Our right to bear arms was not necessarily designed in direct association with firearms being used for hunting, but today the two are critically linked. While second amendment supporters place substantial value on maintaining widespread gun rights, hunting is an area that people on the fence about gun control deem a sensible use of firearms. Obviously, being able to hunt with a firearm is highly dependent on gun laws, but it would appear that gun rights and hunting are connected on multiple levels.
Anyone who is passionate about guns, hunting or both is very aware that preserving our rights and opportunities requires an ongoing battle. It is important that as gun owners and hunters we band together to continue our defense of those rights, but we also look forward to the future. That means getting today’s youth involved with hunting and guns so they can carry on the traditions as well as the defense of our rights.
The Value of Getting Kids Involved
Clearly, there is value in getting kids started hunting and using firearms when it comes to preserving the rights, opportunities and culture of the sport. There is also significant value to the individual kids. Both shooting and hunting are great ways to promote maturity and respect, as both are fun, but come with a lot of responsibilities. As you begin to teach your kid about serious topics like safety and ethics, it should help develop their ability to make sound decisions.
Hunting and shooting sports both encourage exercise and time spent in the outdoors- both things kids today could use a little more of. They also include quality time spent with friends and family, something that today’s youth lacks whenever their lives become a little too focused on technology-derived entertainment.
How to Get Them Started
If you are a hunting or shooting parent, many kids will take an early interest in participating, because that is what kids do- try to emulate their parents. Early introduction to any hobby or sport should be done with a certain amount of caution and patience since burnout is a real possibility. We have all seen the prodigies that are great at something when very young, but lose interest before adulthood because they overdo it early on. Hunting and shooting are no different. Try to involve them at a level and pace that mirrors their interest; do not force it on them.
A good way to start is to get them behind an air rifle and then a .22. If they have toy guns when they are younger, start to explain to them the rules of gun safety. These obviously become significantly more important when the gun is real, so you want to make sure they are old enough and mature enough to grasp the differences and the gravity of using guns before introducing them. Once they reach that point, target practice is a great way for them to start developing marksmanship skills. Some kids may develop a love for shooting but not for hunting. Transversally, some people end up liking hunting but shoot guns only for that purpose.
The next gun you buy them is a critical step. Make sure it is appropriately sized and in a reasonable chambering. Too much gun is a great way to turn a young shooter away from the sport or cause them to develop bad habits. Starting with the pellet gun and moving on up, make sure they always have more than enough ear and eye protection.
Getting them out Hunting
When it comes time to start taking your kid along on a hunting trip, safety will be of utmost importance. Hopefully, they will be old enough to have the patience and stamina for a decent amount of time hunting, but a shortened trip because they are worn out matters little compared to an accident because safety rules were not followed. Many states require kids to pass a hunter safety course before hunting, but some do not. Either way, it is ultimately up the parent or guardian to make that final call as to whether the kid is mature and safe enough to start carrying a firearm in the field.
Once you make that decision, follow these guidelines to make their first trip enjoyable:
- Go on a good weather day
- Pick a hunt where encounters are likely
- Pack lots of snacks
- Dress them to stay warm and dry
- Be patient and do not put too much pressure on them
- Encourage questions and take advantage of teaching moments
- End the hunt when they are ready to be done
Just like when they are very young, allow the kid to dictate how often, how long and how hard they hunt. Not everyone will fall in love with hunting and guns, but many become very passionate about one or both. The best you can do as parents, guardians or mentors is to put it out there for them, try to make it special for them and see if it sticks. Hopefully, they will join the masses of people who love the sport and support our related rights and opportunities.