Like introducing your kids to fishing, taking them deer hunting can be a fun, exciting experience loaded with memory-making opportunities. If your aim is to nurture a love of the outdoors and hunting in your children, it’s important that first hunts are enjoyable for all. Here are some tips and tricks to make the adventure go as smoothly as possible so everyone will want to return next year.
Although deer hunting season is a limited time (usually two to three weeks in Northern Minnesota), you’ll want to get your hunt on the calendar early to avoid scheduling conflicts with other family activities. Doing so also generates excitement, which is half the fun of any adventure.
Consider a Youth Hunt
Each season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stipulates a special Youth Deer Season, usually one weekend several weeks before the official firearm season. The main benefit of these special hunts is the opportunity to make it all about your kids. Since adults aren’t allowed to hunt, you can focus 100 percent of your attention on helping your new hunter have a great experience. Check the MN DNR website for hunting season regulations, including youth hunting dates.
It’s not uncommon for adults to decide “it’s just easier” to do all the prep work themselves. But planning meals, determining your driving route, packing sleeping bags and rounding up necessary gear is also part of the experience – and it’s fun!
Get some Shooting Practice
Long before you embark on your hunting adventure, make time for the shooting range. Every young firearm hunter should have at least one good shooting session, and preferably two to three, before his or her first hunt. Stay positive while your kids learn to aim and fire. Your patience will help grow their confidence, which will benefit them in other areas of their lives as well.
Outfit Them Properly
While it’s OK to outfit kids with hand-me-downs, be sure they have gear that will work well for them. Kids need to be able to move freely in jackets and pants, while keeping warm, and it’s imperative that boots fit properly. Nothing can derail a hunt faster than wet, frozen feet. Mittens or gloves and a hat are also bare necessities, as is a deer rifle fit specially for them.
Provide Creature Comforts
All kids are different, but most of them (at least my boys) are quite concerned with their stomachs. When you’re up early, it’s important to feed them at home, in camp or on the drive. I can’t eat that early, but kids sure can. Bring plenty of food for the hunt too. If you’re in a blind, that’s easy. It’s harder to eat in a tree. Take decent food, not candy but sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly anyone?), crispy bars, granola bars or wholesome cookies.
Know When to Call it a Day
Remember: your goal is to provide an enjoyable first hunting experience that will spark a life-long love of the sport. Kids’ attention spans are short, they get hungry, and they can’t walk as far as you. Be flexible and patient. If the weather is miserable, it’s better to call off a hunt than have an experience
that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.
While bagging that first deer may be top-of-mind for kids, take time to show them the other wonders of hunting. Star gaze, identify bird song and animal tracks, note the sounds of the forest, and celebrate the little things that you’ve come to love about spending time in the great outdoors. Above all, enjoy your time together.