What do you remember about your first hunting trip? What do you want your son, daughter or grandchild to remember about theirs? Below are tips to keep young ones in high spirits and excited about their first hunting trip. From advances in bug repellent to clever strategies for teaching gun safety, you’re sure to have an unforgettable first hunt.
Eye and Skin Protection
Sunscreen and a hat are always a must in the summer to protect young skin. Also consider several forms of insect repellent. Having multiple levels of protection means you won’t have a miserable child covered in bug bites. Plus, there are so many methods of bug repellent new to the market, none of which involve getting nasty-tasting bug spray in your mouth. There are personal fans, bracelets and wipes that will be much easier to get kids to wear. REI carries a variety of insect repellents you can try.
Protecting young eyes from the elements is top priority, especially if you plan on tracking big game over mountainous terrain. Impaired vision from sun glare could cause a young one to misstep and fall. Consider polarized sunglasses, which are especially important to counteract the glare on large bodies of water and snow. And never underestimate a child’s ability to lose or break the lenses. Revant Optics stocks high-performance replacement lenses that are easy to switch out on the trail.
Hand warmers for cold-weather conditions are key. For possible rain, bring plastic grocery bags to wrap around their feet and tie at the ankles (because nothing is more pitiful than a kid with cold, wet feet). If you’re worried about the heat, freeze everything in your cooler before heading out. You’ll need less ice and have more room for other supplies.
Practice Makes Perfect
Prepare the kids before you go. Setting up camp, tracking, lining up a shot — all these things take timing, patience and practice. The more practice you can get before the big hunt, the more confident your little hunter will be.
Set up the tent in the backyard together. Practice longer and longer hikes or walks around the neighborhood (again, this is especially helpful if you’ll be tracking game for long distances). During these hikes is a great time to practice scouting local wildlife like birds and squirrels and practicing hand signals and staying quiet.
This is also a great time to test out and break in their hiking shoes. Don’t forget to bring moleskin and bandages for unexpected blisters that could ruin the day if you’re unprepared.
Learning in the Wild
First, contact your state fish and wildlife agency to learn the hunting laws in your state. Many states have different age and education requirements even for minors. Make sure your child’s first hunt is 100 percent legal.
Next is gun safety. Our favorite is taking your young sportsman to the range. Stress the utmost importance of muzzles being pointed up, down or downrange, no exceptions. Insist on eye and ear protection, and make sure you always wear it yourself.