Dave sent me an email saying that his son, Josh, was turning 8, and that he was finally old enough to hunt deer according to his state’s law. Dave said Josh would continue to tag along with him in the woods this fall, but the boy wouldn’t carry a rifle just yet. What did I think?
I think Dave has got it right. Eight is great for tagging along with Dad, but isn’t it a bit too young and immature to carry a gun and kill an animal, especially a deer? Think about those rowdy 8-year-olds on your kid’s baseball or football team. Would you thrust a .243 into their hands and say, “Boy, go shoot us a buck.”
My two sons blasted their first squirrels with a 20-gauge Remington pump when they were 10. We were all happy and thought that was cool. My boys were your typical 10-year-olds. Not particularly mature, but old enough to handle shooting the life out of a gray rodent.
Killing a warm, fuzzy, doe-eyed deer is another thing. If you are doing it right, you feel a lot happy and a little sad when you shoot the life out of a buck or a doe. You smile. You think, contemplate. Your eyes might well up a bit even if you won’t admit it. I don’t think a kid is ready for that until he’s 12 or so, and he or she will spend the rest of his or her hunting life sorting out the emotions.
I’m all for recruiting new hunters, but some guys are pushing too hard. Their boys and girls are shooting deer when they’re 5 and 6 in states with no age requirements. On some lands with intensive management programs, kindergartners are literally stacking up the does. The kids are having fun, but why? They don’t know why they are shooting those deer. They are doing it because Daddy tells them to, and they know it makes Daddy proud.
I understand that every kid is different, and it’s up to the parent or grandparent to decide at what age a boy or girl should shoot a deer. But I see a lot of parents pushing too hard for their kids to hunt at too young an age. Put too much pressure on kid to do any sport and you can burn him out.
Click here for a list of state laws and minimum age (if any) to hunt deer.
What do you think? How young is too young to kill a deer? When did you and your kids start hunting?
How old do you have to be to shoot a gun at a deer
Not surprising this is a touchy subject. Yes, I agree, each kid is different and the parents would (should) know better than the state if they are ready. However, not all parents are ready to instill the proper ethics into the kids when they are hunting. Unfortunately, we can’t control that.
In my house, my oldest daughter turns 9 this Aug and for her birthday she is getting a crossbow. She can legally hunt deer next fall at age 10. I told her she would get it this year so she can have a year to practice and get comfortable with it. I feel she will be the most prepared and be able to make a clean ethical shot with a crossbow as oposed to using a compound bow or a rifle at this point.
I will have many conversations over the next year about deer anatomy and the ethics of hunting. This will mirror what she has witnessed the past few years when she has gone hunting with me. Kids learn by watching and the hunting trips she has taken with me will stick with her more than the talks I’m sure.
But the best part is the time that we will be spending together in the next few years as we prepare together for each season and those times we will sit for hours in a stand talking about everything and nothing at all. I can still remember growing up following my uncles and cousins into the woods time after time. I hope to make those types of memories with all three of my kids.
Mike this is a touchy subject to a lot of people but I think it’s rather simple. If a child is mentally and emotionally ready to hunt and understands what effect their actions are going to have then they should be able to hunt. I was seven years old when I killed my first doe. I had been going hunting with my dad since I was three so I had spent four years of my young life learning about the many different aspects of hunting and what it meant when you took the life of that animal and why we were even doing it. I loved it and felt no shame in killing that doe, now I’m not saying that I think 7 year old kids should be hunting alone but I do believe if they are prepared and accompanied by a smart adult who has instilled the right ethics and morals then that should be okay for them to harvest an animal. What’s the difference in taking the life of a squirrel and a deer? To me your ending one of God’s creatures lives period no matter if it’s a foot long or five feet long it’s still a life. So it’s my personal opinion that if a kid can kill a squirrel or rabbit etc.. at a certain age then why wouldn’t that kid be prepared to take a deer?
I agree, that there is no right age – just like everything else with kids, they’re all different. And to add to that, I don’t think the state should set an age limit either. I think it is the parent’s responsibility to know when that time is right.
That said, I agree with you Hanback. There are a lot of kids pulling the trigger before they even understand what they are doing.
I hate to even bring this up, but I’m going to anyways… crossbows haven’t helped. It used to be that a kid had to be able to make a solid killing shot with a rifle that kicked and went boom in order to go hunting. Once they mastered that, they could pick up the bow when they learned more about shot angles, anatomy, string ducking, and scent control. Now, I see some adults putting a crossbow in their kids’ hands before they understand ANY of that knowledge. Crossbows are being used as a precursor to rifle hunting, since there is no kick or bang, but the experience required to make ethical shots with such a weapon doesn’t come until MUCH later.
But, as with other misguided national efforts, it’s “for the kids”.
I’m a bit confused…….
David in NC quotes
“I think it is the parent’s responsibility to know when that time is right.”
“I don’t think the state should set an age limit either. ”
“Now, I see some adults putting a crossbow in their kids’ hands”
“crossbows haven’t helped.”
So is it the crossbow you don’t want kids to be able to use, or are you just unhappy with the choices that some parents have made? And aren’t these choices the very thing that you say parents should be able to make without interference from the state?
IMHO, if a parent thinks their kid is old enough and mature enough to hunt and he/she meets the age requirement set by the state and a crossbow is what that kid shoots best, then I’d rather have the kid hunt with a crossbow instead of something else they can’t handle.
Sorry for the confusion. I’ll elaborate… Parents ought to be able to make the decision.
Some parents are making poor decisions.
When should a child begin hunting (killing) deer? Maybe 7, 10, or even 13 years or older depending on the child. But when I see Dad’s putting crossbows in the hands of 5 and 6 year olds and telling them to shoot, I highly question it. I would argue that the physical readiness for rifle hunting comes ahead of the mental readiness required for bowhunting (including crossbows). So, IMO using a crossbow as a tool to move up the age of readiness is a poor choice.
No legislation required. You might say that’s an isolated case, but as crossbows have been legalized across the country (fine by me), a good bit of the discussion was focused on the facts that kids could now hunt at a younger age. Of all the valid reasons for crossbows, I don’t think that’s one of them.
David in NC quote “But when I see Dad’s putting crossbows in the hands of 5 and 6 year olds and telling them to shoot,”
I wasn’t aware that there were states that allowed deer hunting by 5 or 6 year olds. IMHO, that’s wayyyyy to young to be hunting.
Check out the link in Mike’s post. Many of the states do not have min. age requirements and even the regs listed there are not exactly correct. For instance, in NC, you can hunt at any age without a H.S. certification as long as you are with an adult. In order to hunt by themselves, a youth must have passed the hunter safety course, but I know some kids at a very young age that have done that.
The 12-16 age requirement listed there is for special permit hunting opportunities only. Otherwise there is no age limit. I believe that is good, but parents should use good judgement.
I’m sure you are going to get several different answers about what age is “appropriate” . In the end……what age I feel is right for my children (based on desire and maturity) may be far different that what others may feel is right for their children.
What I will say is this….I would hope that our kids will show the animal some respect. This running around and fist pumping foolishness that you see on TV all the time sets a poor example, IMHO.
My daughter will be turning 8 in a couple weeks. There is no way that she will be ready to hunt for several more years. I got her a .22 cricket this past Christmas and she absolutely loves it. She is a great shot already, but only at balloons and bottles, etc. I don’t think she could emotionally handle killing an animal for several more years and I’m not going to push her. She still pets every deer that I bring home and says how pretty it is. I have taken her gun hunting with me since she was 4. She begs me to shoot every deer we see, but I have to explain to her every time why I’m not going to shoot that spike or 4 pt. One day she will be ready and I can’t wait to be with her when she finally reaches that point.