Photo courtesy of All American Outfitter
Hunting is a timeless tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. While it may not be completely necessary for our survival in the modern age, hunting has become a pastime that many families enjoy with one another.
Whitetail deer are the most popular big game animal in the United States and many parents eagerly await the day that they can take their youngsters on their first hunting trip. Many of these veteran hunters are fully capable of successfully hunting and harvesting a deer themselves, but find it difficult when faced with the proposition of taking a kid in the woods with them.
Children are less patient, fidgety, and the last thing many adults want is for a kid to lose interest in hunting after one failed trip. We caught up with some of the best deer hunting guides in the country and asked them for their best tips to our time deer hunting with kids a success that will lead to a lifetime of outdoor adventure.
Stay Grounded & Warm
Experienced hunters know that there is a real advantage to be had when hunting out of a treestand. This isn’t always possible when deer hunting with kids due to safety hazards or the simple fact that children are better off getting used to their surroundings in the forest instead of climbing up in a tree for their first hunt.
Zach Jumps, a guide with Harpole’s Heartland Lodge, said deer hunting with kids should always start in a ground blind.
“Get the kid in a blind and make sure it’s one that they are comfortable in,” says Zach. “This way, they can play on a game if they want or even take a nap while you keep an eye out for deer. It’s very important that they are comfortable.”
Harpole’s Heartland Lodge, located in Pike County, Illinois, has seen plenty of parents eager to get in the woods and go deer hunting with kids. Zach also stresses the need to stay home when weather conditions are too harsh for youngsters.
“We usually don’t recommend taking kids later in the season when it gets cold because they will have a hard time staying warm,” says Zach. “Take them in the early season when it’s decent weather.”
Zach also says he likes to involve the little ones when deer hunting with kids by letting them peek through binoculars or even blow on a grunt call now and then.
Be on Target
Ken Mayer, owner of All American Outfitter, has been going deer hunting with kids for more than 25 years. He says that one of the most important aspects of deer hunting with kids is using the right weapon.
“They need to be comfortable with the rifle they’re using and make sure it’s not too big a caliber,” says Ken.
All American Outfitter is located in the heart of Texas in one of the nation’s best deer hunting scene. Ken says that it might be tempting to load a kid up with a high-powered rifle, but it’s more wise to stick to something the child can properly shoot.
“Having a recoil reducer makes a really big difference,” says Ken. “Make sure you take the kid out to a shooting range and let them get acquainted with the gun before they go on a hunt.”
Ken also notes that Texas is one of the best states for deer hunting with kids since youth hunting license costs are the same for both in-state or out-of-state hunters.
“It costs seven dollars for a youth hunting license in Texas, no matter where the kid is from,” says Ken. “That’s one thing that makes Texas a great place to go deer hunting with kids. There are also plenty of good deer to hunt down here as well. A kid is more likely to enjoy the hunt if they are seeing a lot of good deer and getting a shot at one they want to take.”
Hunt Hickory Creek, owned by Jeff Brondige, is another guide service that is well-accustomed to deer hunting with kids. Located in Howard, Kansas—considered by many hunters to be the mecca of whitetail hunting—Hunt Hickory Creek is an outfitter that is known for taking kids on many successful hunts.
“I grew up hunting with my dad, and I really started out hunting squirrels,” says Jeff. “By starting me out with small game, I was able to learn patience and how to behave in the woods in order to stay hidden and become a good hunter.”
One of the biggest things Jeff mentions about deer hunting with kids is to not put too much pressure on youngsters.
“You definitely don’t want to have a kid out in the elements hunting all day and expecting that if they don’t get a kill, then it’s not a successful hunt,” says Jeff. “It’s important to just enjoy nature. Let the hunt be something that is a way for them to experience all of nature at once. Watch squirrels play, see what other kind of animals you can spot, teach them about what kind of trees are in the forest. All of these things will help build the foundation for making them a great hunter one day.”
Jeff says that many parents put too much pressure on the child to get a shot—which is something a kid can’t always be in control of.
“Don’t go out there and make the focus of the hunt on the kill,” says Jeff. “That’s just something that happens if you stick to what you know and get lucky sometimes. We are very good at what we do and can usually get a kid to get a shot on one, but when it’s just you and your kid out in the woods, don’t stress the idea of having to harvest a monster buck. Just have fun and enjoy being in nature. That’s what will keep kids wanting to continue enjoying the outdoors.”