By Mark L. Nash
“Be still,” I whispered to Jordan. The doe saw our odd shapes at the base of the tree and stopped to study us for a moment. She soon decided that we didn’t belong there and beat a hasty retreat.
A short time later, I spied a small deer standing farther down the ridge behind where the doe had been.
“Take your time and shoot that one, Jordan,” I whispered. At the shot, the deer jumped straight up and ran into the brush. Awhile later, I saw the deer lying in the leaves. “Look over this way, Jordan,” I shouted. The look on his face when he spotted the deer was priceless. The button buck might just as well have been a trophy buck for all that Jordan cared. He couldn’t have been happier with his first deer.
As I’ve tried to prepare my kids to be deer hunters, I don’t know who has learned more – my son, Jordan, my stepdaughter, Amanda, or me.
For several years, the kids showed mild interest in my hunts. Amanda and Jordan were allowed to share in my hunting experiences and were taught that hunting was a natural occurrence. They always knew that hunting opportunities were there for them when they were ready, but only if they wanted them. It was never thrust upon them, and there were never any expectations put upon them.
At age 8, they accompanied me on a deer hunt during the rifle season. Although I didn’t harvest a deer, the two seemed to enjoy their romp through the forest. Over the next couple of years, they would go deer hunting with me on occasion. I never kept them out too long, and we quit when they got bored.
At around age 10, something clicked. I had taken them squirrel hunting several times, and I had bought them pellet guns for Christmas. I spent time showing them how to safely handle their guns. One day Jordan wanted to try to shoot a squirrel in the woods behind our house. I agreed and was amazed when he actually killed a squirrel that day and several more over the summer. And I saw the enthusiasm for hunting growing in both Jordan and Amanda.
We began to shoot .22 rifles quite a bit, always with an emphasis on safety. I purchased a .30-30 carbine that I felt was a good match for the kids. I equipped it with a 4x scope and sling, and we began to get acquainted with the gun. We watched hunting videos and studied pictures. I showed them where to aim to quickly dispatch a deer, depending on the angle of the shot.
I explained that the ideal shot doesn’t always present itself, and that sometimes the decision to shoot has to be made quickly or the deer will be gone. And they learned that if they were not sure that they could make the shot, then no shot should be taken. The kids took this instruction with great enthusiasm.
Amanda was the first to taste success. I picked her up from school, and we headed out to our hunting spot. We were making our way across several open fields when we spotted three does at the far end of the field. We quickly got down and crawled on all fours to a fencerow. Amanda rested her gun on the fence and prepared to shoot. I told her to be patient and wait. The deer were making their way toward us and the wind was in our favor.
If we held off, she could get a better opportunity than the 200-yard-plus shot that was being presented to her. When the lead doe approached to within 50 yards, I whispered, “I’ll grunt to get the deer to stop so you can shoot.” I began to grunt, but the deer kept walking. I grunted louder and the doe continued to walk. I prepared to grunt again when I was startled by the sound of a gun blast. The doe reared up, then tried to run, but couldn’t. The shot had broken the deer’s front shoulder and entered the chest cavity – a perfect shot.
Amanda turned to me and excitedly exclaimed, “I just shot my first deer!”
The following year, Jordan shot his first deer, the button buck that I wrote about at the beginning of this article. Later that same day, he also shot a spike buck. He was one very excited, happy hunter. For Christmas, Jordan’s list included several hunting-related items. Now I have a hunting partner for life.
Amanda was successful the second year as well. She shot a doe early in the season, but still had a tag later that year when I went hunting with her. We sat in a wooded hillside watching a draw that the deer frequented. About an hour after first light, we heard something moving in the leaves behind us. A large buck was making its way along the ridge. I got Amanda turned around as the buck stopped and stared in our direction.
“Don’t move!” I quietly exclaimed. “Find the buck’s shoulder in your scope and shoot when you’re ready.”
Several long minutes passed until a shot rang. The buck dropped in its tracks. As we approached the downed buck, I don’t know whose face had the biggest grin.
All too often, people make the mistake of starting their kids hunting too early or pushing them too hard. When this happens, the kids don’t develop a real appreciation for hunting and the outdoors. They might even turn against outdoor sports if it feels too much like work.
Hunting should be a fun, exhilarating experience, not a competition. Every kid is different, and each one takes things in their own time and way. It should be made clear to children that the opportunity to hunt is there and the decision is theirs.
Putting too many expectations on a young hunter is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Hunting is intended to be an individual sport that is to be enjoyed. If a parent or mentor is careful to put the child’s interest first, and to make hunting enjoyable, then they have a chance to form a special bond with a kid and gain a lifelong hunting partner. I have never experienced as much excitement while hunting as I have when with my kids.
Kids are the future of hunting. There is no more joy one can experience in hunting than to see the smile on the face of a young hunter. So give yours the chance with patient instruction and many opportunities to go afield.
This article was published in the August 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.