How Young Is Too Young (To Hunt)

zacajawea

New Member
Aug 25, 2013
9
2
If this is in the wrong spot, please feel free to move it. I intend for this to be a thoughtful post that can help families determine what may be the proper age to big game hunt. I have seen some posts with youth hunters that were so young it made me wonder. I saw a post on one of the Facebook sites that had a 5 year old that shot a buck. I have 4 kids and all hunt. When they were young(5 or 6) they weren't allowed to shoot yardbirds. My thought was that until they could grasp the concept of taking a life, they didn't need to take one. I'm not judging or making a recommendation, just my personal philosophy and I'm not sure at 5 years old you can understand the complexity of killing something. When my youngest was about 5, he came home grabbed his BB gun and went out back and shot a sparrow, even though it was against the rules. He cried because he didn't anticipate what it would feel like. We buried the bird and that night I asked him if he wanted to say a prayer for the bird's soul. He said yes and asked me what the "soul" was. I explained that that is the part of the bird that lives forever, he replied with "Not the part in the hole?" It was sweet and innocent and a little funny. He felt the gravity of what he had done as did I. I always feel the weight of taking a life and I just wanted to be sure he understood. He passed his hunter safety when he was 9 and shot a little buck in Colorado this year with some gracious help from this forum. I really appreciate this forum and just wanted to foster some thought about our youth hunters.
 

Colorado Cowboy

Veteran member
Jun 8, 2011
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Dolores, Colorado
Some states take it out of the parents hands by having a minimum age to hunt big game. I was born and raised in California and it was 12 years old there. Hunter safety is a different situation as there is really no minimum age that I am aware of. My Dad and I taught HS and we took kids as young as 6 or 7. I even read the test to some, to make sure they understood the questions. I hunted dove and waterfowl when I was 7. I really never thought about "taking a life" because I was taught what we were after was food, as we ate everything we shot.
 
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JimP

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Mar 28, 2016
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Gypsum, Co
On hunter safety I think that they should ban the parents from the classes and test, both the written and range ones. The kids will never learn if their parents are answering the questions and I saw one instance where they allowed a parent to actually do the range shooting for the kid.

On a age, I think that the kid needs to be able to take care of the animal in the field themselves as far as field dressing the animal. This may sound heartless but they still should be able to do it. I know of people that have been hunting for over 20 years that have never field dressed a deer after shooting one. They always have someone else right there that can do it for them. My nephew is one of these types.

When I started hunting in Utah you could hunt small game at 14. Jack rabbits and other non game animals could be hunted at any age but for big game you had to be 16, and I don't see any real reason that it should be lower. The kids need a sense of responsibility when they go hunting and most of the kids that I have taken out and seen just don't have it when they are younger than that.
 
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go_deep

Veteran member
Nov 30, 2014
2,095
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Wyoming
Kid should be able to hunt when their ready. I have one kid who absolutely was ready at 8 years old, cutting up meat, helping debone in the field, treated a gun with the utmost respect. I have another kid who I hardly won't let touch a gun on a bench at the range who's almost 10. If the parent is worth a dang and can be honest about it let them decide.
 

dirtclod Az.

Veteran member
Jan 26, 2018
1,416
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Arizona
Took the hunters safety course a 11yrs and 7months.12yrs. minimum in Az.
My Dad and my uncle were instructors.State of Az.
wouldn't allow my passing.I had to take the course again at 12yrs.
Az. now has minimum of 10yrs to hunt big game. 🔥
 

Prerylyon

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Apr 25, 2016
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Cedar Rapids, IA
As a dad of several mentally challenged kids, one who made some major mistakes in their upbringing early on (miscues on their developmental delays, pushing too hard, etc.), I'll share what I've painfully learned (and am still learning!) over 20+ yrs, raising 7 kids, aged currently 2 thru 21:

Develop a close, compassionate bond with your child that allows you to be a positive influence in their life.

The rest will all come together.
 

zacajawea

New Member
Aug 25, 2013
9
2
I mentioned that my son passed his hunter safety when he was 9 and recently shot a buck. He is 12 years old now. This is a picture of him doing a fantastic job skinning it. I agree that the ages are fluid when they are capable of taking big game. I really appreciate the comment about them knowing all of the processes involved and not just the "shooting" part.
 

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GOSHENGRUNTER

Active Member
Jan 8, 2014
415
58
Clermont County Ohio
This is a tough topic and I doubt any two of us would give the exact same answer. I've had the privilege to take kids hunting since I was in my mid-teens. 20 years later, I can say I've taken kids every single year. There is such a huge variable in each kid. Some are ready at 4 or 5 and others may not be ready until their teens.

I've been taking my son hunting with me here in Ohio since he was 2. He saw me take a couple turkeys and has always shown an interest in hunting. This year he really wanted to be "the hunter". We spent all spring and summer practicing shooting his crossbow until he could hit a bottle cap at 20 yards. We shot about 5 days a week from June-August. Also during that time, we studied shot placement. I printed out dozens of pictures of deer and hogs and had him draw a dot on the picture where he would shoot. After he mastered that, I began printing more complex pictures showing obstructed shots and quartering-to animals. When he was able to tell me "shoot" or "don't shoot", I knew he was ready for that aspect.

The bigger concern in my mind was his mental preparedness for the hunt. We spent a lot of time talking about where meat comes from, why we hunt, why we only shoot certain animals and so on. He had a good understanding and I felt he was ready.

Fast forward to August, we go on a hog hunt. This was a great test run and practice for him. From an ethics standpoint, he opted to pass on several sows that had piglets. He said he didn't want to shoot a "girl that had babies". Eventually he found a good boar and made a perfect 10 yard shot. A couple hours after the hunt, he wanted to sit down and talk. He cried and said he felt "small" for shooting the boar. He was expressing the respect and remorse I think most hunters feel when taking a life. After a brief talk, he was happy again and understood the circle of life he was involved in.

Reed's boar.jpg

After a couple days he was begging me to hunt again. We deer hunted a few ties and finally sealed the deal on a doe in early November. He was a proud boy and he's now beating me up to find him a good buck. He's passed a couple does since and has shown some impressive patience for a 4, now 5 year old.
Reed's First deer.jpg

Moral of the story is- every kid is different. I don't fault any state for keeping the legal age around 9-11. I think my kid is an exception to the rule, but I know he is far from alone. The key for me knowing he was ready was responsibility, ethics, and an understanding of what was happening. Just my 2 cents.
 

Bonecollector

Veteran member
Mar 9, 2014
4,517
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Ohio
I believe the age at when our youth should start hunting big game varies as to when each individual is ready, but only within a short window. There are a few variables that should be 'fixed' which will assist in deciding the proper age of when each individual child is ready. A child tagging along for a hunt is one thing, but taking the next step is something that should not be taken lightly as that first experience could ruin them and then we've lost a future hunter and conversationalist.

1. Child should be able to study and pass both parts of the hunter safety course (written & field shooting) without the assistance of an adult. This will probably rule out most children under the age of 10.
2. Should be able to assist in the process of gutting/skinning the animal when tagging along at a younger age, if they show an interest.
3. The child should be able to easily handle the weapon without the assistance of an adult while only being supervised. Again, this will happen near the age of 10 with the exception of small game rifles and small game hunting with calibers like the .17 , .22, etc. Bows are probably not a possibility and crossbows are typically only usable when used on a $250 rest/stand and manipulated by an adult. Therefore I only see the relevance of supervised usage of the small game calibers listed for most children, but there are the few exceptional youth who are capable.
4. It is a sad fact, but I've heard of adults using our youth as a 'hunter' to go a kill a 2nd buck or to gain permission to normally off-limits property to have the 'child' kill a booner. I'm genuinely happy for any hunter tagging an animal for which they've worked so hard, but when I see 4-7 year old children killing booners on a daily basis, its very unsettling because we know what's going on in most of these scenarios. At this young age, the child probably does not have an opinion on hunting. If you wait until the child is a bit older and showing an interest, he/she may not want dad taking the shot.

I know a 45 year old man who takes his 5 year old hunting with a crossbow and calls someone else to field dress both of their animals when successful. I also know several other adults who can not field dress animals as well. None of these individuals took the hunter education training as they were over the age of 18 and it was not required. We want to recruit hunters, but the 'right' hunters.

I believe that taking a child hunting is important for the future of our sport and our efforts of conservation and taking them at an early age to watch can be good development. However, being physically capable and mentally ready to actually pull the trigger are two entirely different aspects that need to be evaluated. If the child can not handle the weapon, they are not ready to shoot. If they can not pass the hunter education course, then they are not mentally ready to take the life of a big game animal. There are lots of other things for them to learn and do to prepare for a lifetime of hunting. I suggest that we proceed with caution so as not to ruin the opportunity to gain another future conversationalist.
 

Hilltop

Veteran member
Feb 25, 2014
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Eastern Nebraska
Every kid is definitely different. In a perfect world, where parents were involved and capable, it would be great to leave it to them to decide. Unfortunately that isn't the case. I think all of us have likely encountered adults who weren't capable of mentoring even the most ready child. I like the minimum ages for big game and think 10 is about as low as it should be.
 

Yell Co AR Hunter

Active Member
Dec 10, 2015
460
122
Yell County Arkansas
With around 25 years experience teaching Hunter's Education and over 7,500 certified students. I can with out a doubt say there is no exact age. I do find the statement "taking a life" troublesome. If that is what is taught. How could a child not have issues with hunting. Like another said it is a process of getting food. The game animals are just one way of getting meat. Every person has a choice of one or a combination of three things.
1. Get the meat yourself (hunt).
2. Let someone else get it for you (grocery store).
3. Don't eat meat (not my choice).
Teach your children it is a way of life not taking a life.
 

mallardsx2

Veteran member
Jul 8, 2015
2,180
628
My personal opinion is that is a kid should not be hunting until they fully understand the weapon and the ramifications for using that weapon and the safety aspects of using a weapon. Hard to put a time-frame on it. But most kids truly dont understand what taking a life of an animal means until they are about 12 years old.

Some kids less than 12 some more than 12. Just depends on their upbringing.
 
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Bonecollector

Veteran member
Mar 9, 2014
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Ohio
With around 25 years experience teaching Hunter's Education and over 7,500 certified students. I can with out a doubt say there is no exact age. I do find the statement "taking a life" troublesome. If that is what is taught. How could a child not have issues with hunting. Like another said it is a process of getting food. The game animals are just one way of getting meat. Every person has a choice of one or a combination of three things.
1. Get the meat yourself (hunt).
2. Let someone else get it for you (grocery store).
3. Don't eat meat (not my choice).
Teach your children it is a way of life not taking a life.
I agree with your statement, but let me clarify: " by taking a life". I was referring to some kids being too young to understand and perhaps finding it troublesome after killing an animal. Some may cry, others may give up hunting all together. Especially if they see the reaction after bad shot placement.
Back when many of us were kids, it was a different way of life. Being raised on a farm makes a big difference as well as you understand the cycle of life and raising meat. Kids today are wired differently.
 

taskswap

Active Member
Jul 9, 2018
311
172
Colorado
To me this is a highly personal decision largely between the parent and child. Every kid is different, too. My oldest son started at 12 only because that's when he showed interest, but I wouldn't say he's ready to do anything on his own even though he'll be 16 this year. He's interested in the sport, but not enough to pursue it enough to give me the confidence he can do it on his own. On the other hand, my oldest daughter started going with me on doe hunts at 8, joined me on a grouse hunt this year (she's 9 now) and I'm confident she'll be ready when she turns 12 (when it's legal for her to get her own tag here in Colorado).

There's the law, and there's what you know about your kids. Go with whichever number is highest. :)
 
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Winchester

Veteran member
Mar 27, 2014
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Cascade, Colorado
"There's the law, and there's what you know about your kids. Go with whichever number is highest."

Great way to put it !! (y)
I'd say you pretty much summed it all up … and I definitely agree with you.
 
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88man

Active Member
Feb 20, 2014
219
12
Pa
Every child is different. My daughter killed her first buck when she was 7years old with a rifle and she killed a 9pt with a cross bow at 8yrs old. Every father/mentor is differnt you have to be able to adjust to there skills and ability.
 

dan maule

Active Member
Jan 3, 2015
464
195
Upper Michigan
Hunting for my family is not just something we do, it's who we are. My kids were always welcome to come with me but I never pushed them. When my oldest son was 10 the state of Michigan changed the age to hunt deer from 14 to 12 for gun and 12 to 10 for archery. I honestly thought it was crazy but I purchased a bow for him and we practiced together all summer. When season opened we sat together in a double ladder stand and a doe came in at approximately 12 yards and he made an absolutely perfect shot, the deer went maybe 70 yards. The pride and sense of accomplishment he had from the experience was inspiring. He proceeded to kill several more deer with his bow without ever wounding one. Michigan has since basically eliminated the age requirement for hunting, youth can hunt at any age with adult supervision. I believe that as a parent you know when your kid is ready and if they show interest we need to do everything we can to equip them and encourage them while being responsible for and honest about their abilities. The reality is I feel a lot safer hunting with my kids than several adults that I know. There is no real answer to the question other than when their parent feels the time is right and the child understands that it is about the hunt not the kill. There will always be idiot parents who rush the process and those who are too selfish to take the time with their kids to prepare them. There aren't a lot of things that allow you to bond with your kids like the outdoors and the years go by so fast we need to take advantage the time that has given to us to poor into them however we can.
 

dirtclod Az.

Veteran member
Jan 26, 2018
1,416
261
Arizona
Just finished watching Mule Deer hunt on the live broadcast.
13yr. old hammered a great Buck.Good stuff, looking forward
to more live broadcasts.This youngsters head was in he right
place.Previosly harvested 2 Antelope Does,says he'd been tagging
along hunting since age 3yrs.He knew what he was about...And
how hunting works. 🔥
 

Rich M

Active Member
Oct 16, 2012
266
53
We have guys saying that kids need to be able to pass hunter safety tests - I suggest that if the kid is ready, he or she can pass the test without the class. Along with the 12 yr old law, the state passed hunter safety class rules - I took the test at 10 without the class because I had earlier hunting licenses and easily passed, the shooting aspect was easy as well. It isn't rocket science and contains stuff that folks should be teaching their kids - safety, the legal laws, ethics, etc. I've taken the hunter safety class multiple times with folks over the past X years and the instructors do a good job. Where I'm going here is that it should be a reinforcement of knowledge, not a source.

Not gonna tell you how old a kid should be. That's a direct result of your efforts with your child and your child him or herself. If the kid has self control, listens & obeys and can follow directions without issues, and wants to go - seems like he or she is ready whether they be 6 or 60 years old. I enjoy seeing kids hunting with dad and/or mom.

Not gonna get into the whole "taking a life" or if an animal has a soul either. You teach your kids as you will. NRA mag has an interesting article on how folks view animals - 35% think animals are like people. That's gonna come into play in the future I'm sure.