such a short attention span, minutes can feel like hours.
Expecting them to hunker down for an all day sit is unrealistic. The day you bring a kid along is not the day you should expect to wait out that monster buck you saw on your trail camera.
6. Make it about them
Getting kids involved in hunting is important to carrying on the tradition. It can be good for them to understand the circle of life and how the meat they eat gets to their plates. When you take a child hunting, make that hunt about them.
Bring binoculars for them, answer their questions (while explaining the need to whisper), go for a walk around if need be. The purpose of the outing isn’t really to get a mount for your wall or food for the freezer. It’s about teaching the next generation.