So at what age do you start to take your child hunting? If your like me and have been following some of my recent blogs about the DEER30 Team’s newest member, then you should answer this question with “as early as possible.” My son is 2 months old and I already have him out in the turkey woods scouting for gobblers. Of course he is not an active participant but it does provide a story to tell a few more years up the road and hopefully it will spark an interest.
The point is, I believe a child will benefit so much by learning the great tradition and sport of hunting. I know I did as my father took me. I acquired an appreciation for nature and an urge to conserve it while learning ethics and the differences of right and wrong. By showing me the correct shot placement and properly preparing me to take the shot, an understanding was gained about the hunter’s duty to the animal and the facts of life and death. Teaching me the importance of following the rules of safety, laws, and regulations instilled an integrity, strength of character, and a sense of responsibility for my actions that has translated easily into the other facets of my life.
Of course, don’t forget the pure excitement and exhilaration that I felt when that gobbler hammered right in front of me or the first deer walks into view. The look on my face and the satisfaction my father felt when he saw his lessons taught being put into action must have brought a sense of pride unlike anything else. It doesn’t have to be for deer or turkey. One of my fondest memories from my childhood is the time spent with my father trampsing through the woods looking for crafty old grey squirrels.
These life lessons were not taught on the first day but over the course of my lifetime. I am still learning them. The clock started when my father took the initiative to pass along what someone had shown him over the years and that had kindled his hunting passion. He was prepared to be unsuccessful on his hunt and ready to take memories home instead of antlers. His patience proved to be his most valuable teaching tool. I am so lucky and proud that I had a father willing to do all of these things to pass his love of hunting on to me and I am hopeful that I can be as great of role model, teacher, and father as he is.
So, back to the question, “at what age…..” well, I think I am going to continue taking my infant on listening trips each year and maybe some walks in the summer time to fields that hold deer until he is about 5 or 6 years old. This is the age that I was given one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time, a red Ryder BB gun. From here on I was stalking birds in the backyard and honing my shooting skills on soda cans. It was around this time that I started tagging along on my father’s rabbit hunts and learning about hunting in the field. Some states have minimum hunting ages, such as Maryland (12 yrs old) which I find absolutely crazy. So long as they are accompanied by an adult, it should be the parents decision as to when their child is ready. If you wait until 12 years old, the video game bug may grab them instead of the love of the outdoors.
Bottom line, take your child as early as you can. Hopefully they will develop an interest that will continue to grow throughout their lives. If they do not, don’t push it! It may not be right for them. But when asked, most hunters tell you that it was their father, grandfather, etc. that got them started hunting, so it is up to us to make the effort of passing it on to the next generation.