Teaching your kids about gun safety or how to shoot a bow and arrow is the first step in introducing them to hunting. But knowing when and how to do that can be tricky because kids learn at their own pace and some show an interest in hunting while others may be reluctant to take up the sport.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but we’re here to share a few tips that will help you successfully introduce your kids to shooting and hunting whenever they’re ready.

Be patient

It takes time for kids to learn something new, so patience is key. Don’t rush your kids or pressure them to start shooting if they aren’t emotionally and physically ready to pick up a gun. Knowing when the time is appropriate can be hard to determine, so let your kids decide.

Children who are interested in a subject are more likely to learn. So, the best time to introduce your kids to shooting is when he or she has expressed interest in learning how to handle a gun or go hunting.

And as a parent, you have the final say on whether they’re ready or not. Use your best judgement.

Be safe

When it comes to firearms, safety is the most important thing to consider. Introducing your kids to guns by teaching them about safety is a great way to broach the subject. It may be common knowledge to you but show your kids how to properly handle a firearm. Make sure you teach them to:

  1. Always treat all firearms as if they were loaded.
  2. Never allow the muzzle of any firearm to point at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Never 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 your target and what is behind and in front of it.

Once you cover safety basics, you can let them practice with a low-velocity air rifle or BB gun to help them gain confidence and sight alignment skills. But be sure you emphasize that a BB gun is not a toy. It can injure someone if not handled properly.

Use a youth-appropriate gun

When it comes time to use a firearm, start your kids out small. A .22-caliber rifle is a good firearm to start with because the recoil is manageable for youth hunters. Make sure the gun is the right fit. If it’s too big, your kid will have a hard time learning how to properly handle the gun. A comfortable fit means your kid will feel comfortable and confident when shooting. You should avoid pistols, however. Pistols have a shorter sight radius and are harder to maintain control.

Teach the fundamentals

Make sure your kids learn about shooting fundamentals from the very beginning. Keep it simple and cover the basics. With an unloaded firearm, teach them to use their dominate eye and hand, how to be in the right position, how to properly breathe and squeeze the trigger. If you don’t feel confident teaching your kids these things, reach out to an instructor or family members who knows what they are doing. Many schools have Archery in the Schools programs where your kids can learn how to shoot bows from NASP-certified instructors. Once you have the basics down, you can move on one of our shooting ranges.

Make sure your kids have fun

Learning how to shoot is a serious matter, but make sure your kids are having fun while they do it. A day of shooting at the range can be exhilarating, so practice shooting as often as you can. And help your kids build confidence by giving them large targets to hit. You may take pride in being able to hit a tiny paper target, but if your kids aren’t hitting anything, there’s a good chance they aren’t having fun. If possible, use larger targets that will give instant gratification.

Be flexible

If your kid doesn’t feel comfortable handling a firearm, but he or she wants to learn how to hunt, consider introducing them to shooting by teaching them on a bow. The good thing about these tips is that they apply to youth bowhunting too. Get a proper starter bow, which is intended for target shooting. When they’re ready to graduate to a compound bow, make sure you take them to a reputable bow smith to be measured for their own bow.

Get help

Even the most seasoned hunters can use a little help teaching their kids how to shoot. National Hunting and Fishing Days and other shooting sports events are a good place where your family can learn more about hunting and shooting. Consider enrolling your child in 4-H shooting programs or participating in youth shooting events, such as the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Jakes Days. And when it comes time for your kids to take a hunter education course, our volunteer instructors will make sure your kids know everything they need to be a safe and ethical hunter.