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Enjoying A Youth Hunt

By Harry Morse, Southeast Region Conservation Educator Matching a young hunter to a rifle or shotgun that fits is one of the most important parts of a youth hunt. The wrong fit usually results in young hunters getting bruised shoulders, flinching when they pull the trigger and missing the target. Worst of all, a good experience becomes a painful one. Recoil pads and shoulder pads are important to young hunters. No one wants a sore shoulder. Select a firearm appropriate for the game to be hunted and the hunter. Youth model shotguns that fit smaller frame hunters are available at most sporting goods stores. Select a gauge appropriate for the hunter. Many young hunters start off with a 20 gauge shotgun and graduate to a 12 gauge later. Some outgrown youth shotguns are available used and are excellent bargains. Some rifles are also available in youth sizes. Stocks can be cut to fit smaller frame hunters and shoulder pads or recoil reduction systems are available. Smaller calibers such as .243 and lighter loads in bigger calibers are youth hunter friendly. Make sure the young hunter has a chance to practice with the firearm they are going to hunt with before going hunting. Shooting at a few cans or clay pigeons the day of the hunt does not do it. Kids need several experiences shooting to gain confidence and learn the basics of mounting a gun to their shoulders, sighting and shooting flying targets. Clothing Sore feet or cold feet ruin a hunt. Kids need warm socks and appropriate footwear. Many kids wear tennis shoes in the middle of winter to school. But they don't walk miles across uneven terrain, through water and then sit and wait for game while their feet freeze at school. Jeans are not good hunting pants. Wool blend pants can be less expensive than jeans and keep a young hunter warm. I have bought used wool pants at thrift stores for under $10 that work great. Thermal long underwear makes a world of difference on nippy mornings with tops and bottoms ranging from $10-$30. Rain gear is expensive but early in the season you can get by with light-weight raincoats and pants. Just Do It Going out for an hour or just half a day is important to young hunters. If you don't have all the gear or time you want, then keep it short and positive. Young hunters invest days of class and study time in hunter education to obtain their licenses, the least we can do is invest a few hours into taking them out and getting them set up right. The youth hunt weekends are a great time to go. Just Do It!