What age should children learn to hunt?

Jack helping with the meat

Public outrage about hunting on social media. You would think we’d be used to it by now but every week there seems to be a new outrage going viral.

Not too long ago, the Royals  were the target of a media storm  when they took their son, George (aged 5), on a grouse hunt. Strange that an English tradition going back for generations could spark such public outrage. As far as we can tell, George wasn’t handed a firearm and pointed in the direction of the nearest grouse. He was just accompanying the adults along on a hunt.

The Royal Family
Photo by Carfax2

Obviously, the news came with mixed reviews. Some maintain that it is an age-old Royal tradition. Others are describing it as barbaric and deplorable.

A young mother was also recently the victim of media outrage for letting her baby accompany her on hunting trips

Beka Garris

Rebekah Stephens, or Beka Garris as she’s known on her social media profiles, is a bowhunting super-mum that bow hunts with her 9 month old daughter, Isabella, strapped to her back. 

Now we personally think Beka deserves a medal – not only for her raising her child with a deep understanding of how food reaches the table, but also because bow hunting is hard enough without a child in tow. Being able to do it with a young infant… what a legend! 

Their reactions got me thinking. What age is it ok to introduce children to hunting?

First, let’s start with a caveat. It is important that parents always abide by local laws and regulations. Please check with authorities in your area on the relevant laws regarding minors and firearms.

However, I believe that children should be introduced to the culture of hunting long before they are ever handed a firearm.

Hunting teaches kids valuable lessons about responsibility, survival, respect for nature, conservation, and the value of life.

It’s also one of the best ways to enjoy quality family time together. Added bonus – it is free from the distractions and pressures of modern technology.

My experience

Hunting with childrenJack is five years old and has been coming with us on hunting trips since he was a toddler.

I introduced Jack slowly to the sound and atmosphere of hunting by bringing him along to the range where he stayed in the car for the first few times. Then we moved on to short trips to the farm for some crop protection shooting (trips lasting no more than 2-3 hours and where he spent most of the time in the car).

He had no issues with the noise of the rifles at the range or the farm (hearing protection is very important – we use the camo Baby Banz earmuffs for Jack).

I will be honest. I was a little worried about how he would react to seeing us break down the animals. Thankfully he had no issues at all seeing exactly where his food comes from. He even wanted to join in helping us clean and package the meat for the esky.

Jack helping with the meat

I have always made a really conscious effort to teach Jack about the realities of eating meat. I’ve explained to him from a young age that the beef or pork or lamb that he eats comes from an animal that was once living. This is an important part of instilling a sense of respect in our kids for the cost associated with eating meat.

One thing that society is failing to teach adults and children alike is the cost of living. I don’t mean the price of your daily latte. Unless you subscribe to the ‘energy of the universe’ diet where you survive (read: starve) on air and good vibes (not recommended by doctors everywhere), your food choices have a cost to animals and the environment. Yes vegans, this includes you too.

Crops exist in monocultures. It  requires flat, cultivated land free from the pesky eating habits of herbivores. Those animals are cleared off the land then poisoned, trapped and shot when they try to return.

I digress. No matter the age you decide to introduce your children, it is important to read their cues.

What to look for in your kids

Here are some of the things that I have looked for in Jack to decide what stage he is ready for:

  • Interest – some kids show a keen interest in hunting from a very early age, long before they head out into the great outdoors. Others take a bit longer to warm up to it. Jack was begging to come along from the moment he could put together the words to ask.
  • Patience and obedience – start small. We took Jack to the range first because it gave us a good idea about how long his interest would last without the potential of ruining a good hunt. Start with something small where you can call it quits if it all gets too much for your little one.
  • Physical stamina – while kids have a lot more energy than adults, they can also tire more quickly. Like above, start with some short walks and build from there. The last thing you want to be doing on a hunt is carrying out your kill and your child.
  • Stuff and things – this has nothing to do with your child’s abilities but it is important. Make sure your little one has a good, comfortable pair of boots (I have a pair of Hi-Tec ones for Jack – they have a removable sole allowing them to fit for longer!) , warm clothes, some hearing protection (like these) and SNACKS!!! Bring all the snacks.

Hunting with kidsWhatever age you decide to introduce your child to hunting, remember that slow and steady wins the race. There’s no point taking them on a massive trek into rugged backcountry in the dead of winter if all it’s going to do is leave them with a bad experience. You’re better off taking them along on smaller hunts first and listening to their cues about when to call it a day.

Play it by ear, make it an enjoyable experience, and you just may have found a lifelong hunting buddy to share your passion with.

You can read about Jack’s first time deer hunting with me here. 

What age did you introduce your child to hunting? 

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