A young person’s first hunting trip can be an incredible experience, sparking a lifelong love and appreciation for nature and wildlife. Parents who grew up hunting likely remember their first hunting trip and want to recreate that experience for their own children. As memorable as a first hunting trip can be, parents of current youngsters might not recall all the pre-trip preparation their own folks did to make that first hunting experience so memorable. Such preparation can ensure today’s youngsters enjoy the same magical experience their parents did when going hunting for the first time.
• Make sure kids are ready. Kids’ maturity levels merit consideration before taking them hunting for the first time. Children may experience a range of emotions on their first hunting trips. Such emotions can include excitement, nervousness, sadness, and/or guilt. Parents should assess their children’s maturity levels prior to announcing a trip to make sure they’re ready for that emotional roller coaster. Kids mature at their own pace, so assess each child individually, resisting the temptation to assume one child is ready at a given age because an older sibling was ready at the same age. The American Forest Foundation recommends parents first take their youngsters along as hunting apprentices, which allows them to participate in the rituals of the hunt while their parents can gauge how mature they are to handle the hunt itself.
• Make sure kids can handle their guns. Wide Open Spaces, a website devoted to providing up-to-date information for hunters, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts, notes the importance of kids knowing how to use their guns before they go hunting for the first time. Kids should know how to load and unload, check the chamber and turn the safety on and off. Kids should be confident with their guns, feeling comfortable enough to pull their firearms to their shoulders, get the gun’s sights on the animal and pull the trigger.
• Temper youngsters’ expectations. Hunting is a rewarding hobby, but also one that requires a lot of work. Weather also can be unpleasant during hunting season, and that can quickly spoil youngsters’ impressions of hunting. Temper kids’ expectations in advance of a hunting trip so they know it won’t necessarily be all fun. In addition, let children know many hunting trips end without a kill.
• Focus on the fun factor. The AFF notes that surveys indicate that young hunters are more excited to have fun and enjoy quality outdoor time than they are by the prospect of bagging and taking home a trophy animal. Parents should focus on the fun and the beauty of nature when taking youngsters hunting to ensure kids have as good a time as possible.
Some pre-trip preparation on the part of moms and dads can make youngsters’ first hunting trips successful.