Introducing kids to hunting is a great move. Here’s why.
It was a snowy, cold April morning 15 years ago when two big gobblers approached the decoys. My younger sister—I was mentoring her at the time during Wisconsin’s youth hunt— cocked the hammer back on an old 20-gauge shotgun. She aimed and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, the gun went “click.” The toms left, and I was frustrated that the gun had misfired.
I left my sister along with my mother in the blind and drove a short distance to retrieve my grandpa’s newer 20-gauge pump gun. Before long, I reached the blind with the new gun. Following a relatively brief wait, another tom came out into the corn stubble with some hens. When he raised his neck 20 yards away, my sister leveled him. She’s been a hunter ever since.
There are many reasons why getting kids into hunting is a great thing, but let’s review eight reasons in particular.
Teach Them to Provide Meat for the Table
Handing a kid a Happy Meal or a plate of pre-made boneless chicken wings fresh out of the oven gives them an unrealistic perspective of where food comes from. In order to eat meat, an animal must die. That’s reality, and it applies to both wild and domestic animals.
Of course, taking an animal’s life involves great responsibility, and every meat eater should understand that. The ultimate purpose of hunting is to provide food. When you take a kid hunting and they harvest an animal, they get an accurate perspective of how food is obtained. Unfortunately, many kids never experience the field-to-table procedure, and without that experience, you cannot fully appreciate our place in the circle of life. Hunters don’t kill to kill. We kill to eat responsibly sourced meat, and we don’t sweep the necessary act of killing an animal under the rug.
Teach Them the Skill of Decision-Making
From the moment a bow or firearm is uncased, every hunting outing involves dozens of decisions. And every decision has outcomes or consequences. In extreme cases, the consequences of a poor decision could result in severe injury or even death. Think about pointing a firearm’s muzzle in an unsafe direction or climbing into a treestand without wearing a safety harness and attaching to a lifeline. Other poor decisions that have less consequential outcomes could include moving at the wrong time and spooking an animal or hunting a stand in the wrong wind direction.
That’s why hunting is a great platform for teaching kids decision-making skills, and how those skills apply to other areas of life where consequences abound—such as driving a car or walking across a street. Along with decision-making, it’s important to teach kids to be aware of their surroundings and to not have tunnel vision regarding any given subject. For example, if they’re taking aim at an animal, they must know what’s beyond that animal. If they’re walking across the street at a crosswalk, they must be watching for a car to run a red light. See what I mean?
Teach Them to Address Challenges
Challenges cause us to think harder and deeper. They cause us to assess situations and project potential outcomes based on given circumstances. Think of it in football terms. If a quarterback and wide receiver are practicing alone, the only challenges are placing the pass and catching the ball. Not too difficult, right? But, when you add the uncontrollable factor of defensive coverage, the subtle challenges of passing accurately and catching the ball become exceptionally more difficult.
Hunting is like that, too. Shooting a target at the firing range is somewhat like the quarterback and receiver. But add realistic hunting conditions—wind, rain, spiked heart rate, branches, moving targets and so on— and it’s like adding defensive coverage. In other words, the initial challenge becomes far more challenging, causing you to focus harder and think deeper amidst the pressure. Challenges build character, sharpen skills and are a healthy part of living a successful life. Hunting is full of them.
Get Them Away from Video Games
Excessive video gaming numbs you to the real world. It seems those who are great at gaming are taught that things come fairly easily. Hunting games, for example, send out deer and other game at every level. There’s the instant gratification of seeing animals, which is inconsistent with the real world. In hunting, it takes hours, days, weeks, months and years to get opportunities to harvest animals.
I believe this explains why some kids have such short attention spans with hunting. I’m not just saying that because I think it’s true. I’ve actually experienced this with video-game-loving kids that I’ve mentored while hunting. The conversation revealed that situation. “I don’t think we’re going to see anything,” one said after a short period of waiting over a turkey-decoy spread. “We just got here, and I have a lot of experience with hunting turkeys,” I coached. “Birds will come through here sometime today, but we must be patient and stay here in order to get one.”
Beyond hunting video games, baseball or bowling games also seem to instill unrealistic expectations. In a video game, you can hit a grand slam on every pitch, bowl a strike on every turn or catch a bass on every cast. That’s very unrealistic in the real world. It takes years of dedication to come even close to that. And when kids see the hard work hunting requires, they’ll often revert back to video games.
Beyond that, when you conquer the final level of a video game, you don’t get a tangible result. I also believe that shoot-and-kill games wrongly instill anger and violence in kids when they’re at the most influenceable ages of their lives, and our world needs no more of that. I believe I’ve made my point.
Show the Importance of Conservation and Wildlife Management
Responsible hunters are not the bloodthirsty killers that anti-hunters think we are. Actually, we care for animals. In fact, populations of animals depend on conservation and management, both which are funded by hunting. We need to tell that story more often.
In the mentoring context, we must strive to help kids understand conservation, especially things like healthy harvests and habitat improvement. In other words, we hunters can be merely consumers. Sure, harvesting game is a big part of conservation, but we must do what’s best for the land and the animals, too.
Become Their Mentor
Taking a kid hunting often comes with a greater responsibility that goes beyond a few hunting outings. This is especially true of kids who don’t have a father figure. What am I getting at? Well, you have the opportunity to be more in their life than a hunting teacher. You can be their life mentor (with parental blessing, of course).
When you’re a mentor, every move you make can have an impact. If you cuss, you’re teaching them how to cuss. If you chew tobacco, they’ll learn that. If you drop a phone call with your spouse without saying goodbye, they’ll notice that, too. Everything you do in the kid’s presence has the power to impact and influence their life, so be sure to clean up your act and be the positive influence they need.
This is related to the topic of decision-making, but let’s distinguish it just a bit. Kids need to know that they can’t just go hunting whenever they want. They must abide by seasons and bag limits. They also must follow the regulations and have the proper tags and licenses.
Learning these concepts will help them learn responsibility in everyday life, too. They can’t drive without a license or consume alcohol when they’re underage. When driving, they can’t run a stop sign or pass someone on the right. Hunting gives kids the opportunity to learn responsibility at early ages in ways that will follow most kids into adulthood.
Show Them Hard Work Equals Results
The things in life most worth having aren’t handouts. A clean kitchen means you must roll up your sleeves and wash the dishes. Kids need to understand that to make a little cash, they’ll need to cut lawns or stack wood for a neighbor. To get A’s in school, they must study and complete their homework on time. Likewise, they need to understand that harvesting an animal is the result of hard work, patience and dedication. Unlike beating a video game, which requires almost no work and has no tangible result, success in hunting comes with tangible results and the satisfaction of a job well done.
…Take a Kid Hunting
I’ve had the pleasure of introducing several kids to hunting, and it’s a truly great experience that gives you many opportunities to teach kids and explain things. This is important for putting kids on a positive life path, but it’s also important for the longevity of hunting. Kids are hunting’s future. To that end, take a kid hunting. I doubt you’ll regret it.