On cool, misty weekend mornings in the middle of autumn, you might expect to find most kids snug in their pajamas watching television and eating pancakes. But for hundreds of kids in northwest Missouri, TV cannot compare to something even better. They are bundled up outdoors well before the sun comes up and they are waiting…quietly…for their first kill. They are tiny little hunters and they are orange-clad, crack-shot fans of the season.
Hunting with dad (or mom!) is a very special outing for those who love the sport. Once the safety rules are memorized and target practice over, these kids are ready to aim and fire. For many, Monday morning’s conversation at school will center around how big a deer they brought down and how quickly mom and dad got the photo posted on Facebook.
Justin Webb of Weston, MO, has three kids who have joined him in the deer blind this year. Seven-year-old Ashtyn has been going out with dad to observe since she was almost three. She got her first chance at shooting a deer by herself last year.
The state of Missouri has an easy-to-use website at http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping detailing youth season, regulations, tips and education opportunities. You’ll want to know all the ins and outs of hunting with kids to make the most of your adventure.
Webb has good advice for parents based on his years of experience with Ashtyn and her siblings Lane and Jaidyn.
“There are a few things I make sure of before I actually let them hunt with me for the first time,” he explains. “First I make sure they understand why we hunt. It’s important for them to know that deer hunting is to put meat in our freezer and not just to kill something.” Webb’s own parents taught him that he should not shoot something he will not eat.
Webb also believes strongly that children should tag along and observe for a few years so they can learn gun safety and witness a hunt before they actually get to pull the trigger themselves. “That way I can get a feel for if it is something they actually want to do,” he says. “I let them decide if they want to become a hunter and I do not want to pressure them into it.”
Webb’s third tip is to make time for plenty of target practice so that kids feel comfortable with a gun and can handle both the firearm and the pressure to aim and hit a target. During this practice timeWebb stresses gun safety and how dangerous improper behavior can be around a firearm.
Lastly, Webb finds it important to teach his kids how healthy deer meat is compared to the beef, pork and chicken most people buy from the grocery store. “Deer meat is very lean with hardly any fat,” Webb says. “It also does not contain any growth hormones that are found in most meats at the store and it is very cheap compared to those meats.” Webb points out that a youth deer tag costs $9.00, so if a child shoots an average size deer weighing between 30 and 50 pounds, the family has about 40 pounds of meat for the price of one KC Strip.
That’s not the best thing about youth hunting, according to Webb. The process teaches patience, respect, gun safety and the history of how our ancestors had to hunt for their daily meals. But perhaps even better than all that education are the memories made out in the quiet field. “The quality time that we get together is the best part of the hunt,” Webb says with a smile.
For the Webb family and many others like them, pancakes and cartoons can wait for another weekend.