Raising Them Right: Moms Training Future Hunters and Shooters

The pre-dusk Texas sunlight cast a glowing haze over the trees and fields, surrounding my oldest daughter and me as we sat in an elevated blind, waiting. Watching. Trying to be patient. It was time for a management deer hunt, meaning the season hadn’t yet begun state-wide but here we were, using the landowner’s tags to cull the herd. My daughter was 16 at the time, and it was far from her first hunt. Her ability to sit and wait wasn’t quite as developed as mine, but there she was, looking to put meat in the freezer.

Stevens Deer 4 2It didn’t take long that evening for a shooter buck to arrive on the scene, which was a pleasant surprise, considering how time-intensive deer hunting tends to be. Big trophy bucks weren’t on our radar, but he was respectable in every way, and gorgeous. He stepped into the clearing on the heels of a young spike, age and wisdom reminding him to go slow and pay attention. Oddly enough, his caution helped my daughter rather than hinder her. She already had her suppressed Remington 783 resting on the ledge of the blind and was working to slow her breathing, because even though this wasn’t her first hunt, that surge of adrenaline really never goes away.

The eight-point buck paused broadside to our blind, turning his head to scent the wind.

She pulled the trigger.

The buck went down where he stood from that single, well-placed shot of .308 Winchester.

That moment is one of many I’ve been fortunate to share with my daughter. She’s made impressive shots on running feral hogs, proved her ability to outshoot the adults around her in handgun classes, and humored my endless sharing of trail camera photos. Today, as a college student, she draws cartoons providing commentary on the gun industry and the many issues in it for an industry publication. Is she the same hardcore hunter and firearms enthusiast I am? No, and that’s a good thing, because she is her own person and has applied those experiences to her life in her own ways.

221094 1The Age Gaps

Although she’s the oldest, she isn’t the only one. Our two elementary-age kids go deer and hog hunting with us as well. This means we have an 8-year-old who is practicing to shoot his first hog and a 7-year-old more interested in watching than doing. All kids are different, and the way you relate to them through firearms and hunting should vary, too.

When my youngest was 6 days old, we took him on his first hog hunt. That presented the challenge of protecting his hearing, but my husband and I handled it by hunting as a team so one could stay back at a safe sound distance with our son. He’s the one out of the four who goes hunting and fishing so routinely that it’s as natural to him as breathing. Does that mean he’ll always get a thrill out of touching a deer’s hide or eating pulled pork from a feral hog? Who knows, but I do know we’ll always have the memories and bonding time.

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Why Take Your Kids Hunting?

Stevens Ruger 2You might be wondering how all this relates to being a mom; the answer is varied. For one thing, teaching your kids about firearms safety is smart. It removes the magic and mystique surrounding guns and makes it clear they’re tools. Guns have a purpose and are not toys. Start small, keep it age-appropriate, and go from there. My kids are quizzed on the four rules of gun safety every single time firearms are brought out, whether for hunting or range time. Once they can demonstrate they not only know but also follow the safety rules, you can move on to the next stage. Safety is paramount, and it’s your responsibility as a mom to keep your kids safe. That doesn’t mean you teach them guns are scary; it means you train them to know what to do with and around firearms to be safe, responsible human beings.

Hunting and Shooting with Kids as a Single Mom

Here’s the thing: I didn’t have the luxury of a spouse when my oldest was learning to hunt and shoot. It’s something I did myself. Lessons were learned along the way about teaching these things to kids, so I fine-tuned my process over time. If you’re thinking you couldn’t possibly manage it on your own, I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can. Not only that—if you hunt, you can fill your freezer and teach your kids about being self-sufficient, all at once.

Stevens Zero 7Yes, It Takes Extra Work

I won’t sugar-coat it—taking your kids hunting and shooting does require extra time and effort. You might find it’s a lot less relaxing for you in the early days than going alone, but the payoff is ultimately worth it. The goal isn’t necessarily to sculpt a hunting buddy for life; it’s to teach useful life skills and spend time with your kids. Some “take to it” more than others, and that should be respected as well.

Sure, now you need more ear pro, ammo, and camo. Of course, you also have a built-in excuse to broaden your pre-hunt junk food buying spree. You might think that detail doesn’t make an impact, but I’m here to tell you the ever-present bags of miniature Hershey bars on fishing trips when I was a kid are stuck in my brain forever. It isn’t because I love the candy bars; it’s that having them created an indelible, positive memory. These things might seem small, but even tiny traditions leave lasting marks.

Those Moments, Though…

Stevens Deer 2 2I’ve been blessed—which isn’t a word I hang on the walls of my house or say much—with some awesome hunting moments with my kids (and some funny ones, too). There was the time my oldest was 12 and waited too long to shoot an Osceola tom turkey, and so what started as an easy shot became a major challenge, but she nailed it beautifully. Then there was the time she wanted to leave the blind to pet the cows and texted her dad to get him to try to convince me to allow it (yes, she ended up going to pet the cows). To this day, the two of them laugh over their team effort to get me to let her out of the blind, all for cows.

Our two middle kids tend to fall asleep when night hunting hogs, but when it comes to deer, they’re wide awake. On one occasion, we took just the boys out for deer, and it happened to also be sandhill crane season. We ended up getting a crane, and the picture I took of my husband with our 8-year-old and our youngest will be a favorite for a long time. Afterward, my husband showed our grade schooler how to process a crane, and I demonstrated how to use the leftover parts for bone broth.Stevens Deer 1 2

The first time my youngest touched antlers that were on a buck I’d just shot (rather than the sheds our dogs chew on), he was ridiculously excited. His smile, giggle, and look of awe were all contagious. I think we have a serious hunter on our hands with him, but only time will tell.

These may or may not be the moments that warm your heart. Consider them examples of small ways hunting helps you connect with your kids. After all, we don’t really need them staring at electronics or sitting indoors all the time, do we? Take your kids hunting with you. You won’t regret it, and they’ll remember those golden moments for the rest of their lives. Maybe they’ll even get to pet a cow along the way.


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