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Teaching Kids to Hunt

How I’m Introducing My Kids to the Outdoors.

teaching your kids to hunt - Rustic Man

When my oldest son turned 5, he had a firm request for his birthday present: “I want to go hunting with Daddy.”

The time had come to begin teaching my kids to hunt! For years, I’ve been looking forward to this day; hoping my sons would be outdoorsmen. I remember when I had a single bad hunting experience as a kid, and it turned me off to the idea for over a decade. I really don’t want to blow it.

Whenever I thought about introducing my kids to hunting, I wanted it to be fun. When we go hunting together, it would be less about the “hunting” and more about the “together”. Their first memories with me in the woods were going to be filled with adventure, excitement and laughter, even if it killed our chances to bring home something with furry feet.

This is just getting started. Hopefully trips like this will continue for decades to come. Maybe this will be a family tradition that he’ll pass on to his children? Maybe we’ll have 3-4 generations out here together at some point? Maybe I’m starting something big, something that will knit the hearts of generations?  All I know, is that those few hours spent in the woods with my son last Saturday were valuable. I feel the weight of being a dad and I just don’t want to blow it!

Here are a few things I kept in mind as I took my son hunting for the first time. I’m not an expert, and this all may explode in my face, but I’m trying – this is our story.

teach your kids hunting 1

Hunting is Better than Birthday Presents.

Birthday parties at our house are big. Lauren always makes elaborate cakes, themes, decorations, favors, and games for the boy’s birthdays. Last year, we converted our entire house into the 100 Acre Wood. Our boys know, the sky is the limit when it comes to birthday parties, and they abuse it!

So, when Lauren asked our oldest son what kind of birthday party he wanted this year, we expected big answers. A flying ninja superhero party was my guess. This year, the ninja’s would have to wait. His birthday party request was simple and sharp – “I just want to go hunting with Daddy.”

Humbled is the best word to describe it. When your 5 year old son chooses a hunting trip with Dad over a big party with flying ninjas. Humbling. It was time to get a game plan together.

take kids hunting 7

All Hunters Have Their Own Gear. 

He was so excited to get that orange vest. He was five and he finally had his own “real” hunting vest!

It was cold that morning and we really bundled up. I think he was wearing 5-6 layers, fully at risk of looking like that kid in A Christmas Story. Outside all those layers he was sporting his new camo overalls and jacket. The night before the trip he was walking around the house showing off his new gear. With his hand warmers and BB-gun, he looked the part as much as he felt it.

Having his own hunting gear seemed to set the experience apart for him. This wasn’t just shooting BB-guns with dad in the back yard, or camping in the living room. This was real. All hunters have their own gear, and he was a hunter.

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He Decided that He was Ready.

He’s asked me to go hunting before. My response usually includes how much I would love it, and that he would have to wait until he was a big boy for that. In the mean time we’d go shoot his bow and arrow at my turkey target, or hunt his stuffed moose with a Nerf gun. What I didn’t realize was turning five is apparently when a pre-k kid becomes a grown man. He was serious. His mind was made up. He was ready. It was time to take him hunting. This trip may not be a serious or successful trip by traditional standards, but I had a feeling it would be seriously successful by being a dad standards.

I mostly hunt big tracts of public land. It’s not exactly the kind of place suited for five year old-length legs. But, it was the beset choice I had. I knew where an old DNR road opened up into a field where I’d seen some rabbits the year before. I hoped we could get lucky find a rabbit sunning at the field edge, or a couple squirrels feeding in the hardwoods beside it? We started planning.

Even though I made sure we had smooth ground, and minimal brush busting, there was still a lot of tripping. He really didn’t seem to care. He took the fall like a little man, and kept on going. I could tell he was having a good time when he didn’t want to stop to address a fall that would have produced a complete meltdown at home. Maybe he really was ready?

teach kids hunting 3

We Had Adventure and Broke All the Rules. 

We spent most of the morning looking for sign. By the time we left the woods, Elijah was spotting rabbit trails off the side of the road I didn’t  even see. We looked at tracks and talked about which way the animals were moving. We talked about how hard it was for animals to find good food this time of year. I was amazed that he was loving every minute of it.

He was full of questions and wanted to crunch every mudsickle in the road.  He was dragging his feet and whisper’s slightly louder than he talks. It was everything you’re not supposed to do while you’re hunting and it was awesome.

I tried to explain how the animals use their hearing, seeing and smell to stay away from danger. I tried to show him how to pick up his feet and move quietly. I want to begin teaching him the disciplines of a woodsman, but not at the expense of his adventure. So, most of the lessons came as simple tips in the midst of exploration. He carried his BB gun with him to practice gun safety, and did great. By the time we left, he was picking up his feet and not dragging them through the leaves. He was getting it…and he’s only five!

He did great, and he’s still got over a decade to hone his skills. There will be many more “hunting” trips I’m sure. Maybe we’ll get lucky and take an animal a few times while we’re out together. Next thing I know there will be hunting trips, camps, stories, and my son may be giving me the tips. I can’t wait.

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It’s Up To Him. 

I’m not going to force him to hunt. If he likes it, that will be great. If he doesn’t, that’s okay. I hope he enjoys it like I do one day, and that we can hunt together with his brothers for decades to come. But I don’t know if that will happen. I can’t be sure what even tomorrow will bring. So for now, I just enjoy hunting with him – even if it’s not fully hunting yet. When we go hunting together, it’s more about the together than about the hunting.

teaching kids to hunt

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Are you raising your kids in the outdoors? Do you have any tips, pointers or questions for us? Please leave a comment in the area below and let’s talk more…

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  • SoleAdventure

    You’re killing it, bro. Not only as a writer, but more importantly – as a father. Well done.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks Mark! I’m really trying to be present and enjoy my kids. The first 5 years feel like weeks, I can only imagine how the years to come will quickly pass.

      Can’t wait to hear about your trips with your little girl soon too bro! Thanks for the kind words and comment!

  • 365Whitetail

    Awesome article, Aaron! Well written and better lived. And to think there will be countless stories just like this one. It only gets better. Keep up the great work my friend.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks Randy. I so enjoy reading about your boys and their hunting trips! How did it go in Alabama?

      • 365Whitetail

        Had a great trip! Although the full moon had movement down to a minimum. No tags filled.

  • grew

    great article Aaron…….i can not wait till i can take my 2 week old newborn son into the woods one day

    • Aaron Farley

      Grew – Congrats! 2 weeks old! That’s awesome. We’re expecting our 4th child in about 8 weeks and I’m already getting a little pumped about holding those tiny little hands again. Also true – not as excited about the no sleeping and diapers.

  • Lenesse Berg

    Absolutely!!!! My father and mother started us when we were little, one of the best trips ever was my father, my mother, me and my little brother. My brother was sitting with my mom (on the ground) and my dad and I were sitting a few feet away. Dad had a rifle, mom had a rifle. Dad and I look over to see my mom bursting at the seams trying not to laugh….my dad whispers “what??” she said my brother had pointed to the gun and said “did you put the batteries in it?” LOL I am 2000% with you, it’s about the time together!!!

    This past Saturday 01/18/14 was my first hunting trip with my husband! Just sitting there in silence with him anxiously waiting for a deer was the best thing ever! We didn’t have to talk, we didn’t even have to get anything, just being together was the BEST THING EVER!

    • Aaron Farley

      Lenessee, I always forget the batteries for my rifle too ;-) Sounds like you and your husband are well on your way to a happy marriage with that strategy! Thanks for the great comments!

  • Aznealz

    I almost started to tear up a little while reading this piece Aaron. And I’m a callous, jaded old curmudgeon. I remember, as well, just being out there with my dad in the woods. It really was and is about being together. My first hunt was not successful in procuring game, but it was a success by instilling a love and respect for the craft and for the outdoors in general. Thank you.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks Neal. My son is impressing me more and more everyday. I was committed to spending time in the outdoors with them before they were even born, and it’s definitely exciting to get to finally do it together. I just hope they still want to come with dad when I’m a callous, jaded old curmudgeon. Thank you bud.

  • Kevin Olson

    This took me back a few years when I started hunting with my son. Thanks for those reflections! I want to write a note of encouragement although I suspect you won’t need it as you are already on the path of developing these traditions with your son. The time does fly by and although I went many seasons without harvesting a deer in our hunting country, I wouldn’t trade that time or those memories for anything! My son is now a young man living 15 hours away from us but he and I are still hunting partners today. He comes home for our deer season and meets me in the mountains out west for elk hunting! We need more dads like you to keep passing on the traditions! Thanks for the article.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks for the great comment Kevin! These first 5 years have gone by so fast, I can’t imagine how fast the rest will go. I don’t wait to either! I appreciate the reminder, thank you. It is so easy to get caught up and miss the important stuff isn’t it? I am excited about the days when my boys are genuine hunting partners, but I’m in no way hurrying towards it. Good luck to you two in the woods this year, don’t be a stranger!

  • Lance Lucas

    Your story reminded me very much about my first few hunting experiences with my father. Although I loved being with my dad in a tree stand, I found that hunting wasn’t for me at such a young age. I hated the cold, getting up early and my rifle was a little too heavy to hold steady (although I would never admit it). I gave up on hunting and didn’t look back. Not until 20 years later, when I was roughly 27 or 28, I decided to jump back into deer hunting. It took a while for it all to come back to me but I looked forward to every November when I could get the same rifle out of my dad’s safe and strap on the camouflage. Just this year (and just before my 30th birthday), I shot my first deer…..and then shot another one 30 minutes later! I listened and used every bit of advice my dad taught me when I was younger and the look on his face, when I shot both these deer, was priceless!

    • Aaron Farley

      Lance, CONGRATULATIONS! It’s awesome that you want back to it after so much time away. That’s a great point you make about being too little. I made sure to keep him moving, warm, and we left earlier than I wanted to because I didn’t want him to be miserable for his first exposure. Your words carry a lot of warning with them as well man, thanks so much for sharing!

  • The Hunting Daddies

    What an awesome post and great pictures – it’s obvious from his face that he is thrilled to be in the woods spending time with you! We’ve talked to many other hunting families and they all agree with you as well – it’s more about the memories and time spent together than the hunting or fishing. One of our favorite #huntingfamilyfriday interviews was from a family with two sons that when they asked the sons what they’re hunting accessory was that they couldn’t live without – the boys responded with “Mom and Dad.” Looks like your little man would say the same! It is awesome to see families spending quality time together outdoors. Great job, man! This was a great read!

    • Aaron Farley

      Hey guys, thanks! That’s an awesome response, I hope my boys have such a connection with us and the outdoors as they grow up. That’s just awesome!

  • TJ Taylor

    Great article. I’ve always been interested in hunting, less for sport and more for survival, but wasn’t raised in a hunting family. I’m now 31 with kids of my own and I’m ready to learn. That said, my kids seem eager to learn with me. This is exactly what I’m looking for. I have two boys age 7 and 4, and a daughter age 9. I recently got my first bow, and rifle and they now their own gear. We have the BB gun and shoot it almost daily. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Aaron Farley

      TJ – that is so awesome man! Congrats on the new bow and rifle too ;-) If I can do anything to help, just let me know. We’re working on some resources that I think would really help too! I remember very well how hard it is to figure everything out, find a spot, learn to read the woods, and pick a place to setup, etc. Kudos to you for learning TJ, Look around the site and feel free to use the contact form if you have any specific questions.

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  • James Monk

    Great article. I have a 5 year old son as well that I started just this hunting year to take and teach about hunting. Like your son he is full of questions and while it a whisper he never stops asking while in a shooting house or blind. He keeps the spots for the blinds, so we get blows from deer at the edge of the field but that is okay. He is seeing first hand that we need to move the blind into the woods some. As for his gear, he has his own bag that is full of gear and accessories. Where to start, hunny buns? Check. Capri sun? Check. Deer call and Broncos? Check. Sleeping bad? Check. Nabi and headphones? Check. I drag more items to our stand than most go camping with but we have fun, we, I dont get serious about the hunt as much as seeing his eyes get big when a doe, bob cat, coyote makes an appearance. To hear him tell friends and family of our hunting trips as an awesome thing that I would not trade for anything. I say, we aren’t hunting, we are killing time and building memories. Thanks again for sharing your story.

    • Aaron Farley

      James – congrats on the first year of hunting with the little guy!

      You couldn’t be more right about listening to him telling other people about the hunting. That is a joy in itself, for sure! It’s always interesting to hear what parts of the trip he remembers most and was most fun for him. Half of the stuff isn’t what I would have expected. It’s helpful to know what he enjoys for next time we go.

      Thanks for the great comment James!

  • milly

    Hi y’all im a mom of a 9 year old ..Dad is a very big hunter but decided to walk out of his life when diego was 7 n diego had gone hunting b for so remembers n loves it ..My question is what should I start him off wth ..

    • Aaron Farley

      Milly, luckily we live in a great day and age for your son to get into the outdoors. First, I would check with your state DNR offices. Many states, like here in Georgia, have programs where kids can take their hunter safety education courses with a group and even hunt that same weekend with supervision.

      There are also great outdoors ministries like TruthInNature.org that carry youth into the outdoors for hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoors trips.

      If you wanted to take him yourself, a squirrel or rabbit hunting trip is a great way to explore the woods and hunt while not having to stress being quiet and still (two things kids seem to universally despise).

      When I was first starting, I watched a lot of how to videos, read a lot of books, and asked everyone I could find about hunting. As a young guy, Diego will have more doors open to him (hopefully).

      So, to start, I would 1) Call your local DNR office and ask them about any available programs for beginning hunters. 2) Contact any local/state outdoors magazines and ask them if they have any information about outdoors programs for youth in your area. 3) Search for local churches/non-profit organizations that work with youth in the outdoors.

      Thanks for the comment Milly, I hope that helps. Feel free to contact me if you need any more clarification on any of that. Good luck! It’s awesome to see an involved parent working to help their children get into the outdoors and experience all that our creation has to offer!

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