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a father's Advice on Introducing Your Kid to Hunting
As a father, one of the best things I have ever gotten to share with my own little boy was my love of nature and the sport of hunting. Teaching the skills of a hunter to my own five-year-old son is not something I take lightly. It is a serious responsibility for any parent to undertake, and something I wanted to make sure I got right.
But when is the right time to introduce hunting to a youngster? Like anything, much of the answer depends upon the individual child. There is a way to introduce a love of hunting and the great outdoors to a child at nearly any skill level. In the end, the idea is not to create the next generation of big game hunters, but to raise the youth of today with a healthy respect for nature, the hunt, and for the tools of the trade.
Hunting enthusiasts might be asked why introduce hunting to a child. The answer is simple: to instill a love of nature. To take a child hunting is to do more than simply place a gun in their hands and show them where to shoot. It is to get them outside and away from the electronic bubble that dominates most of their waking hours. Getting outside in nature gets them outside and moving, a solid way to encourage health and fitness at a very young age. Lastly, as most hunters know hunting requires a great deal of patience and self-discipline; allowing kids to participate exposes them to invaluable life lessons.
Getting a Child Ready for the Hunt
The first time a child sits next to a parent in a duck blind or on a deer stand they have to know not to fear everything around the sights and sounds of nature. A child who has never experienced nature is not going to enjoy hunting, and neither is anyone else near the novice hunter.
Before a child is ready for the hunt they must be comfortable and familiar in nature. This can begin at any age but it is almost never too early to begin. Start by going for walks outside or have picnics as a family in the park. When they get a little older explore streams and take walks through the woods. Spend family vacations camping and fishing, or take day trips to explore caves and rivers.
Safety is the Lesson
Hunting begins and ends with safety. As soon as a child is exposed to the outdoors, he or she must be taught the basics of outdoor safety. This includes firearm safety, identifying and respecting wildlife, and general hunting safety.
The best teacher of gun safety for children is the example of the adults around them. As a parent, always be sure to store firearms under lock and key. Store ammunition separately. Always know where your guns are in relation to youngsters and never, ever assume a gun is unloaded. Remember the acronym SAFE, an easy way to remember the basics of gun safety from NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation.) SAFE stands for Secure your firearm at all times, be Aware of who can access your gun, keep Focus on your responsibility as a gun owner, and Educate yourself and others about safe gun use and storage.
Teach Kids the Basics of Firearm Safety
- Never, ever point a gun at another person. Never aim a gun, loaded or not, near a group of people.
- Do not touch a gun unless an adult gives their permission.
- Always protect your eyes and ears with the proper safety equipment.
- Never touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Before you take a shot, always know exactly where you are shooting.
The best way to get a child interested in hunting is to involve them in your own love for the sport. Take them along to the sporting goods store. Explain the purpose of hunting equipment and demonstrate how to properly care for and store it. Most importantly, teach them about safety by consistently and constantly observing the rules of gun and hunting safety.