Take A Kid Hunting And Stuff – How Old Is Old Enough?

April 30, 2015

hunting girl

Here’s a throwback picture… my little hunting buddy, dressed for the duck blind with her partner-in-crime, Sandy.

“When is too young to take your child on a hunting trip?”

That’s the question posed by “The Wild Chef” in a recent post to his blog, From Field to Plate, the Tale of My Meal, and it’s a good question… made a little trickier (and better) when he specifies that he’s talking about a daughter, instead of a son.

Times are changing, of course, and the traditional gender divisions are coming down a little at a time.  It’s hardly a secret that more women are picking up guns and bows and hitting the woods.  And more and more parents are bringing their children into the fold as well, both boys and girls.

But, back to the question, how old is old enough?

In his piece, the Wild Chef wrote about taking his 4 1/2 year-old daughter on a dove hunt.  Unsure what to expect, he watched her carefully, especially after dropping the first bird.  How would she react to the bird’s death?  Was she old enough to understand death?  Was she too young to equate the death with killing for food?  You’ll have to read his post to find out… but it’s worth the read.

These are the questions I had the first times I took my daughter hunting.  Truthfully, although I used to pack her in her little backpack carrier when she couldn’t have been more than three, all those “hunts” we made in the Holly Shelter Game Lands were more akin to walks in the woods.  Even if I’d really wanted to shoot something with her along, there’s no way it would have happened.  I think I killed the first duck in front of her when she was seven or eight, out in California, and even then, I wasn’t sure how she’d react.  It turns out, she was perfectly fine with it.  She cheered for Sandy (her dog) during the retrieve, and then looked at the bird in my hand while we talked about eating it for dinner.  Of course, she’d eaten plenty of game at that point, so the concept was hardly foreign.  That probably made it easier.  But honestly, I think it was a bigger deal to me than it was to her.  From what I hear, that’s the case with a lot of kids.

A little older here, scanning the distant ridges for game.

A little older here, scanning the distant ridges for game.

Obviously, I think a minimum age is entirely subjective and dependent on a myriad of factors.  If you’re actually going to be shooting, is the youngster big enough to wear hearing protection?  Can the child withstand the elements, such as cold, heat, or rain?  What kind of hunt will it be?  Would it be realistic to expect the child to sit still enough for a deer hunt, for example?  Will the youngster have to hike over miles of rugged terrain, or wade through waist-deep water?  Etc.

There are challenges, of course. Kids have limited attention spans.  They often get cold easily, and their little legs are no match for our long strides.   They can be goal-oriented, and lose interest if the rewards aren’t quick in the offing.  They are generally self-centered, not in a negative way necessarily, but in that they don’t always recognize that their desires (“let’s go home now”) don’t mesh with everyone else’s.  Sometimes, I think it shouldn’t be a question of, is the kid ready to go, but more, is the parent ready to take her?

And of course, in the backcountry, girls have their own, unique issues that us dads never really had to face.  Yeah.  Where’s the bathroom?

But for all of this, I know I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with my daughter in the field for anything.  Over the years, she sort of grew away from an interest in going hunting.  Some of this, I know, is due to her own special needs which, among other things, make walking in rough terrain very difficult.  Once she grew too big for me to carry over longer distances, I had to make her walk, and some of our outings had to be curtailed.

And, at the root of it all, I think part of her nature is just to be the little homebody, staying in the comfort of the house with her cats and her music.  And that’s OK too.

And there, I think, is one of the most important lessons any parent can learn.  It’s OK for the kid to be who she is, not who you want her to be.  Maybe she’ll grow up to be a lifelong hunting buddy, but you have to be OK if that’s not who she is.



5 Responses to “Take A Kid Hunting And Stuff – How Old Is Old Enough?”

  1. Take A Kid Hunting And Stuff – How Old Is Old Enough? | on April 30th, 2015 17:37

    […] Take A Kid Hunting And Stuff – How Old Is Old Enough? […]

  2. Robb on April 30th, 2015 19:50

    I took both my kids when they were very young. There were three of us hunting plus the kids. I waited with them while my buddies went to take a shot, best not to have too many people running around with rifles going off. Both kids held a leg to steady the carcass while my bud gutted the big ol cow. Then I went over the hill and shot a doe.

    My kids experienced both the sights and smells of third world markets. They already know where meat comes from. I’ve found kids are a lot less squeamish around the idea of killing animals and cutting them up than are most grown ups in the US. Killing and eating animals has been the norm for a couple million years.

  3. hodgeman on April 30th, 2015 23:45

    Good thoughts on this Phillip… I’ve been going through this over the last few years myself. I think your stance that the question isn’t about the kids, it’s about the parents is spot on.

    I think you owe it to your kids to take them along when possible, and you owe it to them to set the appropriate level of expectation.

    Great piece.

  4. Phillip on May 1st, 2015 08:46

    Thanks, guys.

    I think we come back to this topic from time to time, but it always seems timely.

    By the way, if either of you would like to share some photos of your youngsters in the field, especially when they’re really young, I’m thinking about doing a follow-up to this post with pics of my friends/readers, and their little ones.

  5. Robb on May 15th, 2015 19:02

    I’d send photos if you’d use them anon. Don’t want the antis tracking us down. Can’t find your email on this web site. Too bad about your place.