Youth Hunting | Introducing Youth to Hunting Starts at the Range
Seeing your children grow year after year is one of the most rewarding experiences of parenthood. As they age, your kids begin to follow your lead in every aspect of life including hunting. Their passion for the outdoors and hunting is budding, and you have to make a decision as to when it is time to introduce youth hunters to shooting. Youth hunting starts at the range and the sooner you can introduce them to shooting the better.
Introducing Youth Hunters to Shooting
What is the right age to introduce youth hunters to shooting? That is completely dependent on you and the child you are introducing to shooting. Every child is different. The decision to start teaching your youngster the basics and safety of proper shooting and handling of firearms is something that requires the upmost confidence in your own skills and those of your young hunter. Here are 5 tips to help you to be successful with introducing kids to shooting on the range.
Not all kids are ready to start shooting when you are ready to teach them. Do not force shooting on them but rather let them start when they are ready and show an interest. Too much pressure to start shooting can quickly turn them off. Youth hunters should move forward at their own pace with some guidance and be comfortable with shooting.
Choose the right youth hunting gun
Caliber choice basically comes down to either an air rifle (BB-gun or .177) or .22 long-rifle for those youth hunters who are just learning to shoot. Anything more and the recoil can be too hard to control and could easily scare kids away from learning to shoot. Make sure the gun is the right fit for your new shooter. Ill-fitting youth hunting guns are hard to shoot for kids. Children should feel comfortable while shooting so they are more safe and more on target with each shot.
Youth shooting fundamentals
Start by going over all the parts and functionally of the firearm you have chosen to shoot. Keep it simple but be detailed enough so your youth hunting partner knows the basics. Next, determine your new shooter’s dominant eye and shooting hand. Discuss the fundamentals of a good shooting position such as a solid rest, secure grip, breath control and trigger squeeze. This should all be discussed and practiced with an unloaded firearm. Once both you and your child feel ready, take it to the range for the real thing.
After going through the fundamentals, demonstrate your instructions by going through the same fundamental steps yourself. Shoot a few rounds from the same youth hunting gun he/she will use. Show your youngster exactly how to complete each step, from loading to pulling the trigger, so that they can see how the process unfolds in an actual shooting scenario.
Make it fun
Once you have your youth hunting partner interested in shooting, have the right gun and have gone over the fundamentals, it is time to shoot and shoot often. Keep shooting fun. Days on the range firing round after round at a simple white ten ring will quickly lose your kids interest. Use targets that imitate animals like squirrels and groundhogs. Don’t just shoot at paper targets either. Metal dingers of different sizes are fun, and the shooter knows right away whether or not they hit their mark.
The same five tips hold true for youth bowhunting. More importantly with youth bowhunting is finding the right kids bow that your child can manage to hold comfortably and be able to draw successfully. Find a youth bow that has an adjustable draw length and weight. This will allow the bow to grow with your child from practicing to hunting without having to purchase another new bow as they grow. Finally, as with introducing kids to gun shooting, make bow shooting fun for kids. This will keep them engaged and hungry for more time on the range.
Youth shooting at the range should encompass every aspect of the activity. In addition to the fundamentals and actually shooting, do not forget to explain the rules of the shooting range and range etiquette. This is important, not only for safety but to be courteous of others shooting.
Safely Teaching Youth Hunters to Shoot
Absent from the tips above is safety. It was not left out because it is not important. On the contrary, it is so important that it requires its own section. Teaching children gun safety is the number one priority when shooting. There is too much at stake to be careless with safety when it comes to kids shooting a gun or a bow. Even more important is to teach the right safety procedures to youth hunters from day one.
First, always keep the barrel of the firearm in a safe direction at all times. Never point a weapon at anything other than a target or game you are hunting. Second, treat every gun as if it were loaded. Do not take for granted a firearm is unloaded and additionally keep guns unloaded until you are ready to use it. Third, be sure of your target while shooting. You must always know your surroundings. Know what is in front of, behind and around your target. Fourth, keep your finger away from the trigger until you are certain you are ready to fire the weapon.
Safety with the firearm itself is important, but so is safety when it comes to shooting. Always wear ear protection and safety glasses when on the range. Be aware of your surroundings at all times because you cannot be sure those around you shooting are practicing the same safety measures you are.
Youth Shooting Opportunities
As you build confidence and the skills needed to be a successful young shooter, there are additional ways to get more opportunities at the range. Check with your local sportsmen club for youth shooting days or classes. Some gun clubs even hold youth shooting leagues in air rifle and .22 Look into youth shooting opportunities with your county or state 4H. Frequently 4H will host shooting camps or demonstrations for young hunters. For those starting to shoot archery, most outdoor summer camps typically offer archery shooting at some level. Specialized youth summer camps like the Raised at Full Draw Bowhunting Camps go into great detail not only on proper shooting techniques and safety but also bowhunting skills that help young outdoors people excel at the sport.
To sum up, make shooting as fun as possible for youth hunters. Take time introducing youth hunters to shooting. Explain the fundamentals and demonstrate the proper way to handle and shoot a firearm. Address safety in a deliberate and serious manner. If we teach our children to respect shooting at a young age, they will carry that respect for firearms throughout their youth hunting and into adulthood.