Hunting With Kids: How to Get Kids into Hunting

Close-up of a squirrel on a tree, hunting with kids concept.

Many hunters learned to hunt at a young age, likely by heading out on a deer or turkey hunt with a family member and gaining knowledge and experience along the way. It's often a family tradition.

So, now that you've grown into a seasoned hunter with a passion for hunting wild game, you're thinking of passing on your knowledge and love of the hunt to your kids. 

Today, we share a story from a hunter who started the tradition early with his son. Read on to learn how he introduced his son to hunting and helped him begin his hunter education the right way early on!

A boy with a BB gun, hunting with kids concept.

Handing Down a Red Ryder BB Gun

A story of how to get kids into hunting goes like this: 

My 5-year-old son just received – from his grandpa, my dad – my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun that I first got when I was about his age. At the same time, he got a hand-me-down little compound bow and arrows from my teenage nephew. 

Of course, this made me super excited and had me dreaming about taking him to the deer stand with his BB gun to chase away squirrels.

A Lack of Excitement (at First) . . .

Him, though? Well, Bobby wasn't nearly as excited as me. We've gone out with the BB gun and the bow and shot at targets a few times, but it's always at my prompting. When I asked him if he wanted to sit in the deer stand with me . . . he politely declined. The call of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels is just too strong in this one.

But that's OK. Bobby asks me to go outside and play football or baseball or walk around our property and feed the catfish in the pond when he's ready to do those things. So, I'm confident he'll get into hunting on his timeframe. 

Or, maybe he won't, and my disappointment at that would be insignificant compared to the mental damage I would be doing if I forced him to participate in something that he just doesn't like.

Don't write me off as weak just yet! We have our fights when I make him eat his vegetables. I won't let him decide he doesn't like something without trying it first. 

However, I'm going to take the approach to some things that I really care about – like hunting – that doctors take in the Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no wrong." After that, the real question will be: When he's ready, how will I make sure he likes it?

Start With BB Guns, .22s, and Soft Recoil Pads

Listen, there is no room for macho with kids who are new to hunting. The fastest way to make any experience unenjoyable is to make it physically painful. 

So, start kids off shooting with a BB or pellet gun. Let them get deadly accurate. Then, move them up to a .22 rimfire rifle and put hearing protection on them. 

Let them get deadly accurate again. Then, move them up to a small center-fire rifle.

A .223 will kill a deer dead right there. A .243 might give a little more margin for error. Shot placement is critical, and the more your child flinches at recoil, the less likely he or she is to aim small and miss small. 

Even rifles and shotguns with light recoil can be too much for a lightweight kid to handle comfortably. In those circumstances, plenty of soft recoil pads can be swapped onto a stock to reduce the kick further. 

Pain serves no purpose, so try to eliminate it altogether for a child.

As they move on to bigger firearms, make sure you also teach them about matching calibers to the game they hunt. They won't need big game ammunition or rifles for a while, but helping them understand why you use smaller calibers for small games (like squirrels and rabbits) sets the foundation of understanding more about caliber sizes later. 

Interactive Target Practice is More Fun

Do you know why video games are awesome? They move and blow up, and, well, they're exciting. Do you know why generations of kids shot glass bottles and left messes all over the back-40s and public land around the country? Yeah, because they "blow up."

You have to start kids with target practice because you need them to be confident that they will be successful. However, you can't just make them shoot paper because that's not very exciting. 

Thankfully, there are tons of options outside of glass bottles: spinning targets, bouncing targets, "bleeding" targets, shoot-and-see targets, and, of course, clay targets.

Make Sure They See Early Success

There is a reason why most hunters traditionally have started hunting small game: plentiful shooting opportunities. 

I didn't start my son off fishing for bass. I started him with a worm and bobber for panfish so he could be successful and experience the fun of the sport. 

So, I won't start him hunting in the deer blind. He'll sit next to me in the woods for squirrels, and we'll have a 20-gauge and target loads with a nice soft recoil pad for doves. Why not a .410 for even easier shooting? Remember, success is the key, and I want him throwing several hundred 7-½ pellets out there at those doves for a better chance at connecting.

Then, as soon as he masters his Red Ryder, I'll move him up to a pellet gun, and he can keep the starlings, grackles, and squirrels out of our garden. 

I already know that if he considers something "hard to do," he's unlikely to keep at it right now. Hunting isn't known for being easy, but increasing the chances of success early on can be done.

Educate Your Young Hunter

Of course, I'll want him to pass his Hunter-Ed course sometime early on. We'll do that together, and I'll be talking about it as a rite of passage – not like it's schoolwork or a grind. 

We already spend a lot of time reading tracks when we're out in the woods. He's a dinosaur nut, so we always have our heads down looking for fossils. I think that's a key to getting kids interested in hunting, too — make it relatable to another hobby or interest.

The Nitty-Gritty Is Important, Too

It's not only about the hunt. Don't be afraid to get the young ones into the nitty-gritty of hunting. 

Bobby likes to watch me skin squirrels and breast out doves. He thinks it is "gross," but he kind of likes gross. He likes seeing the heart and other organs because it was all theoretical to him before he saw it in person. 

He's also an avowed carnivore, so he knows we're eating the deer, squirrel, or doves that Daddy killed. He knows exactly how they get from field to plate, and if he's not squeamish now, he probably never will be.

The bottom line is that I love hunting, and I love my son. I want my son to love hunting. But no matter what happens, I'll always love my son. I just hope he never becomes a <shudder> . . . vegetarian.

A squirrel in a tree; a great starting target with hunting with kids.

Hunter-Ed Makes Hunting With Kids Safer

This story is such an excellent example of a father taking an encouraging approach to getting his son interested in hunting. We hope this story encourages you to pass along your love of hunting to your kids one day!

As you and your family start learning about hunting and getting more active in the field – whether it's keeping small game out of the garden or sitting in a deer blind and learning how to scout and track – make sure a hunter safety course is part of your learning process. 

Most states require a hunter education course for every hunter, even kids old enough to get out in the field with a BB gun or .22 during open season. Our courses are 100% online and easy to work through as a family at your own pace! With the knowledge gained from a Hunter-Ed course, hunting with kids becomes a safer, more successful event every season. 

Find the course for your state and start learning for free with our online study guide! 


Originally published December 1, 2014. Content updated March 21, 2024.