Exotic Wildlife Association, Hunting, Youth

Hunting | How Young Is Too Young?

Hunting | How Young Is Too Young?

What’s the appropriate age for a kid to start hunting? From my experience, most people throw around the ages 7, 8 and 9. But why are these the ages most people assume a child is ready to hunt? Is there even a “right” age?

A kid can go on their first hunt when they are emotionally ready to see a harvest, not at a certain age. At what age can a child comprehend death, the finality of it and the reasons behind a harvest? When your child (or grandkid!) reaches THAT age, he or she is ready. But, prior to that age, the child should be emotionally and mentally be prepared through exposure to the concepts behind hunting.

My husband didn’t shoot his first deer until he was 10, but he also wasn’t raised with a super gung-ho hunting family either. Our son is four now, but has been exposed to the meat, mounts and all things hunting since, well, he was one day old!

By sharing at meals, the names of food we eat, we can begin teaching them from an early age that we need animal meat. We eat pork, beef, venison, dove and chicken and then associate the animal that goes with these foods- pig, cow, deer… This can then turn into why mommy or daddy hunts, “so our family has food on the table.” That grows into how we have to kill or harvest animals so that our family has food on the table.

You can let your kids see your harvests and help clean them. No, the deer or dove is not “sleeping.” A child, even a young child, needs to know the animal is dead. We let our four-year-old son take mommy or daddy’s deer to the processor or taxidermist with us. Recently, my husband brought home a few full doves from his hunt and let our son help clean them. He showed him the breast meat and explained that it is the part we’ll eat.

Just like any new hunter, you aren’t ready if you can’t take a good and clean shot. If your kid can’t shoot, they aren’t ready!

I’d also like to note that shooting and seeing game harvested by someone else is very different than pulling the trigger and actually killing an animal yourself. After who knows how many kills I have, I still feel emotion for the animal. I understand the reason. I understand the circle of life, but there’s an emotion associated with a kill. I think that’s normal and I’d be prepared for your child feeling the same way.

My last piece of advice is to listen and ask questions. Ask your kids questions about where we shoot an animal and why? Ask them if they want to go hunting with mommy, daddy or their grandparents. You’ll be surprised at how honest kids are with their feelings!

What age did you start hunting? What age do you think a child is ready for their first harvest?