In the last century, small game hunting was a portal and a training ground to big game. Most youngsters began shooting with a Daisy BB gun, progressed to pellets, and onto a .22 for varmints and squirrels. Today, thanks to the abundance of whitetail deer, a hunter’s first hunt may be for big game, a mistake to the thinking of some.
Walk Before You Run
As hunters we often take the excitement and challenge of hunting for granted. As a youngster, dressing in hunting clothes, perhaps putting paint on their face, and going afield with a father, mother, or uncle is a really big deal. Kids love to dress up and pretend and if they only carry a Nerf gun, it will still be exciting as long as they don’t have to sit still.
Begin with Squirrels
Mobility is an important part of a hunting introduction and youngsters can hunt squirrels by walking and short silent sits. They have to learn patience and shooting skill. No doubt they may close their eyes or jerk the trigger the first couple of times, yet that’s part of the learning curve.
Gamo makes a .22 caliber pellet gun that’s an ideal squirrel starter. Because it’s not a traditional firearm, you can probably practice in your back yard, garage, or basement as long as the session is closely supervised by an adult.
Did They Have Fun
Bagging a squirrel or two is the goal, but the journey to that first bushytail is most important. Make the outing fun for the youngster. Review safety rules and make sure you follow them as an example. Stop and have breakfast as their favorite restaurant, even if its fast food. Talk about squirrel habits and the sounds that they make. Make sure your rifle is zeroed precisely so that a shot earned nets a squirrel.
A First Deer Hunting Step
Kip Adams speaks to teaching deer hunting skills through this entertaining post from QDMA:
Deer hunting is extremely popular. Approximately 80 percent of hunters in the United States pursue deer, and 60 percent of all days spent afield involve deer hunting. However, when it comes to mentoring new hunters – youths and adults alike – I’ll argue their first hunts should not be for deer. Rather, they should be for small game, and the perfect species to start with are squirrels.