There’s no question that taking your kids out hunting with you is one of life’s great pleasures. Being able to share that experience with the next generation is one of those things—just ask any hunter—that really hits home.
And it’s important for the sport too.
Children are, quite literally, the future of upland hunting. Without their interest, without getting them out into the field early and often, shooting sports may not find their next generation of supporters. Taking your kids out on your own hunts, even if it’s just once or twice a season, is an investment in the future of the outdoor sports you love.
And it can be great fun for all involved.
Hunting with your kids, teaching them the skills that first brought you into the sport yourself, will literally change the way you approach your own hunts and foster a deeper respect—in you and them—for the outdoors and the time you spend together.
But it’s important to plan carefully for these experiences. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when hunting with your kids.
Always focus on safety: This is the absolute, most important takeaway when hunting with kids. Maintaining a safe atmosphere is important on every hunting trip, but it should be your number one priority when hunting with your kids. Don’t make it overbearing, but take every opportunity to teach the fundamentals of safe gun handling, safe hunting and safe travel in the backcountry. It’s still all about having fun, but you’re there to teach them how to conduct themselves safely on future hunts.
Don’t overlook the weather: Yes, cold weather hunts in grueling conditions are often the most rewarding for hunters, but children (trust me) often don’t see it that way. Keeping their comfort in mind, it’s good to aim primarily for early season experiences when the weather is a little warmer and the conditions are a bit more predictable. That way they won’t be cold and miserable all day, and refuse to come out again next time.
Be patient: When hunting with kids, it’s important to remember that you really aren’t out there to hunt; you’re there for them. Sure, you might miss out on a few good shots, and you might have to turn for home earlier than you’d like, but that’s not the point of the day. It’s about sharing the experience with them and introducing them to the sport. Plus, no one ever accused children of being too quiet. They are going to make noise and scare off your targets. It’s going to happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t show them the ropes along the way, even if you don’t come home with anything in your game bag at the end of the day.
Keep it short: Yes, tromping through the woods on a crisp fall day, your shotgun at your side, is a great way to spend some time. But your kids likely aren’t prepared for the all-day hikes that are typical on your hunting trips. Go easy on them. Plan on just an hour or two of easy walking, focusing more on education and exploration than tracking, and always with a variety of activities planned to keep them interested.
Have fun: No pressure, don’t push and always keep their interests in mind. It’s about them having a good time, letting them go at their own pace and get to know the sport on their own terms. They’ll enjoy it more and be more likely to give it another shot later on.