How to Raise a Hunting Buddy

rmyoung1

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I have a question for you wise HT parents out there. Over the course of my life I've had numerous conversations with folks who don't hunt. It seems their story often goes like this: "My dad/grandad/uncle used to take me hunting but all I ever got was cold. I don't do it anymore." It's a sad story in a lot of ways. I don't want it to be my boys' story.

I'm the proud dad of three boys, ages 8, 6, and 2. I'm now starting to think strategically about how to introduce my sons to the wonderful world of hunting in a way that will resonate with them and "stick." I can look back on the things that my own dad did with me, but I also wanted to reach out and get the advice of the HT crowd. What have you done to help raise up the next generation of passionate hunters? What worked well? What didn't work? Any advice? Any good stories that you would be willing to share?
 

Bwana

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Make it fun! Whatever you do make sure they are comfortable and enjoying themselves.

Snacks...bring lots of them.

If you are a bit on the intense side while hunting, it might be best to do those "me" hunts with your buddies cut from the same cloth. Don't put the kids through "boot camp" until they are ready.

Take breaks from hunting to do something fun. Target practice, following tracks, stopping at the local eatery before, during or after the hunt, etc.

That being said, some will jump on board but others won't. Let them decide.
 

Hunting Wife

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I am not a parent, but have nieces/nephews and work with kids a fair bit. Some points that spring to mind:

1.Obviously be aware of the difference between "taking" them hunting and engaging them in the process. I think some of those people that went along and hated it probably ended up passively sitting there for hours on end and didn't really do anything. Engagement is important for stoking interest, particularly when attention spans are short. Kids love to help, so find ways for them to feel like they are contributing to the hunt. If hunting becomes something that makes them feel important and valued, you've already created a positive perception of the activity.

2. Appeal to their curiosity, but don't go overboard with teaching. If it starts to feel like school, they are going to turn off. Humor their interest in leaves, bugs, poop, whatever but when they start to tune out, don't push it. They can only absorb so much at a time. Remember, you're in it for the long haul so start with small doses.

3. As they get a little older, you may try tailoring hunting experiences to align more with their individual interests if possible. If you've got an athlete on your hands, perhaps you take them on some backcountry hunts or hunt more challenging terrain. If you've got a budding scientist, maybe you spend a little more time exposing them to the biological aspects of hunting.

4. Acknowledge the possibility today, that no matter what you do, hunting may just not be for them and be okay with it. Forcing the issue will only cause hurt feelings and resentment, and ultimately you may end up with bigger problems than just a kid that doesn't really like hunting. If you have to bond over a shared appreciation of fishing or tent-camping instead of hunting, you're still doing pretty darn good in the scheme of things.
 

Gut Shot

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Keep it simple. I started taking my kids into the woods as infants. I have a picture of my daughter with a dead deer at 11 days old, so they've been around hunting all of their lives. I started just taking them out in the woods and looking for deer and coyote tracks. Short trips to look for sheds is fun too. At around 3-4 I took them out for a short squirrel hunt. I shot a squirrel and let them carry it home. They watched mom cook the meat and then they got to eat it.

If you take them hunting with you the hunt has to be for them. My daughter would go out in the snow with me deer hunting and after fifteen minutes tell me she was cold and had to pee. That was fine, we went in, it was her hunt not mine, even though I was the one shooting.

This fall I took the whole family to Wyoming hunting for a week. An eight and 12 year old never got bored the entire time unless we were just driving. They looked for antlers and rocks and enjoyed camping and hiking in someplace new.
 

Big Sky

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Keep in mind that you might do everything in your power and still have kids that don't care for hunting. Some people just don't want to do it. I have 6 kids and 5 of them will hunt, though one of the five would rather fish. The one that doesn't hunt at all is really into team sports like football, soccer, and basketball. He just has no desire to kill anything. He likes to shoot, fish, and be outdoors, but just doesn't want to kill anything. He's a great kid and I love him just as much as the rest. Here is something that I do find interesting though. I have 4 boys and 2 girls. My oldest daughter loves to hunt more than her siblings. My oldest son likes to hunt, but prefers to have company when he hunts. However he is a fishing fanatic and could care less whether he's alone or with someone when he's fishing.
 

Muskeez

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I believe my dad did a better job than I did. It might seem odd, but he didn't take me with him every time. I can remember watching him pull out of the driveway with his buddies when I was 8-12 years old and I couldn't go every time. Now I can see that was actually good for me, I wanted to go so bad and I think I treasured the times that I did get to go. Don't get me wrong, he still took me a lot, but I think he left me home when he knew it was going to be freezing cold or there weren't many ducks around anyway.
Another thing he did that I didn't do is he let me learn on my own. We lived near a set of railroad tracks and a creek. My brother and buddies and I were there almost everyday. We shot things we shouldn't have, we built blinds, we photographed ducks in the spring, we tried to jump our bikes over creeks that Evil Kenevil could only jump, we cussed and talked about girls, and we just grew up in the outdoors, learning as we went.
My dad also started us off with small game, and birds, and LOTS of target and trap shooting and reloading shotgun shells by the hundreds. I on the other hand was big on deer hunting myself when I had kids and I just started them out deer hunting with me. We had some great times and 2 of the 3, (both girls) still love hunting with me. My son lost interest and now just walks along with us a time or 2 each year when we go pheasant hunting or he will sit in a tree with a camera instead which is still good. At least he will still join us on occasion.
 

RobG

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The first time Sam shot anything was this year and it was the antelope I wrote about. We went deer hunting Thursday and he shot a doe, but he felt pretty guilty about shooting it since it wasn't bothering anyone. He's 12. Somewhere in the last year he started empathizing with the animals. This summer he was wondering why I'd want to shoot a rabbit, when last year he wanted to go hunting for them. This was never a problem with me when I was his age but I started shooting things well before twelve, plus attitudes of the school kids were different.

I think maybe getting them out when they are 10 shooting gophers or something will help them see animals for what they are. We didn't take the time to do that and we also don't hunt what we don't eat. Maybe having the mentor program for deer hunting isn't such a bad idea.
 

smarandr

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Once I heard that you should wait to take them until they ask to go. I did this with fishing and it seems to be working well. My oldest wanted a "real big kid" fishing pole for his seventh birthday a couple of months back, so I must be doing something right.

Different experiences help a lot too. My dad introduced me to hunting and fishing, but it was always the same old thing; we'd hunt the same hillside every year for deer and fish the same stretch of river a few times a year to catch a few trout (and a lot of carp).

In my late teens and early twenties I started doing a lot of hunting and fishing with a close friend of mine and was exposed to different locations, weapons and quarry. This helped to turn a passing interest into a passion. Now I'm the one who's introducing my dad to new things like hunting elk and using archery tackle. I still need to get him into waterfowling though.

I have three boys myself, ages 7, 4 & 1 and I'll be watching the thread close for good tips.
 

Don K

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Like everyone said, make sure they have fun and dont pressure them. I have 3 boys, two hunt and the other loves to come along to this day but does not hunt. (Biggest problem for me is having a place to take them.)

Before they where big enough to hunt I would take them along on my hunts. I took a double bull blind and a small roll of carpet for the floor. Each one took his small backpack of coloring books, or what ever they wanted (snacks) and would sit in the blind with me. Once I saw deer I would get their attention and show them. They really enjoyed this when they where little.
 

DaveHawk

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Don't try to squeeze it all in durring hunting season. I took my 3 boys camping, fishing, shed hunting, trip for scouting off season. Find out what their moat interested in and grow from there.
 

Kiwi

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I suggest getting your kids a cheap bow. Kids love bows and they'll learn a lot of hunting skills at the same time.
 
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1_pointer

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Though I'm still very new to raising a hunter, the FUN aspect cannot be overlooked. When the boys were 4 & 5 I took them squirrel hunting. We didn't even see one as they spent quite a bit of time banging on trees with sticks and throwing things. We progressed to taking them along on short sits in a deer stand. I shot a small buck one year with my oldest in tow. He started shaking and when I asked him if he was alright as he'd never seen a deer shot he replied, "This is the most exciting day of my life!". Now my 8yo is willing to go early to sit longer to increase the chances of seeing or shooting one! I asked him during the youth hunt if he finds hunting boring as he's a boy that has a hard time sitting still. He answered, "Yes. But, if you see one and especially if you shoot one it's so worth it!". He's hooked.

Keep it fun. If they like to do it they will more likely to want to keep doing it.
 

cornfed

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Everybody situation is different and there is no fail proof system. I started slow. BB gun at six. Learn to shoot it. Took them along on some hunting trips to get a feel for things and learn the process. Explain to them things that make your odds of being successful higher. Get them thinking about the process just don't take them out and make sure they are successful show them what it takes to succeed. Regular practice and let them show you that they are ready to move on to the next step. Help them learn from the mistakes when they happen be really firm but don't over do it like when it comes to gun handling and things. Probably the most important thing I taught my son when he was a little older was there are to type of hunters. Those that want to be taken hunting and those that want to go hunting. If he was the first he might not go that much but if he wanted to hunt all the time he better get to learning. That being said I'm only one for three with my son being a driven hunter. One daughter that has hunted and who I still hold out hope for when life settles down and one daughter who can't hurt a fly let alone kill something. However, they all respect hunting and enjoy eating the harvest and enjoy the success of other hunters. So really I'm three for three.
 

zeke1

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I started my son in the outdoors at about 18 months camping hiking, then by 3 he would go scouting with me. At 6 he was shooting bows and bb guns, then at 7 he shot my AR and .22. He would sit in a ground blind with toys and snacks we would take breaks from hunting to play or just walk around whatever he wanted to do. He loves fishing, set his 1st traps last season and caught a red fox and couple of coons. He begged and begged to shoot a deer from age 4 to 7 but in TN he couldn't take hunters saftey till 9, but this summer at age 8 he decided that his love for animals is to great he wants to be a veterinarian and a K9 handler and says he still wants to fish but catch an release only and as of now wants nothing to do with hunting, but its his choice so I told him I love him and that's absolutely ok.
 

the nikster

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My oldest daughter loves to hunt. Middle son is ambivilant and youngest daughter is anti. I thought I raised them all the same but maybe something changed. My oldest still talks about one on one time with dad and enjoys it the most. Maybe there was just too many people involved for the other two. I did the best I could and I am happy with the results. Always take a fishing pole to break it up if you are not seeing game-boredom is the real enemy here. Take lots of candy it ain't good for the body but it will be good for your relationship-better than mountain house.
 

JLS

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There is some great advice thus far on here. One thing to keep in mind, EVEN IF THEY HUNT, there will very likely come a time in their life (probably starting in middle school) when you are competing against too many other priorities. Once they get into high school, there is so much going on that just getting an evening together to hunt can be very difficult. However, you are planting the seed for the long haul, not just the now. They won't always have sports, choir, youth group, and tests to study for, but right now they do. Allow them a lot of latitude in establishing their priorities.

A few thoughts. Don't pressure them. If they aren't having fun, pack it in. I hunt completely differently with my kids than I do myself. Slow down for them. Take breaks when they want to. Do fun things like let them drive when you get out in the sticks.

Above all, make hunting an option, not an expectation. If it's something they want to do of their own accord, foster that desire. If they feel it's something they are doing in order to please you and make you happy, then they're doing it for the wrong reasons.
 

JLS

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Another addendum thought here. It's not all about the kill, but they need to be introduced to the kill. Find a way to hunt that they can experience it. Two of my girls have sat in the blind with me archery hunting. One stalked an elk with me and was laying next to me when I shot it.

I hate hunting hayfields, but I'll tell you what. It's a great way to put kids into a position where they can succeed early in their hunting years. I personally think there is a lot of value in getting them an "easy" deer or two and use that to further build their desire. If I took my kids out and hunted like I normally do, they probably wouldn't like it very much. Tailor the hunt to fit them.
 

putm2sleep

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Fun question... not sure what I did well, but like others, one key is he went everywhere. Like a great hunting dog.
 
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