Some 25 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter situations where kids weren’t welcome in the hunting camp. Some landowners were concerned about their perceived increased liability exposure of having youngsters on their property and some adults wanted an adult-only atmosphere in camp.

Then, we began seeing a growing gap within our ranks that was partially self-induced—and definitely not good for hunting. Hunters were leaving the sporting tradition faster than new hunters were being recruited. Fortunately, I think we’ve turned the corner on recognizing that the future of hunting is largely tied to recruitment of new hunters, especially kids.

It’s a rewarding and often refreshing experience to have youngsters in the hunting camp. There is something magical about introducing people to the outdoors. And it’s amazing to see kids become attuned to their God-given senses and become more aware of their environment when they are immersed in the outdoors pursuing game.

Accommodating younger hunters often presents different challenges than assisting adults. As a general rule, today’s kids have relatively short attention spans and a wide variety of pursuits to fill their free-time. With that in mind, there are certain basic practices that can help provide positive and enjoyable experiences for young hunters.

advice for hunting with kids
Hunting blind on 2,070-acre ranch for sale in Stephens County, Texas

Proper set-ups

Deer
When deer are the quarry, hunting out of a blind will likely be your best option. Blinds provide opportunities for kids to view deer and have comfortable shooting positions. The windows of many blinds are too high for kids. Generally, this can be remedied easily by using a taller chair such as a bar stool, or placing a sack of feed on the chair to provide a little more elevation for the hunter.

Have your own wildlife business-related question? Ask Greg here!

If possible, try to create shooting situations that provide shot opportunities that are no more than 100 yards. Portable pop-up blinds are excellent because of their adaptability. To ensure that your young shooter has a solid, rigid gun rest, make sure to bring a good set of shooting sticks.

Dove
Dove hunting is a good option for introducing youngsters to hunting. For smaller kids, lighter weight gauges, such as a .410 or .20 gauge, are good choices. Shooting doves over ponds instead of over large grain field can be better suited to kids because often the birds are not flying as fast and high. And, if a dove lands in a tree within effective shooting range, don’t hesitate to allow a youngster to pop a dove from its perch.

Always provide earplugs so that kids can protect their hearing and not be distracted by or worried about the gun’s loud noise. Eye protection should also be the rule of thumb while bird hunting.

advice for hunting with kids
(Image courtesy, National Shooting Sports Federation)

Keep it fun and educational

Gun Safety
There are many teachable moments while in the field and around the hunting camp that can make excursions fun and meaningful. For young kids who are just getting started. A pellet gun or BB gun is an excellent tool for them to learn about firearm safety and proper gun handling, to develop hand and eye coordination with the sight-picture, and to have fun plinking cans.

Anatomy and Dinner
Field dressing game can sometimes be a little intimidating for new hunters; however, using that that time to explore animal anatomy can add interest and provide an introduction to game processing. Also, don’t forget to include some game meat into the hunt’s meal plan, as this “pasture to plate” connection adds an important element to the experience.

advice for hunting with kids
(Image courtesy, National Shooting Sports Federation)

Out and about

While in the field, point out and explain things such as rubs and scrapes, animal tracks, plant identification, the importance of picking up trash and closing gates, and hunting strategy. Laugh, tell jokes, share stories, and be a friend and mentor to the young hunter.

If the kiddos want to play video games or spend time on their smart phone while in the blind, let them do so within limits. Set some rules such as prohibiting use of those devices during the first and last daylight hours when wildlife is most likely to move. Remember, if kids consider their first hunting experiences boring then they will quickly lose interest and drift away from the sport, so be creative and lenient when necessary to keep things fun and fresh for fledgling hunters.

advice for hunting with kids
Deer sheds on high-fenced game ranch for sale in Kerr County, Texas

Every harvest is a trophy

Don’t allow an animal’s score or its size determine the value of the experience. All harvested animals are trophies and there are many hunting experiences such as family time around a campfire that are trophies in and of themselves. Often we become too fixated on scores, unnecessarily pressurizing the hunting atmosphere before, during and after the hunt.

advice for hunting with kids
(Image courtesy, Texas Youth Hunting Program)

Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP)

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning, TYHP, one of the country’s “gold standard” youth hunting programs. Formed in 1996, TYHP is jointly administered by the Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Through this program, more than 55,000 Texans have been provided with safe, educational experiences, while being exposed to the roles that hunting and private land stewardship play in wildlife conservation. For more information on TYHP, go to www.TexasYouthHunting.com.

Whether you want to increase the kid-friendliness of your hunting operation or improve its habitat, contact Wildlife Consultants at (325) 655-0877 or www.TheWildlifeConsultants.com.


cover_txland-winterThis article appears in the winter 2016 issue of TEXAS LAND magazine. Visit www.landmagazines.com to read more and subscribe to future issues of both LAND magazine and TEXAS LAND magazine.

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  • Greg Simons received a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences in 1987 from Texas A&M University and soon after formed Wildlife Systems, Inc., a company that currently manages hunting operations on over 800,000 acres of private land in Texas and New Mexico. He is also co-owner of Wildlife Consultants, LLC, providing technical assistance to landowners and other entities on habitat management and other wildlife-related needs. Greg is Past President of Texas Wildlife Association, Past Officer of Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, serves on advisory committees for the wildlife programs at Texas A&M University and Tarlton State University, as well as many other committee appointments, and he has given programs around the country on various wildlife and hunting related topics.

  • Show Comments

  • Nona Green

    This is disgusting on so many levels. To teach kids that hunting is OK AT ALL is abhorrent. Trophy hunting – reveling and gloating over the painful death of a sentient creature is SICK.

    Yes, I am a vegan who doesn’t by animal skin products.
    I realize that just as slavery and rape was normalized and legal for centuries, the industry of enslaving and torturing animals will be around for a long time. It’s time to teach a new generation that there is a better way.

    • Stoshio

      Hello, Nona. You have every right to be disgusted. Comparing hunting to slavery and rape is pure genius. Have you ever thought of joining PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals)? Keep your talcum powder dry.

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