We’re taking a break from our competition travels to get a few things ready for deer hunting this fall.Wisconsin has a youth season, and a regular deer season. So we are preparing with a fun project. Our youngest son and I set out targets at known distances from our deer stand and did some work with a rangefinder, painting distance markers. The goal is to help the youngest hunters that will be with us this year know their holds.
Last year, my nephew missed a buck while hunting with my dad. This started me thinking that it would be a good confidence builder for the kids to actually shoot during the off-season from the deer stand when they are calm and relaxed. Having reference points for distances will help them know what hold in their reticle to be using, as well as give us info on what distance to zero at. This stand is one we’ve used for several years - a nice, enclosed stand that my dad, husband and sons built and the grandkids have hunted with grandpa from. Two of the grandsons have shot their first buck there with my dad and we want to continue the tradition.
So my youngest son and I took a target stand, the hunting rifle that we zeroed at 100 yards, some Winchester Deer Season XP ammunition, eyes and ears, a few cans of paint, and we set off into the woods.
He’s spent hours with my dad in that stand and knows where the deer pass on trails through that corner of the woods. Andrew sat in the stand and told me what to paint while he ranged distances with a rangefinder. It’s empowering for kids to be the boss and to recall what they’ve learned themselves while hunting, and put that to work to make the next hunts better.
I let him shoot a paper target at 50 yards, and we did a little work on the spider webs and bugs that accumulate in the stand when nobody is in it. We spent some quality time walking our woods, observing trails and taking a breather from a busy month.
If you can’t go out and shoot from your hunting stand, still take the time to scout your deer stand. Have your young hunter climb up into the stand without all their gear and without their gun. Let them get familiar with where they will be. If it’s a stand that requires a safety harness, let them work with it while they are in shorts and not wearing a coat, gloves, etc. Give them a “dry run.” When I was a kid, my dad always took us on a trip up north to scout out or place new stands, and to observe the area we planned to hunt. That made the drives we did and navigating in the early morning hours and darkness much easier for him and myself and my sisters. We had enough familiarity with where we were going that we could grab our gun, a flashlight, and maybe a blanket to keep warm and spend the morning by ourselves in our deer stands. It was also great time with dad - he’d let us get a few treats at the gas station, we learned to warm up pizza in tinfoil under the hood of the car and generally just relaxed.
If you can’t get your youngster into hunting, at least take them scouting with you. Let them enjoy being outside in nature. Who knows, maybe the idea of tenderloin and mashed potatoes will grow on them! Or perhaps seeing where and what you will be doing will spark interest. Passing down hunting traditions is something that’s seeing a decline - perhaps because people don’t want to force their kids to hunt. But there are still families that rely on hunting for food. And knowing where meat comes from and how to work as a conservationist, hand in hand with the DNR and wildlife management, will teach your youngster to be a good steward of natural resources.
And make sure you check out these resources for your hunt: