Young Hunters: When Is the Right Age to Take Your Youth Hunting?
What parent doesn't want to share life-changing experiences and make memories with their children? If you are a hunter, it stands to reason you want your child to experience the thrill of a hunt with you. But like many, you may be confused as to the correct age to take kids hunting.
The criteria for taking your child hunting can be tricky and is based on both state laws and their emotional maturity.
Below, we discuss everything you need to know before you take your youth hunting.
Is Youth Hunting Legal?
Aside from the emotional and physical preparation for a hunt, you must first find out if the child is of legal age to hunt in your state. Most states have a minimum age limit, usually 12 years old. However, some states allow hunting at 10 years old.
Some states may require young hunters to have a license at a certain age. Others may require a hunter education certificate or similar qualification. You can check online to find the hunting requirements for your state.
Just because your child is of the legal age, does not mean that they may be ready to hunt emotionally. Children are complex beings, with different levels of maturity. Only you know your own child enough to decide if they are ready.
Do They Understand Safety?
A good age to start hunting with kids is when they understand the concept of danger. If they are still risk-takers, who have not yet learned the value of being safe, then they are far too young. Safety should be your number one priority on any hunt, regardless of age.
Before you go hunting, take time to explain the rules and safety regulations. In addition, explain why they are there and they are important. Children want to learn about the world and know why things exist, so increase their interest.
Lowering Your Own Expectations
Children will hunt a lot differently than adults. To them, the whole hunt will be a chance to play and explore. As long as they are safe, you should let them do this.
With such small attention spans, you should keep hunts short and sweet. Moving around and talking will be your friend, so any games or activities that incorporate this will work well. Talk about the woods and your surroundings as you travel.
Of course, this will mean limiting your own expectations of the hunt. With so much noise, you are likely to scare a lot of the hunt away. In addition, you may not be able to track and cover half as much ground as you normally do.
In fact, if you push your children too far and take the whole event too seriously, you may put your children off hunting for life. If the child is not having fun, they will not want to return to the activity.
Keep them occupied by making the hunt fun, and bring along drawing books, crayons, and games to keep them engaged when the action slows down.
If you decide that even with these pointers, your child may still be distracted and unhappy, then it is likely they will be too young to hunt. Leave it a year or two before assessing the situation again.
Can They Handle the Conditions?
Hunting can be tough on anyone, particularly in adverse conditions. If it is wind, rain, and mud, or blistering heat, you must be sure that your child can handle the conditions. If not, you should postpone or think about hunting in a different location.
One other answer to this is to cut down the length of the hunt. If you are in freezing temperatures, it is irresponsible to keep a child out for a long period of time. The same goes for hot weather, where you can risk heat and sunstroke.
Being prepared can alleviate some of these factors. Making sure your child has the correct clothing, and bringing along plenty of food and drink will make children stay more comfortable for a longer period of time.
As soon as your children start to display discomfort, it is time to leave. If you believe this may be a very short period of time, then the hunt may not be worth it and you should wait.
Are They Emotionally Prepared?
Before you take your kids hunting, you must be sure they are prepared. This must be addressed with tact and a degree of understanding.
Never push a child to go hunting. If they do not want to go on a hunt, forcing them is a guaranteed way to make them dislike it forever. Instead, build up their curiosity with comments about what you do and how fun it is, until they make the decision themselves.
It will also help if you discuss the concept of hunting with children beforehand. Talk about why you hunt, and why it is important. Let your child ask questions and answer them.
When the time comes to make a kill, never force a child to take the shot. If they are not prepared or back out, let them know it is ok. This may damage their love of hunting forever.
Finally, if your child does make a kill and feels bad, support them. Let them know it is how the world works, and never make them feel ashamed or embarrassed about their emotions.
Enjoying Family Time
Once you work out if your child is emotionally ready for a youth hunting expedition and of legal age, you can enjoy the trip. Lower your expectations, don't apply pressure, and simply enjoy the time spent with your child.
If you are ready to take the step, then make sure you and your family are prepared for the hunt. Beyond Hunt has a range of amazing clothing items designed for outdoor pursuits. Browse our catalog if you want to stay warm while looking cool on your next hunt.