1) Before you put a high-powered rifle in youngsters' hands, have them practice shooting on a range with a .22 rifle. You might even start with a BB gun. By doing this, you'll eliminate the possibility of their developing the very real fears of recoil and sound. It will also build confidence, and will help familiarize them with how a firearm works. Then, when the time comes to let these youngsters shoot a "big" gun under actual hunting conditions, they'll be so caught up in the moment that they won't have time to be fearful. This especially applies to young girls.
2) For a fairly close shot, manipulate food plots so that the most desirable deer food is less than 100 yards away. Bring candy, video games, an I-Pod or something to keep your child entertained while sitting in the stand.
3) Bring along important shooting aids -- a bi-pod, sandbags, or a cushion to prop the gun over the shooting rail. In other words, make it as easy a
s possible on the young hunter.
4) At least to start things off, it's always best to hunt with young children in the afternoon. That way, if they don't happen to see any deer, they have something to look forward to -- darkness.
5) Having something planned after the hunt always makes it more enjoyable, even if it's going to the drive-through at McDonalds!
6) If the child does happen to shoot a buck or doe, be sure to make a big deal out of it. Take lots of pictures so the young hunter can take them to school, or church or over to their grandparents' house to share. Be sure to share photos with the local taxidermist as well. In fact, you may want to have the child's first deer mounted!
7) Make sure the children's equipment fits. Give them their own set of camo, a pocketknife and binoculars. These items don't need to be expensive, simply items that children can call their own.
8) Try to keep children interested in the hunt, but never push to such a point that they won't want to go again. Take them on a hunting trip with you.
They don't have to hunt; most children just want to go along and be a part of whatever you're doing.
9) Realize that you may have to manipulate the hunt in order to be successful. In other words, plant corn in June so that your child will have a good place to find a deer in October.
10) Don't expect your young hunter to sit without moving in a deer stand for hours at a time. It's not going to happen. Have realistic expectations and hunt for short periods of time -- like the last two hours in the afternoon, as just mentioned.
Although these tips are concerned primarily with deer hunting, you can cater them to turkey hunting, fishing, or any other outdoor recreational sport. This year, take the time and make the effort. Invest in your children and others who'd like to learn how to hunt. Remember: Children are our most valuable resource!