After harvesting a wild turkey last spring in our home state of Missouri, my now 7 year old daughter, Hailey, wants to try her hand at deer hunting. This blog series will detail our effort from pre to post-hunt along with a few tips for introducing newcomers to deer hunting.
“How much will it kick and how loud will it be?”
Those two questions are likely the most commonly asked when someone prepares to shoot a firearm.
Hailey has read this script for her shooting sports journey too and asks those exact questions every time she tries a new gun. Her new .243 was no different. Luckily, we had prepared by shooting BB guns, air rifles, and .22s for a number of years, so her deer hunting rifle was just a little bigger and a little louder, however, we had a plan to manage both.
As mentors, we should pay close attention to recoil and noise. So much so, that we should minimize both to the absolute best of our ability. Your hunt may end before it starts if your budding hunter is not comfortable with the firearm.
Mentoring a first time youth hunter this fall on a deer hunt? From a firearm standpoint, here are a few items to consider:
• Safety should come first when working with firearms or any shooting equipment. Always wear adequate eye and ear protection and follow safety rules. Here are the four main safety rules to follow.
1. Always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
2. Always 100% positively identify your target and what is beyond it before firing.
3. Always keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
4. Always keep the safety on until you are ready to shoot.
• Firearm and ammunition selection is an important piece of successful hunting. Here are some ideas:
a. If possible, practice target shooting first with small calibers (BB guns, air rifles, and .22 rifles work well) before trying a larger, louder caliber.
b. Find a firearm that fits the stature of your hunter. “Compact” rifles often fit the bill for this. Most youth will need a length of pull around 12 or 12.5 inches.
c. Pick a rifle with quality sights or use a solid low-power optic.
d. Use a caliber that is large enough for deer-sized game but small enough to reduce recoil and noise. I recommend the .243 or 6mm. Avoid .30 caliber and larger if possible. e. Consider using ammunition designed for reduced recoil. Hailey has been practicing with the “Custom Lite” ammunition by Hornady and also be hunting with it. There are other manufacturers as well.
• Spending time at the range will result in a more prepared hunter when a whitetail presents an opportunity. Keep the following in mind.
a. Make sure you are shooting on a designated shooting range with appropriate backstops and safety barriers in place. Follow the safety rules above.
b. Have the firearm sighted in before your hunter shoots.
c. Start out at 25 yards to get comfortable and confirm proper shooting fundamentals. Later, have your hunter shoot as far as they feel they may take a shot on a deer; however, keep in mind they must be able to consistently place 3 shots inside an 8” circle for a quick, clean, ethical harvest.
d. Use shooting sticks or bi-pods to steady the shot.
e. Consider using reactive paper targets which allows for immediate feedback.
f. Introduce shot placement on a deer when appropriate (vital areas: heart and lungs).
If you intend to harvest a deer, your budding hunter will need to use an efficient tool (firearm, muzzleloader, big bore air gun, and archery tools are examples). In this blog post we focused on firearms. As a mentor, part of your job is ensure the tool they use allows for not only a potential successful harvest, but also a level of comfort and safety that will keep them wanting to participate well into the future.