6 safety tips for parents hunting with kids
In this modern world, connecting to nature can be difficult–especially for children. That is why hunting with your kids is a great opportunity to spend time together outdoors.
When you teach your children the grand tradition of hunting, you are giving them more than just a connection with nature and self-reliance. You’re connecting them with the past and teaching them to respect the natural order of the world. You’re helping them disengage with the hustle of the modern world and fall into synch with the rhythms of nature.
If you are planning on taking your child hunting, you want to make sure that they remain as safe as possible. One of the many benefits of teaching your child how to hunt is teaching them how to handle a gun and other potentially dangerous equipment safely.
If hunting is on your family’s list of adventures, you need to take some precautions to safeguard your children, while at the same time imparting to them respect and awe for the natural world. Here are six safety tips for parents who are taking their children hunting.
1. Teach Them How to Properly Use Firearms
The first and most important rule of hunting with kids is teaching them about gun safety before they take one step into the woods. Before they handle a gun in an open space, practice with them at a shooting range. Get them used to the feel and the kick of a firearm so they won’t be dangerously surprised when they line up their first shot.
One day, you hope your children will carry on your tradition of hunting on their own, with a buddy or maybe even with their kids. You want them to be safe every step of the way. Experienced hunters know that the majority of gun-related hunting accidents (37 percent) are due to improper handling of the firearm. Make sure your kids understand that handling a gun carefully is the priority for a successful, safe hunt.
Teach them the crucial details of gun safety, like never pointing your firearm at another hunter, always making sure they are 100 percent certain of their target before firing and keeping their fingers off the trigger until they’re prepared to take a shot. Teach them how to carry the firearm over rough terrain and keeping the chamber unloaded until they’re absolutely ready to fire.
2. Get Them in the Right Gear
Your children must have the appropriate equipment on a hunt so that they can stay safe, warm and protected from the elements. Youth hunting gear is paramount to your family hunting trip’s success, so use a reputable supplier and choose gear specially tailored for children.
Along with youth safety gear, overpack clothing for your child. Long underwear, a hat and an extra pair of gloves is key to a successful trip. Their footwear must be waterproof and fit comfortably. Pack one to two extra pairs of socks just in case.
3. Plan Out Your Hunting Trip
You don’t want to have your kid out in the woods with you and realize that you’re lost. Having a solid plan in place well before you take your child hunting is an essential safety tool.
Go to an active hunting area, but one that’s not too crowded. An easily accessible area can make any emergency changes to your hunting plan easier.
Unexpected illnesses or injuries can occur on hunting trips, and children are particularly vulnerable. Sometimes you have to leave from a hunting trip quickly, and when you do, you should be in a location where you can get back to your vehicle promptly. Plan accordingly.
4. Take Necessary Courses
Even if your child isn’t going to be handling a gun on their first time out on a hunt, they may still need a license or a specific tag to join in. You can find out the details for your state on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website.
Some states and counties require or encourage a hunter education course that consists of six to eight hours of coursework and a final test. These courses teach safety as well as hunter etiquette and responsibility. Having your child take one of these courses will start them off with a solid foundation.
In most states, your child cannot get their license to hunt until they’re 12, but they can still experience the joys of hunting with you. A lot of states offer a mentored youth tag for kids under 12, so you can bring your young ones along with you and get them started early as hunters.
5. Set Real Expectations
This tip is for you–the parent and experienced hunter. When you’re considering taking your child out and teaching them to hunt, you must manage your expectations. You may be able to sit in a blind from before sun-up to after sun-down, but you can’t expect the same resilience from your kids right from the start.
They will want snacks. They will fuss and make noise when you don’t want them to. They will get cold and complain. This is what kids do, so don’t be too surprised when your child begins to fidget.
Be prepared with snacks, surprise activities and other distractions. Don’t be too disappointed if you have to modify your hunting plans to suit their needs. The essential part is teaching them hunting safety and helping them enjoy the outdoors. The rest is peripheral.
6. Start Small
You may have big dreams of your kid bagging that 12-point buck right off the bat, but you should probably start small if you want everyone on the trip to enjoy their time outdoors.
Even if you’re working up to deer hunting season, you may want to start by bagging squirrels, rabbits or other smaller prey. This can help children learn how to aim and shoot their rifles or bows, and this game is easier for them to pick up, gut and carve by themselves.
When your child expresses a desire to go hunting with you, it’s time to pass down that honored tradition. You’re not just teaching your child how to hunt. You’re teaching them about gun safety, how to outfit themselves in proper gear and how to respect the animals and other hunters they encounter.
You have a big job, so take the first steps in the right direction and make sure that when you hit the trail with your kids in tow, you’re as prepared as possible.