By: Tom Claycomb
A few years ago, my wife informed me that she and her teaching buddies were going to take a shooting class. Of course I had to ask, “Why? Hello! I’m an outdoorsman. I conduct 50-60 seminars a year, why would you pay someone else to teach you?”
“Because you’re no fun. You yell at me.”
Surely this wasn’t true. Of all the people in the world I’d like to pass my hunting knowledge on to, no one is more important than my wife and daughters. Surely I hadn’t blown it that bad, had I? Well, I hate to inform you, but yep! me and 99.9% of the men in the world have. We need to make a conscious effort not to be like that.
I’m generally not a huge stickler for safety, but when dealing with guns, we have to be. So, teach those entrusted to your care about gun safety first and foremost. Never point at anything you don’t intend to destroy. Treat all guns as if they are loaded. Don’t clean or work on a gun until you ensure that it is empty. Make sure of your backstop.
Make It Fun
Remember: the main goal is to get your wife, kid, other kids, or adults into guns. If you don’t get them into guns, who will? The school system? Ha, I don’t think so. So you need to reprogram yourself and remember, you need to make it fun.
So how do you make it fun? Don’t be a Rambo and intimidating. Be gentle. Don’t overload them and try to do too much at once. They don’t teach Advanced Calculus in Pre-K, do they? No! So be age-appropriate and instruct in layers.
Take good snacks on your outings. If you like pickled pigs’ feet, save them for elk hunt with your buddies (If you have any. It’s doubtful that you have any buddies if you pack those to camp). When my daughter and I go backpacking, I always take the ingredients for S’Mores.
Do what the person/people you’re instructing have an interest in. One of my daughters is tender-hearted. She loves to shoot but doesn’t want to kill anything. So, I take her shooting but not hunting.
With the popularity of the Hunger Games, a lot of kids got interested in archery. If you’re not into archery, you better jump on board, hadn’t you? You want to be involved in your kids’ life, right? If not, you better readjust your life. If your hunting buddies are too crude, maybe you better make some new friends.
Be Conscious of Recoil
Be conscious of recoil. As a kid, I shot a 30-06 with 180 gr. bullets because my dad did. Most dads with young families can’t buy their children a youth rifle and then a real gun later on, but at least buy some smaller gr. bullets so it doesn’t kick so bad. This is especially so for young girls. In fact, dad bought all of us 20 ga. shotguns. I think that made us better shots anyway.
As a kid, dad farmed and ranched on the side, so we had plenty of land to hunt on. The big Kay Kimball ranch surrounded us and stretched out for miles, and the ranch foreman let me have the run of the ranch. I’d take out for hours by myself as an 8-9 yr. old. It’s a wonder that I didn’t get lost forever.
If you don’t own land, go get permission to hunt on some. Or find some National Forest Service or BLM land. If you’re a city dweller in the middle of concrete suburbia, then find some gun ranges you can take kids/wife/buddy to shoot at.
There are a lot of cool/fun gun clubs that put on all manner of competition type of shooting. If you live in the city, check them out. I’m an outdoorsman, so any free time I have, I’m out hunting or fishing, so I do very little organized type of shooting. I’m not against it, I just like being outdoors.
Start with Air Guns
Another great starting point is to start with air guns. While the modern air gun is no toy, they are still safer to start with than a high-power pistol or rifle. They don’t travel as far, and they are much cheaper to shoot.
SIG SAUER offers a ton of cool air gun targets that kids love as well as some cool CO2 airguns. And don’t forget about hunting small game with air guns. They work great on rabbits, pigeons, doves, and other small game. Most farmers/feedlots will allow you access if you’re hunting with your kid with air guns. For my hunting, I use a Benjamin Steel Eagle or a Benjamin Marauder.
Choose Your Hunts Wisely
Don’t take a new hunter on, let’s say, an elk hunt. On many elk hunts, you‘ll hunt all week and be lucky to have one fast shot. You’ll be hunting from daylight to dark and camping in 0-degree weather. It can be tough duty, even on a hardcore hunter. You could burn out a new hunter fast on some of our Bataan Death March hunts, couldn’t you?
Here’s another BIG mistake, and I blame Fish & Game for being the root cause. Why would a lot of F&G department’s in the past push for not letting kids hunt until they were 16? Dad got us BB guns at six years old, pellet gun at eight years old, shotgun at 10, and a .22 at 12. I was dove and duck hunting with my sister’s shotgun as a seven-year- old. I couldn’t even reach the trigger. I had to hold the butt under my arm so my little fingers could reach the trigger. I was deer hunting at nine years old and shot my first turkey at nine. You think that didn’t play a big part in me becoming a hardcore outdoorsman and eventually an outdoor writer?
If you wait to take your kids hunting until they’re 16, they’ve probably already developed other hobbies and interests. I’m just saying, the farther people get away from farming, ranching, hunting and fishing, the weirder they get. Just go to downtown LA or NYC and take a look.
Ok, now being serious. Break in your newbie gently, whether it be a six—year-old kid, a new girlfriend, or your wife. Go out of your way to make it fun for them. And one last tip: When I was a kid, there were no warm clothes for kids. Now there is all manner of quality clothing available. Your kid doesn’t have as good of circulation as you. Buy them the best you can afford.
And especially so for your woman. When Katy and I were dating, she’d wear my old cammies. I remember one day we’d had a great archery deer hunt. I told her I’d take her to town and we’d eat steaks. She said what! Not dressed like this. I guess the pants were almost pulled up to her chest and the sleeves hung six inches past her fingertips. And she did have black paint on her cheeks. She looked beautiful to me, but regardless, I lost that battle fast. Now there is some good-looking women’s hunting clothes in which they look like a woman. Katy likes Prois.
We put on a Youth Hunting camp out here. Get creative. Investigate. Nothing is cooler than having people you love out in the mountains with you.
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.