Kids today, whether they realize it or not, have a great deal of things to do to keep them busy. Really, almost too much. Very few ever get really good at any one thing, and a bigger and bigger amount of the things they are doing takes place indoors. I remember in the morning when we didn’t have school, my Mom would tell us kids, “whatever you’re going to do, you’re doing it outside.” We could come back in the house for lunch and then dinner, but we were expected to be outside most of the day. That’s just not the same today. Kids have many gadgets and electronics or TV that can take up their whole day. They can sit in one spot for hours and not have to move or go anywhere except to the bathroom once in a while.
Trying to get kids hooked on hunting or shooting seems to take more effort these days. They have lots of distractions. Sure, there are some, that from the start, when introduced to hunting and shooting, can’t ever get enough of it. Many though, if not most, have to be encouraged regularly, or even pried away from their electronic games to even try to shoot or hunt.
I used to coach several sports and you could tell right away which kid had been working at it at home with their parents before they even started practicing with the team. It was obvious. Just like sports, any adult, but especially parents can have a huge influence on whether a kid has any interest or follows through with something like hunting or shooting. We as parents, have to show an interest and spend some time and effort to get them interested.
So what can we do? Whether you like or agree with them or not, many of the video or electronic games involve shooting something. Talk to them about the games and offer to show them what real shooting and hunting are like. There are plenty of hunting and shooting shows on TV, watch some with them and talk to them about what real shooting and hunting is and the safety issues with it. A reverence for guns and hunting must be presented. It needs to be made clear that there is something special about it, different from most other things in their life and it is something that takes a unique responsibility and respect on their part. Show them real guns, explaining the different types of actions and capabilities of each of them. Stress the safety issues concerning guns and that there are no “do overs” if you make a mistake with guns. Then, if you think they’re ready, take them shooting.
When you do, start out with something very small in caliber or gauge. The noise itself can be scary the first time shooting, wear ear plugs, you don’t want a big recoil to make them never want to shoot again. Work up in gauges and calibers slowly, let them master the small ones first. I stress the positions of shooting with kids, prone, sitting, kneeling and off-hand. I do this before I ever go to the range. Start with close and easy targets to hit. This will give them some instant success, and gets them excited, growing their confidence. Then really be happy for them and show it when they do hit things. 22 Long Rifle shells and guns are a great way to start. They are one of the most inexpensive ways to shoot and there is very little recoil or noise to scare them. Kids usually love them and can’t get enough of them. A .410 shotgun is also very easy to shoot but is more expensive and unless you start out with very close targets, there can be many misses. Shooting clay birds usually really excites kids, especially when they start hitting them. Clay birds are about the best practice you can get for any type of bird hunting. If you can, show them up close, animals or birds taken by other hunters and friends. Tell them about the food they can provide for the family and all the fun it is and the things you see when you’re out in the field hunting.
If you as a parent are not a hunter, familiar with or even own a gun, there are actually several options for you. Depending on where you live, there are several organizations such as Pole-Star, the NRA or other shooting and hunting groups that have regular programs oriented to kids. Check at a local Sporting Goods store or your nearest shooting range for help. There are also many hunters and shooters you may know in your area that are really interested in getting kids involved in the shooting sports. Many would be glad to take them or instruct them. We try to make a very big point each year to take a new shooter or hunter with us either shooting or hunting. If as a parent, you use some other organization or person for your kids to hunt or shoot, you still need to show an interest in what they are doing, where they went and what they saw. They need to be encouraged. Show interest for them and if they do come home with a shooting award, animal or a bird, show excitement for them. They’ll love it and probably keep hunting and shooting for the rest of their lives.