How young is "too young" to start deer hunting?


Well-Known Member
I saw something that made me ponder this young is "too young" for deer hunting? I will hold my own opinion until a little later int he discussion.
My son started going with me and having his own gun when he was seven and he killed three deer that year. Of course he was with me the entire time and under my supervision. I'm not really sure there is a such thing as too young provided the child wants to go. Obviously, their attention span is not very long so they can easily lose interest quickly if they are not seeing anything. I would always bring his Ipad with us so when he got bored he could play games. I never pushed him to go with me and sometimes he wanted to go and sometimes he didn't. Now he is nine and he wants to go most of the time. He started going with me when he was three but we kept it short and only on afternoon hunts.
I tagged along with Dad at about age 4. I hunted on my own at age 10.
I also took mine along at 4 years old. Not really deer hunting but packing a rifle while holding the little guys hand and setting in the woods. My oldest was with me when I shot a turkey at age 6 and the same with shooting a deer at the same age. He shot his first deer at age 11. My youngest shot his first deer at age 10.
Oddly enough now at age 14 and 18 they still want to hunt with me and not by themselves. Fine by me as I know it will not last forever.
I guess I should have been more specific....tagging along isn't what I am talking about. I'm talking about actually pulling the trigger themselves (supervised or otherwise). I agree that if they want to tag along - take them at any age they will tolerate it.
My son went along on a spring gobbler hunt when he was six, and watched me call in and shoot a longbeard. That fall he was along on an Archery hunt and I got a deer, and continued going along regularly. At age eleven he shot his first buck under the PA mentored hunter program, where you hand them the weapon and tell them when to shoot. These age levels seemed about right for his levels of maturity, which I would say were about average.
P.S. Now that he's a teenager, he just wants to go hunting all the time?
I guess I should have been more specific....tagging along isn't what I am talking about. I'm talking about actually pulling the trigger themselves (supervised or otherwise). I agree that if they want to tag along - take them at any age they will tolerate it.
You can't separate the two, because tagging along is such an important part of the process, and has, or should have age limits as well. Tagging along is when they learn a thousand things about hunting, get to enjoy the outdoors, have quality bonding time, and in general, get prepared to do it themselves. While it's not an absolute must, tagging along with someone else is going to make the first day of hunting on your own a whole lot easier, smoother, and better. And tagging along gives the mentor an opportunity to observe whether a new hunter is ready for the big time. A ten year old that has been tagging along several times a year since six is at a whole different level than a ten year old that's never been in the woods.
I guess I should have been more specific....tagging along isn't what I am talking about. I'm talking about actually pulling the trigger themselves (supervised or otherwise). I agree that if they want to tag along - take them at any age they will tolerate it.
Age 10 for one and age 11 for the other.
I understand the value of tagging along. I agree it is a valuable part of their journey and a great way to evaluate their readiness.

To support my point....just saw a post on another site where it was reported that a 5 year old took his first deer. Not sure if the kid really pulled the trigger or the circumstances behind it, or if Dad just wanted another buck.....either way, I don't see how a 5 year old is ready to pull the trigger on a deer. Take the kid to the stand with you....fine. Putting him behind a firearm.....I personally think that is a poor idea.
I think this is one of those slippery slope questions. My boys didn’t show an interest until they were pushing adulthood. Their lives were dominated by athletics and studies. As such I’m not really qualified to offer any experience on young hunters. I just think we need to leave those decisions to the parents involved. I had a cousin who grew up in the woods and I never remember a time when he wasn’t a hunter and outdoorsman. For him starting very young was the right time. I know grown men who I wouldn’t want to hunt with for safety reasons. I’m not sure there’s a great answer - but I will say I can’t imagine any 5 year old I know today that’s ready to hunt.
My daughters were both 8 and that seemed about right.They could hold the gun up themselves and understood what dead was which alot of kids don't
My kids were both 9 and they were very controlled hunts. Pretty well planned, short, focused on having a good time etc. We had spent a lot of time on gun safety, shooting and talking about shot placement prior to actual hunting. They were both pretty eager to go, which I think is a key point. I think somewhere in that age range depending on the kid.
They need to understand the whole process, and understand that they are taking the life of an animal.
I get asked this question a lot and I agree, it is a slippery slope, and all kids mature differently.
A kid growing up on a farm where he sees life an death at an early age, and who has possibly tagged along with dad on a few hunts, is going to be ready sooner than the kid who has no concept of death.
My boys were tagging along with me when they were 4.
They had to harvest squirrels first before I let them deer hunt for first time when they were 9.
Just because they can handle a gun doesn't mean they are ready to kill.
Just my humble opinion
I think a kid should be old enough to appreciate what it means to take life before being enabled to do so. Would vary from person to person but I am not rushing my boys into it. They have been with me hunting and trapping but I am not rush for them to be behind the trigger.
Had my son by my side on a hunt on a rickety old wooden tree stand when he was 5. Spent a lot of time in the woods doing non hunting things. He didn't hunt until he was 12 and shot his first deer/buck with a bow at 15 yrs after stalking up on it. Still likes to hunt but has never been as obsessed as his dad. Daughter loves the outdoors and lives on a farm but would never kill a deer. All people are different.
This question was asked before and I shared that of my friends, the kids who hunted pre 10yo hardly care for the sport anymore but of the ones who were started at 10+ are still loving the hunt. Personally I tagged along with my Dad for years before I was allowed to hunt on my own about the age of 12. By then I knew more about hunting and safety then many that had hunted decades.
Lite the fire slowly. Make it fun. Enjoy the time. Let the interest build at their own pace. If it is to be , they will tell you with their actions. You can't rush the process or outcome. It's not about you. Make it something they want. Try not to telegraph your desires. If they see you enjoying the experience they will see it. Accept the outcome. It's not for everybody. Treasure the time. They grow up too fast.
A slow introduction as has been already mentioned several ways several times; I think is key. Each child is an individual. We as mentors need to keep in mind they are watching our every move, and any single moment can cause great impact on the child's desire to hunt in the future.

I consistently see kids' interests (that were already interested) really start to crank up about 10 years old.

The age in MO is 6. I shutter when dads of 5 year olds start claiming aloud all the things their child is going to do in the woods the next year, especially in front of the child. I feel they are being set up for failure by the boisterous claims. (Getting 20 feet up in a treestand, sitting all day, they don't need an iPad to keep their attention....they can HUNT!, they can carry their own loaded gun to the field or they can stay home, they can only hunt during youth season and they better make the best of it, etc.)
I've been taking my boy since 4. Just to hang out in the blind and have fun a few times a year.
When I don't have to continuously remind him to assure bb gun is not loaded when 1st handled, point his unloaded bb gun in a safe direction, keep his finger away from the trigger, have safety on, return safety to on after firing. Then he will hunt with a firearm.