Eight Tips for Bowhunting with Kids
Many states have minimum draw-weight requirements for hunting with a bow, which limits how soon a child can start bowhunting. One alternative is to take them hunting with a crossbow, enabling them to start learning skills at a much younger age, ultimately helping them as a bowhunter. Regardless of method, here are some tips to help you grow the ranks of the next generation of bowhunters.
1. Successful hunts require lots of planning, so involve kids in pre-hunt planning and activities. Setting out trail cameras, scouting for sign, building a natural ground blind or brushing in a pop up blind, hanging treestands and cutting shooting lanes, and plenty of other activities take place prior to the actual hunt. Involve kids in these activities as much as possible. It will help them understand the entire process and make a successful hunt even more satisfying.
2. Properly outfit kids with gear that truly fits. You don’t need to go overboard with expensive gear for young hunters, but it is important that any gear you do buy does fit them properly. You don’t enjoy wearing boots or clothing that doesn’t fit and neither do they. Being properly outfitted for the hunt adds to the importance of the event. Having a bow that fits them properly is vital to their ability to shoot well and harvest game responsibly.
3. Enable kids to practice in situations similar to the actual hunt. Positive practice in realistic situations builds confidence and skill. If you will be hunting from a ground blind, be sure they practice shooting while sitting down. If you’re hunting from a pop-up blind, be sure the chair they will be using allows them to sit high enough to shoot over the bottom of the window. If you plan to bowhunt from a treestand, it is a good idea to have them practice from elevated positions before the actual hunt. Shooting at 3-D targets also helps with perspective when the time comes to place an arrow exactly where it needs to go.
4. Keep beginning hunts short. It’s easy to get frustrated when kids can’t sit still for long periods of time. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep the first few hunting trips short. They may not grasp the importance of getting in the blind or on stand two hours before prime time. And when prime time arrives they have exhausted their attention span and your patience, which can’t end well for anyone involved.
5. Make it fun for the kids. Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting the child to kill their first animal “so they will like bowhunting” we forget the kill is not the most important part of the hunt. Sure, getting that animal is a huge thrill. But that doesn’t happen often, so it’s important to keep the hunting experience fun. On my niece’s first deer hunt we were sitting in a ground blind and she began to fidget. I pulled out a box of raisins and started flipping them one at a time through the blind window. We got into a raisin flipping competition that lasted until the first deer appeared half an hour later. I’m sure she could have passed the time playing games on her phone, but years later she still fondly remembers that silly raisin-flipping contest.
6. Teach them about weather and woodsmanship. Most good bowhunters already pay close attention to the weather. Teach your kids about weather and help them understand its effect on the game you are hunting. Also take time to teach your child some basic survival skills. Take along gear that fits the weather situation. For instance, insect repellent is important during early seasons, while chemical hand warmers can save the day during late seasons.
7. Plan for the unexpected. I usually take a camo blanket. It comes in handy if they want to sleep in the blind for a while, or get cold, or need some extra cushioning to sit high enough to shoot. Snacks are good to have along, but avoid sugary treats which tend to fuel the fidgets. I try to limit the number of drinks. Little bladders always seem to stir at the wrong time.
8. Make it safe and legal. Last but not least is safety. In fact, safety is the most important point of any hunt. Bring a first-aid kit for the unexpected. Be sure to use a life line to climb in and out of your treestands. Explain wildlife laws and limits. Set a good example for your young hunter, while keeping their abilities in mind and everyone will have a great experience.