The age old debate about age has been push to the forefront with a recent article in the News and Observer. I’ll offer my perspective on the article itself in another post but for this post lets talk about introducing kids to hunting in general.
I guess I should say first that I don’t have any children and I didn’t start hunting till I was an adult. I however have been around a number of people teaching young people to hunt and I have also taken a number of youth hunting over the years. So hopefully you’ll find my views on this subject helpful if you are facing this decision.
The history of our hunting roots is in family upbringings and traditions the vast majority of hunters today got their start with an older family member. Not too many generations ago many of us lived in rural settings being brought up a lot closer to nature and the earth then we are today. Even for me that was brought up in suburbia the vast majority of my free time was spent outdoors playing and observing the real world the only virtual world we had was what we created with our minds. Today technology has changed much of that and young people grow up with instant gratification of beeps and blinking lights on a screen. Sadly very few spend much time in nature these days.
With earlier generations food was more what was grown, gathered, raised, or hunted and every member of the family took part in it from the youngest up to the oldest. Hunting was more a necessity then a recreational activity today those roles have flipped. Small game was an important staple for many families a few generations ago but not so any more.
Today in North Carolina the primary species that are hunted are Whitetail Deer and Turkeys a few generations ago these two species were for the most part absent from the landscape. Small game was center stage for most hunters; quail, rabbit and squirrel were the critters that filled the game bag. Hunting was done with a 22 or a shotgun with birdshot marginal rounds at best if tried on turkeys or deer today.
Now a days it is not unusual for a young person to take his or her first animal as something classified as “Big Game” and that involves stronger weapons and larger rounds. Now I don’t have an issue with that I just think it takes a bit more maturity and physical strength then killing a rabbit or a squirrel. While I think there is some good reasoning behind having a young person first kill be a small game animal I understand for many that is unrealistic. Time constraints and limited opportunities have for many reduced or eliminated small game hunting all together.
What age can a person start hunting? I believe there are a number of factors to consider when determining what age that is and I believe that it is an individual decision not based on a set age. I think participation at the earliest age possible is great carrying a firearm and actually killing an animal is when they are ready. Things I look for when I’m teaching a young person to hunt; ability to listen and follow instructions, some understanding of safety, some understanding of the taking of a life and the meaning of that kill.
On the range I want to see that they can safely handle the gun they plan to hunt with. They may not be able to shuck the shell but I want to know they know how it should be done, how to line up the sights and hit a target, and how to operate the safety. Hunter Safety classes are offered in every state I think it is important that everyone takes the class.
At what age a young person matures enough to fully participate in a hunt will widely vary but any age kid that has a desire to hunt can participate in some aspects of the hunt. We should keep it fun and educational for them. Hopefully they’ll learn that unlike the virtual world there is a lot better rewards then blips and blinking lights on a screen when you fully engage with the natural world.