As families get ready for the upcoming youth squirrel season, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources would like to remind parents to teach their kids about gun safety before taking them out to hunt.

One of the biggest mistakes adults make when introducing a kid to shooting is using a gun that isn’t suitable for a youth hunter. That’s why our Hunter Education Class volunteer instructors always tell people to start their kids out small and let them build the confidence they need to use that firearm safely and properly, which will help them have a more enjoyable experience.

But teaching kids about gun safety involves more than using a youth-appropriate firearm. To the average hunter out there, handling a gun comes second nature, but you can’t assume your kid will automatically know how to properly handle a firearm. That’s why you need to introduce them to shooting before you take them out for a hunt.

Safety First

Introducing your kids to guns by teaching them about safety is a great way to broach the subject.

  1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded.
  2. Never allow the muzzle of a firearm to point at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Don’t put your finger near the trigger until you are ready to fire and don’t depend on any mechanical device for safety.
  4. Always be sure of where your target is and what’s behind and in front of it.

Once you cover the basics, you can let your kids practice with a low-velocity air rifle or BB gun to help them gain confidence and sight alignment skills. When it comes time for a youth hunter to use a more advanced firearm, you can give them a .22-caliber rifle, which has manageable recoil. Youth hunters should not use pistols because they have a shorter sight radius and are harder to control.

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Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Parents who find themselves in need of help teaching their kids how to shoot a firearm can enroll in one of the DNR’s hunter education classes. During this class, our volunteer instructors cover gun safety, hunting ethics and survival skills and will make sure you and your kid knows everything needed to safely operate a firearm.

Note: All persons born on or after January 1, 1975 must complete a certified hunter education class before purchasing a base hunting license. Hunter education classes are currently limited due to COVID-19. To learn more about or to sign up, visit