Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference. This is certainly the case when teaching a new hunter how to be successful in the woods. This fall, my 14-year-old son harvested three deer. Two of them were bucks. Every year leading up to this year when my son had a deer in range, I would cross my fingers. Sometimes he dropped a deer in its tracks; often he would miss. Several things caused the misses.
He is young and inexperienced. Buck fever is a real thing. Most of the time on a scale between 1 and 10, his buck fever was a 10. We could shoot in the backyard and he would hit the bullseye all day long. A week later, he would miss a deer clean at 60 yards.
Another reason he struggled was because he lacked confidence in his shooting. Every time he pulled the trigger, he expected to miss what he was shooting at. Over the course of the last couple years, we have worked hard to increase his confidence. Below are a few things we have done that have helped him fill more tags and may help other youth hunters.
Give Squirrel Hunting a Try
Success increases the odds of more success. To help my son become more successful, we started squirrel hunting at least once a week during small game season. Small game hunting used to be extremely popular. Now most people focus only on deer hunting. When we go squirrel hunting, most of the time we come home with at least one squirrel. With every squirrel that went into the game bag, I saw his confidence build. At first we hunted squirrels with a 20 gauge shotgun. After he killed a few squirrels with a shotgun, he started using a .22 rifle with a scope. Shooting at squirrels requires focus and hitting a small target with a .22 rifle can be difficult. The more squirrels he killed with a rifle, the better marksman he became. Aim small miss small is something you often hear people say when talking about shooting. Squirrel hunting requires the hunter to pick a spot on a small target and squeeze the trigger. Squirrel hunting helped my son become a better deer hunter.
Talk Over Each Shot
One thing I noticed when we were squirrel hunting is the more he and I talked through the shot before he took it, the odds of success went up. When we squirrel hunt, we can often talk out loud and discuss which tree to lean on when shooting. We discuss where to aim on the squirrel based on where the squirrel is in the tree. Going over all of these things before he shot the gun calmed his nerves and helped him put more squirrels in the crockpot.
Most adult hunters will discuss shooting situations when they are in a treestand or blind when deer hunting with a youth hunter, but what I often found myself doing is discussing where to aim on opening day and never talking about it again. We would go over a few details of shooting while we were in the blind but once I gave him a few tips, I wouldn’t remind him often enough and he would sometimes forget a few key things when a deer was standing in front of him. Now every time we are deer hunting, I constantly remind him where to aim, trying to make sure the deer isn’t walking fast or running when he shoots. We talk about breathing properly and how he can calm his nerves. We go over shot sequences repeatedly until he knows exactly what to do when the moment of truth arrives. Sometimes I say the same things so many times that I think it is overkill, but kids easily forget things. By constantly going over the shot sequence beforehand, he has filled more deer tags.
A Steady Rest Is A Must
Success boils down to the details. One issue my son had when we were deer hunting from a blind was keeping the gun steady when shooting. Buck fever would cause him to shake and then the gun would move around and he would shoot and miss. We solved that problem when we started using the Final Rest Shooting system. This shooting rest can be used in almost any type of deer blind. It quickly attaches to the window on my Redneck Blind, doesn’t take up much space, and gives kids or adults a solid shooting rest. Now the gun is solid and my son shoots with confidence.
For those who hunt from the ground, the Final Rest can be purchased with a tripod. If you hunt from a ladder stand, they have an attachment for that as well. Most ladder stands have a rail and the Final Rest can be easily attached to the rail. The Final Rest works well for crossbow hunters.
Being successful when hunting often boils down to the little details. As we age and become experienced hunters, sometimes the details become second nature. When teaching a kid to hunt, go over all the details with them as often as possible, take them squirrel hunting and make hunting all about having fun. There may be a few bumps in the road but success will come.