I remember my first hunt with my own father, and it was the most important hunts of my lifetime. It cemented my passion for walking and hunting on public land. The joy of discovery just over the next hillside. I never pulled a trigger that day and neither did my father, but we did see the Western most herd of antelope. They played heavily in my head for many years before my father and I were able to hunt antelope together 12 years later in Wyoming.
It was those hunts out in the hills of the Eastern Sierra Mountains that I grew to know my father and he got to see the passion that I had for the outdoors. It was also on those hunts that I got to spend time with men who were much older than I was, and I learned how to act properly around people. Those kinds of interactions and understanding my role in a group of people is important. I came to understand respect as well as when to talk and when to be quiet. So much of my upbringing was through little lessons that were taught to me at the hands of my family and family-friends who were always around. It didn’t matter whether we were putting in the garden in the spring, cutting wood on summer weekends, or hunting in the fall. We always had people around who were mentors and who stepped up to the plate. I am blessed and I am honored to have had such a great dad and that he surrounded me with good people.
Taking kids hunting really isn’t all that complicated. There are some basic rules, like 12 rules of gun safety, that need to be drilled into mentors, parents, kids and anyone hunting especially around kids because the example needs to be set. Treat the kids with respect and talk to them like they are equal when you are in the field. Point out tracks, scat, and trails. Educate when you are out, I always carry a bushcraft backpack kit with me when mentoring that I can break out and use to teach kids. Below are the basics of gun safety.
- Kevin Paulson
Gun Safety Rules
You never fool around or play with guns. Guns are dangerous when they are not handled or used properly and can easily injure or kill you, and those around you. There are no second chances with a gun and the rules for safe gun handling must always be followed to avoid accidents.
The 12 Golden rules for Safe Gun Handling
- Always treat the gun as if it is loaded.
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.
- Never point the gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
- Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the gun you are using.
- Always use proper Ammunition.
- Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before loading and shooting.
- If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, hold your shooting position for several seconds; then with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, carefully unload the gun.
- Don’t rely on the gun’s safety to keep it from firing.
- Be aware of your surroundings when handling guns so you don’t trip or lose your balance and accidentally point and/or fire the gun at anyone or anything.
Matt Houser on growing up hunting
I grew up in a small rural town in Iowa. Hunting deer was relatively easy. You get a bunch of guys, push some big draws, and shoot the deer when they make a break for it. Growing up, I thought that’s all there was to hunting. It was fun. It was relatively easy. Most importantly, it was a way for me to spend quality time with my Dad and his friend, James. My dad didn’t grow up hunting. He was raised on a farm so they had plenty of meat. However, I became interested in the hunting lifestyle and dad was willing to take me and my brother on our first hunt when I was 10. Within 30 minutes we had two nice bucks at 50 yards and a monster doe at 15. My dad took the easy shot at the doe with an open sight double barrel side by side 16 gauge that my grandfather had brought back from WWII. The shot was true and the doe expired within 50 yards. I was HOOKED. Watching him gut the deer was still kind of gross to me, but the work we put in after the kill was intriguing. We dragged that deer nearly a half mile back to the truck. I’d never had to work for my food before. This was cool. Later that night, we cooked the back straps and they were fantastic. My dad took a majority of the meat to our local locker and they made burger, summer sausage, and roasts. I loved it all. My dad took the roasts and made his own jerky. OH MY. I can still smell that seasoning flowing through my mom’s house.
The next year my dad blew out his ACL and broke his patella while trying to break a window at a house fire. My dad was the Fire Chief and he was the first one on the scene. In the 1990s this was a more serious injury than it is today, and it gave him several lasting issues. Since my dad struggled to hunt after his injury, James picked up the slack and invited me to join him every year. He was a towering man with a heart of gold. At 6’4”, he was always quick with a joke and would throw you a crooked farm boy smile! He and I were successful shooting deer for many years in a row. On our last hunt we chased several whitetails through some very thick drainages and pushed out some very nice deer but never got a clean shot. After the mandatory “He was HUGE” stories from that morning’s deer push James mentioned he wasn’t feeling well and was going to head home to lay down. I decided to stay back and hunt with James’ brother-in-law because hunting is all I wanted to do. James died of a heart attack 2 miles from that location. I was heart-broken and didn’t know if I would have any interest in hunting again. When fall rolled around the next year, I didn’t have a choice. The whitetail woods were calling, and I felt compelled to carry on with our hunting adventures.
I am now 40 years old and have experienced many days afield. Some good. Some bad. Some REALLY COLD. I am fortunate to have two healthy children and even though we are city dwellers, they love to hunt. I could never accurately describe the fulfillment, joy, and excitement that I get by taking my 11-year-old daughter or my 13-year-old son out on the first weekend of youth season every September. I can only attribute the fact that both of my kids have harvested multiple whitetail deer and have both shot bigger bucks than I ever have to the great men that helped get me started in this lifestyle. And though I’m happy that my kids have shot big bucks, hiding the pissed-off jealousy from them is easier than I thought it would be. I drown those thoughts in feelings of pride and positive celebration. They now know what it means to be a good hunter, provider, and most importantly, steward of this beautiful land that we are grateful to have the privilege of hunting. So, what does hunting with my kids mean to me? Everything!