Young Hunters: When and How to Get Children Started
By Jon Sutton & Erika Jutila of Outdoor Empire
Read the original article at https://outdoorempire.com/how-to-get-kids-into-hunting/
Parents with kids old enough to start hunting are in for a special treat. Many passionate hunters have at some point realized the enjoyment of getting others involved in the sport and watching them learn and be successful. However, it is hard to rival the feeling when the new hunter is your kid.
Taking your kid hunting comes with a ton of benefits: it encourages quality time and communication with friends and family and teaches youngsters about being respectful and responsible. It also encourages being active and spending time outdoors- a couple things that kids today probably do not do enough. Massachusetts does not allow kids under 12 to hunt, but once they are old enough, the state favors them learning in a mentored situation instead of a classroom.
Introducing them to Hunting
Because the minimum age requirement of 12 is a little older than some states, you will likely want to find ways to get your kid involved before they can legally hunt. A great way to do this is to get them started on the shooting and gun safety side of things. Start them with an airgun or .22 and then move them up through appropriate youth calibers. Of course, even if they never end up loving hunting, shooting is a great hobby on its own. Teaching your kid how to shoot at a young age will encourage them to be safe instead of dangerously curious around firearms. It will also create another advocate for gun rights moving forward.
You can also take them on low-pressure scouting and hunting trips. Whether it is shooting practice or time spent in the woods, begin to imprint on them lessons about safety, ethics and hunting skills.
Their First Hunts
Massachusetts allows kids from 12 to 14 years of age to hunt under the supervision of an adult. The adult must have all the necessary licenses and documents to hunt, and they share the license, tag and one firearm or bow with the youth hunter. These are great opportunities to continue to teach valuable lessons and grow your kid into a safe, ethical and skilled hunter.
Once a youth hunter turns 15 they are eligible to buy their own license. Until they are 18 they must continue to hunt under the supervision of an adult OR pass a hunter education course so they can hunt solo. The good news is, if you have been teaching them lessons all along the way, the hunter education course should be a refresher of things they have learned over the years.
Massachusetts offers a variety of youth hunting opportunities ranging from waterfowl to deer. Seasons and opportunities vary by year, so make sure to check the annual regulations for the current years’ rules.
Whether they are general season or special youth hunts, invest some time and thought into how you can make the trip as enjoyable for the new hunter as possible. Some things to consider are:
- Make sure they are dressed to stay warm and dry
- Pick a hunt of flexible duration and quit when they are ready
- Be patient and encourage lots of questions
- Bring lots of snacks to lift energy and spirits
- Try to pick a day where the weather is not totally miserable
- Bring them on a trip where encounters or success are likely
Going into those first few hunts with the right mindset is key. Remember the trip could go perfectly and your kid might not like hunting right away, or ever. The trip could also go terribly and the kid might love hunting immediately, anyway. Be patient and take things at their pace. Do not force long trips on them or bring them along too often if their interest level does not merit it. Sometimes it takes a while for someone to really fall in love with the sport, but putting too much pressure on them is a sure way to burn them out.
The goal is to grow them into a safe and ethical hunter that will enjoy the sport for a lifetime. Not only will you acquire a new hunting partner, the sport will acquire another advocate. Make sure to relax and enjoy the time spent with your son or daughter in the field because they will be grown hunters before you know it!