By Jack Kelly
Hunting between parents and children is a time-honored American tradition. Many parents are proud and excited to take their children on hunting trips for the first time.
Based on our experience, we wanted to give you our five top tips to ensure a successful first-time experience – one that’s sure to leave your child excited to come back and do it again.
1.Communication & Expectations
Before getting out there, gauge whether they’re ready for the experience. This is a great opportunity for you to explain what it is about hunting that you enjoy. This conversation will allow you to get feedback on how your child feels and whether they’re interested in going with you.
Ask yourself whether you have realistic expectations. How long can your child sit still in silence while hunting? What you think may be a dream bonding experience, may quickly turn into a disaster.
It’s not their fault if they get bored; don’t expect them to sit silently in a tree stand for 6 hours while you impart all the wisdom that your parent imparted upon you at the same age.
Our recommendation? Don’t plan to be out there for more than an hour the first time around. My first time I made the mistake of trying to go a bit longer, in the hope that my son would see something to spark a lifetime of interest in hunting.
What I actually did was turn him off hunting by making him associate hunting with boredom. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to make it all better, but it could have ended there and then!
Dealing with death can be difficult for anybody, particularly for the first time, which may well be the case for your child. Children first begin to recognize death around age four, but will continue to develop and consider it in different ways until well into their teens and early adulthood.
It’s important to answer questions seriously regarding the morality of hunting and the finality of death for game. Talk about respect for animals and how this must be reflected in hunting too.
2. Purchase Appropriate Safety Gear
Safety should always be your number one priority, and going hunting with young people always increases that danger.
Take a moment to explain the importance of safety, as well as all critical rules that must be followed at all times.
It’s important not just to talk the talk; you should also walk the walk. Your child will be looking to you as an example of what to do and not to do. Set a great example.
- Make sure your gun, bow, crossbow or otherwise is appropriate for your child.
- If you’re going to be in a blind or up a tree stand, purchase the best tree stand safety harness for his or her size and weight.
3. Once you’re there think of ways to keep them entertained
Earlier we touched on keeping it short and avoiding boredom. If you’d like them to come back, make sure you prepare plenty of games and activities for you to do while hunting.
- Identify different birds and animals by sight or sound. There are some great mobile applications for identifying animals.
- Try recognizing different trees and rock types
- Take some binoculars, a map and a compass and let your child lead the way
- Don’t say no if your child wants to take a book, a toy or some other form of entertainment. You’ll probably be glad for it later, and if not, it can always stay packed in a bag just in case.
4. Be prepared for all conditions
Check the weather report before you go. There’s nothing more off-putting for a youngster than sitting out in the cold on a foggy day.
Be sure to take some extra food and drinks too, even if only out for an hour or two. You don’t want your child getting upset because they’re hungry or thirsty. And after all, a hungry child is a noisy child!
5. Practice with a weapon beforehand
If it’s your child’s first time hunting, it may not be the right moment for them to try shooting an animal just yet.
If your child isn’t ready, then you shouldn’t force them into using a weapon. They will let you know in their own time when they feel capable.
If your child has seen you do it and is ready to try it for themselves, then make sure they have practiced enough before they shoot for the first time.
Children may seem to be maturing, but they are often still delicate underneath. When your child finally takes that first step, you want them to make the kill, and not just injure the animal. It can be a tormenting experience for youngsters knowing that they hurt an animal.
On the same note, despite the initial bravado and desire to be like Mom or Dad, it’s completely normal for a child to feel sad after killing an animal. Don’t berate them for this! They need to experience the emotion and work through it instead of ignoring it.
Again, this is where communication is key. It’s your opportunity to discuss the positives and negatives of hunting. What are considered best practices, and what you shouldn’t do to animals.