by Tracy Breen
It is the dream of every adult hunter that their kids will turn into hunters. The problem is many of today’s kids are not hunting at all, even when they are raised in hunting families. Video games, sports and a variety of other activities are contributing to the low hunter recruitment. What can we do as adults to reverse this trend? We can introduce kids and young adults to small game hunting and upland bird hunting at a young age and make hunting fun for them. Below are a few reasons why small game and upland hunting is the perfect hunting sport for kids. Kids don’t like to sit still which is one reason many kids hate big game hunting: they don’t like sitting still and waiting patiently for hours at a time. Let’s face it: sitting still for hours on end is like sitting quietly at the doctor’s office. No one likes to do it.
MAKE IT EXCITING
Kids like video games because they are fast-paced. When I introduced my oldest son to hunting, I was well aware that hunting was competing with video games. If I wanted hunting to win the competition, I had to make it exciting. Small game hunting can be lots of fun. When introducing a kid to small game hunting or upland bird hunting, make sure you take them to your best spot. Heck, start them out at a pheasant preserve if you have to. If you want your kids to get into hunting, they must be successful or hunting will likely be considered boring and they will walk away from it.
BRING A DOG
The first time you take a kid upland hunting, make sure a decent hunting dog is along for the hunt. If you don’t own one, go hunting with someone who does. Why do most of us who upland hunt enjoy it so much? Because we get to take Fido with us. Most kids love dogs and they will love watching Fido do his thing. If you own the dog you will be hunting over, the experience will be even better.
HAVE A PARTY
Bring lots of food with you and have a tailgate party. Food makes everything more fun! Grilling hotdogs and eating snacks is something every kid enjoys. The first few times a kid goes hunting, it has to truly be a memorable experience. A tailgate party in the woods is hard to beat.
TAKE A ROAD TRIP
If you have the time and the money, take your kid on an out-of-town hunting trip. My oldest son’s first few hunting trips were out of state. These types of trips are fun to plan and fun for kids because they are going to a place they have never been. One of the reasons travel sports like baseball and hockey are so popular is because kids and adults enjoy traveling. Families often build their schedule around sporting events. If a kid is going to get into hunting, it too must be a priority. Make going on an out-of-town hunting trip a priority with your kids when they are young.
LEAVE THE BIG GUN AT HOME
One reason many kids walk away from hunting is because of a bad hunting experience. Often these bad experiences are the result of using a gun that doesn’t fit them or using a 12 gauge or 20 gauge gun long before they are ready for it. If your old single shot kicks like a mule, don’t let Johnny use it his first season in the woods. Get him a gun that fits him and doesn’t kick much. According to Adam Ziegler from Backridge Ammunition, one gun that is often overlooked by adults that makes a great first shotgun for a kid is a 28 gauge. “A 28-gauge is a great starter gun. Most 28-gauge guns offer screw-in chokes, a variety of different load options and are in many cases offer better down range accuracy than a 20 gauge and a .410,” Ziegler noted. “The larger shell size means more pellets and more kills than a .410. Best of all, a 28-gauge doesn’t kick much harder than a .410.” Making sure your kid has a positive experience with guns is necessary. Introduce them to guns months or even years before they go hunting for the first time.
Another bad experience many kids have while hunting is being reprimanded for being loud, walking too fast or too slow. Above all else, make sure when introducing a kid to hunting they are allowed to laugh, be loud and run around. This is the beautiful thing about small game and upland hunting; if they spook a bird or two, no big deal. There will be other opportunities. It isn’t like deer hunting where one or two opportunities is all they will get over the course of a season.
MAKE TIME FOR KIDS
I have hunted turkeys and other big game in over thirty states. I love hunting with my bow. However, when it is time to introduce someone to hunting, especially kids, I prefer teaching them how to hunt upland game first. It is fast-paced, making mistakes isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. The key to success it making sure you set time aside to introduce your kids to hunting and making sure their success in the field is important. When I hunt with my kids, I often leave my own gun at home so they get in on all the action. My oldest son is hooked on all things hunting. One of the main reasons is because I started him on upland game and squirrels. For him, shooting small game was like video games. It was and is always exciting for him. When we go hunting, it is all about him. He is the priority. Do you want to raise kids that love the outdoors and hunting? Introduce them to upland hunting when they are young and they will walk away from the video games every time you ask them to hunt.