Few things are as enjoyable as spending time in the outdoors with people we love. Camping, fishing, hiking and hunting are activities we enjoy, and our desire to pass our passion on to the next generation is only natural. But when doing so, it’s vital to take steps to ensure outdoor adventures are enjoyable for the kids participating. A bad experience hunting, for example, could turn a child off to the sport for life. Here are some things to keep in mind.
The hunt has to be fun and memorable or a child won’t want to do it again. A big part of making the experience fun is taking extra care to be sure the youngster is comfortable. That means comfortable clothing and footwear appropriate to the conditions of the hunt. Few things can end a hunt early like a cold, wet and miserable kid. But new gear costs money and the temptation is there to try get a child into ill-fitting hand-me-downs to save a few bucks. After all, who wants to buy insulated hunting boots for a 12 year old when you know they’ll be outgrown in a year. We must think of buying hunting boots and outerwear for kids as an investment in the future of the sport. They won’t want to hunt again if their heels have blisters after opening day or they can’t feel their fingertips due to cold. It’s best to bite the bullet and get the boots and clothing that fit right while defending against cold, wet weather. A dry and comfortable child will hunt with you all day.
A part of the comfort category involves being ready for hungry and thirsty kids. Be sure to have plenty of snacks, water and don’t forget lunch if you’ll be out all day. It helps to let the kids pick out the snack and meal menu for the day as desire for foods they like will motivate them to stick with you longer.
The look on a child’s face as they pose with their first deer, turkey or pheasant is a priceless and joyful image every hunting parent cherishes. But the heartbreak of a missed or badly placed shot can negatively impact a young hunter to the point of giving up. Confidence in a hunting weapon and shooting ability are essential to develop in a child before the hunt begins. That means selecting the right tool for the game pursued and affording opportunities to practice prior to hunting.
No hunter hands a petite 12-year-old girl a .300 Win. Mag. to shoot her first deer. My daughter’s first hunting rifle was a Savage Youth Hunter Rifle in .243 Winchester . Effective on deer, antelope and varmints, it’s a light gun with relatively low recoil that’s also exceptionally accurate. She filled both her deer tags on opening day, one with a 20-yard shot and the other with a 320-yard shot. Other relatively low-recoiling rifles capable of taking down deer-sized game include the 7mm-08, .257 Roberts, 6mm Remington and .30-30 Winchester.
Shotguns are a different story. Many choose to start youngsters with a 20-gauge but if you look at load and recoil comparison charts, you may be surprised to discover there’s not a whole lot of difference between 20-, 16-, and 12-gauge felt recoil when they’re loaded with comparable payloads at similar velocities. Some choose .410 bore or 28-gauge shotguns for kids but those are very challenging to hit with and have limited versatility. I started my children out with 12-gauge shotguns from day one using light 7/8-oz. loads and they did wonderfully. My son was winning trap competitions at age 14 with a 12-gauge. The two things to keep in mind when choosing a shotgun for a child to hunt with are fit and shell loads. If the gun fits them well and you keep the loads light, most kids will handle a 12-gauge fine. Though given little recoil variance there’s nothing wrong with choosing a 20-gauge or 16-gauge for younger shooters if you prefer. Nexgen Outfitters carries youth models of the venerable Remington 870 pump-action shotgun that are a good place to start.
Guns can be loud and scary for youngsters. That’s why we recommend ear protection for young shooters. If a child is still gun shy, consider a crossbow. At Nexgen Outfitters, we’ve had kids as young as 8 years old accurately shoot a Ravin crossbow at ranges out to 40 yards. Though not the cheapest option, a high-quality crossbow will last a lifetime when properly cared for. Crossbows are quiet and that’s a plus when hunting with noise-sensitive youth.
The pop-up ground blind is fantastic for hunting with children. The tent-like appearance makes them think of camping, and they do provide some shelter from wind and rain. Invite your child to help you practice setting up the blind before the hunt and let them help you in the field too. The more involved and engaged, the better. And don’t forget suitable seating inside the blind. A chair that keeps the child upright and ready to shoot will be better than a deep camp chair they may struggle to get out of quietly at a key moment.
Those are a few suggestions we have for making a hunt with young hunters more enjoyable. At Nexgen Outfitters, we firmly believe in doing all we can to encourage more youth to hunt. Please reach out if you have any questions. Our knowledgeable staff has extensive real-world experience when it comes to hunting with kids and we want to help you build some of the wonderful experiences we’ve enjoyed. Call us at +1-833-694-3663 for assistance.