Getting ready for deer hunting is an annual scramble for us. Where are the blaze orange hats, the bag of field dressing gloves … and who moved the .308 hunting rounds somewhere? I’m here to give you some tips for getting ready to take a kid hunting. Not only have I hunted with my kids, but with friends and a gaggle of girls and boys when I was in high school. And I’ve got some thoughts on why you should send your kids out into the woods unsupervised.
Not a Soccer Mom is sponsored by Jagemann Sporting Group
This isn’t a suggestion or a maybe or “at some point next week,” this is a “NOW! Try it on NOW! If your boots don’t fit, 5 a.m. opening morning is not the time to realize it. If your jacket is too big under your blaze orange, you want to address it now. Put on the socks, the long underwear, the jacket, hat, boots, blaze orange. Shoulder or sling the gun WITH YOUR GEAR ON. Explain to your kids that this will help them know what they’re doing opening morning. They will understand how they move or if there’s anything keeping them from having the range of motion they need to shoot accurately and hold a gun properly. This can be a painful process. I suggest doing it at least a few weeks out, in case you need new boots or a jacket. If you are hunting on your own land, there’s nothing wrong with having them don their gear and walk to the stand to make sure they can climb a ladder or sit comfortably. [Note: If climbing a ladder for a tree stand, make sure your children use proper safety gear and harnesses that fit.] Preparing kids, especially young ones, so they can focus on the hunt will make everyone happier.
Sighting in your rifle or slug gun for deer hunting is a big deal at some gun ranges. Being zeroed at the distance you know you are most likely to shoot at is a good plan. We use 100 yards. But for a slug gun, and younger shooters, once the gun is zeroed, allowing them to shoot a few rounds at 50 and 100 yards will help them understand where their gun hits and what sight picture they need to see. You should go over with your young hunter where to aim on the deer, and if you have a target with the correct aiming points superimposed, that will help them immensely. It’s as simple as going to Midway or Amazon and ordering some.
Along with confirming zero, try to have them shoot the way they might from a stand or in the woods. Kids should know how to rest their stocks, not barrels, on the edge of a window or in a tree stand, how to brace off a tree and C-clamp, how to shoot offhand versus supported. Knowing what they have to do to make their shot is important. Not only does it mean better success, it also means humanely taking game. Spending a little extra time helping new hunters know what to see, where to aim, and how to squeeze the trigger will give them more confidence when they get out to the deer stand.
Nothing is more miserable than being cold in the woods, and the only thing worse than that is sitting with a kid who’s cold and miserable. So while you’re online looking for targets, get hand-warmers they can put in their pockets, boots, etc. A neck gator or scarf will also help, along with good mittens for sitting in the stand. An insulated seat cushion, if you are out in the elements, can be a big plus!
If you’re hunting in a stand, especially an enclosed one, having some sort of hearing protection is a must! You can look for electronic ears, like Walkers. But neither the hunter nor any accompanying adults need to damage their hearing. Go over how to safely climb into a stand with a firearm, unloading and reloading the gun. Discuss crossing fences and know the rules for the area you hunt. If you are on public land, review the time of sunrise and sunset and hours you can hunt. Know your location and how to get back to your vehicle.
When you have to get up early to get into the woods, make sure your hunting license or back-tag are on your jacket. Lay out your eye pro, ear pro, boots, etc. Pack a bag of snacks, hand warmers and water, if you have a hike. Get everything in order so you can get up and get on the way to the woods. Laying out your gear means gun and ammo, too. Make sure you have the correct type of ammo at least a couple weeks out so you don’t find bare shelves because everyone else who forgot until the last minute cleans stores out.
If hunting isn’t fun, your kids aren’t going to want to go. My dad took us up north to hunt at a friend’s house when we started hunting, but it was just us and a few of his friends. He saw we were going to get disinterested quickly, so we started traveling to other friends’ to hunt with them. There we would sit in the morning or evening with friends, we would still-hunt with friends, we would make drives up crazy ravines and hills with 20 friends. Younger kids would put on blaze orange and help. We would come inside for lunch, go bowling together at night and enjoy our friends as much as hunting. So, consider where you hunt and who you join up with and how much that can impact your hunt. Sometimes, it’s about bringing home memories more than game.