By Tracy Breen

Most bowhunters enjoy shooting their bow for hours, love sitting in treestands all day during the rut and enjoy spending hours planting food plots and hanging scouting cameras. Kids, however, rarely enjoy doing anything for hours. One mistake many fathers make when introducing their kids to hunting is pushing them too hard. I am a bowhunter; my brother doesn’t hunt at all. In my opinion, one of the main reasons my brother doesn’t hunt is because our dad made bowhunting a lot of work. 

When I became an adult and had a son of my own, I put a lot of effort into making sure he enjoyed shooting guns and bows long before introducing him to hunting. He started with a BB gun, then a .410 shotgun and from there he got a 20-gauge shotgun and a rifle. From the time he was 8 years old, raising a hunter was my goal. He is now 13 and this will be his first year hunting with a bow. I am convinced we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the .410 shotgun and squirrels. Squirrel hunting is fast-paced; the odds of success are high and if you miss a squirrel, it doesn’t really matter. When I take him squirrel hunting he can talk, laugh and have fun. We are not serious and we never hunt for hours on end. Many kids, including myself, cut their teeth on squirrel hunting but today many adults forget the fun aspect and as a result, their kids are not interested in hunting at all.  

A friend of mine who is an extremely successful hunter is ashamed to admit that his son doesn’t like to hunt at all. When I asked him why, he said his son said hunting is too much work. Today most kids are introduced to deer hunting first. I love deer hunting, turkey hunting, elk hunting and moose hunting. I love hunting almost anything that can be killed with a bow or a gun. I often take hunting very seriously because I make a living in the hunting industry, but I believe that we would recruit a lot more kids if we started them with a small caliber rifle, a shotgun and took them squirrel hunting. My son can’t wait to start bowhunting this year. He loves shooting at a Morrell Target and sitting in a deer blind. His passion for hunting was lit the first time a fox squirrel fell out of a tree and we cooked it in the crockpot. Most hunters are serious. When we introduce kids to hunting, we need to relax and not make it so serious.  If you poll 1,000 hardcore bowhunters and ask them how they got started in hunting, chances are they will tell you their dad or grandfather took them small game hunting. If you are a father with young kids and you are hoping and praying your kids turn into hunters, small game hunting is the easiest and least expensive way to get them started.