With four kids of my own, ranging in age from 5-15, I’m continually learning of the vast differences that come when teaching a child to shoot. They are all so uniquely different in the way they learn, process instruction, and how they react to varying circumstances. Yet, with all their differences, there are also ample similarities in why and how they do what they do.
Like missing the shot, for instance. We do our best to prevent our kids from missing, but sooner or later it will happen. And that’s okay.
In fact, it’s good for them to experience the highs and lows that come with shooting and hunting. In order to better help you help them, here’s a look at five reasons kids miss when shooting a gun. Eliminate these issues and the experience will be more fun for everyone.
What steps can you take to help your child succeed?
Lack of Confidence
Lack of confidence is a killer when it comes to shooting for anyone, but it can be particularly difficult for younger kids. Lack of confidence can come from a variety of issues, including pressure from peers and parents, lack of experience, and even what they watch on outdoor TV.
Think about the current trend in some of the hunting shows we see these days. Incredibly long shots are becoming the norm. Our kids see hunters casually shooting big game animals at 400-700 yards, and more, and immediately struggle with their confidence knowing they’ve yet to shoot an animal at 100 yards. We must help our kids understand the reality of hunting shows. Remind them that the “pros” miss a lot as well.
Encourage your child to set attainable goals for their hunting efforts. Don’t let others set the bar for them. Confidence takes experience. Be sure they are afforded shooting experiences and the confidence will come.
Confidence is the key to shooting success for kids.
Men like to be macho with their toys, and that often carries over into their guns as well. We often see guys struggling with tough-guy syndrome, toting too much gun to the woods. You know the guy. He’s the one that likes to carry a “cannon” to take down a whitetail deer. Sadly, these same guys tend to over-gun their kids when it comes to the firearm they hunt with. They won’t think twice about sticking their old 30.06 in the hands of their 8 year old boy or girl. “If they’re gonna hunt, they gotta be tough,” they’ll say.
Unfortunately having too much gun is one of the common mistakes parents make when introducing a child to shooting and hunting. Too much gun often means too much recoil. And too much recoil leads to a child that is scared and flinches at the shot. Give the kids enough gun to get the job done on big game. Any more than that is wasted – and can be very harmful to their future as a hunter.
Too much gun and improper fit are deal breakers for kids. Mossberg has the cure! Spacers on the Mossberg Patriot rifle allow your child a custom fit as they grow.
Back in the day, guns were somewhat one-size-fits-all when it came to the way they fit. If the gun was too long for your child, you simply sawed off the end of the stock to make it fit better. As the child grew, you simply glued or screwed the block of wood back onto the stock. It was crude, but effective.
Nowadays there is a better way. Mossberg’s innovative approach to better fitting guns for kids includes their FLEX System and spacers to give your child a perfect, custom fit as they grow. Make sure your child can get the gun to their shoulder smoothly with minimal effort.
- Can they reach the trigger?
- Is the scope properly positioned for their eye?
Don’t wait until opening day of hunting season to answer these questions.
Lack of Practice
Lack of practice results in missed opportunities for seasoned hunters every season. It’s magnified all the more when it comes to kids. Kids that fail to practice tend to be the same kids that fail to punch deer tags. A couple shots to check your scope prior to opening day is not practice. They need more time on the trigger. They need to be so confident in their gun that it’s second nature when an animal steps out. They shouldn’t be worrying about what to do with their gun, or how to do it. Spend time with your child shooting throughout the year and their success rates will soar when hunting season rolls around.
Practice yields results. Be sure to give your child plenty of trigger time in the off-season to boost their skills when deer season arrives.
Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is a battle that all hunters must learn to handle at one time or another. However, kids often struggle with it right from the onset of their hunting career. My oldest son struggled with the fear of failure leading up to taking his first deer – and honestly, it was mostly my fault. I had unintentionally put a tremendous amount of pressure on him. We were a family that hunted. He had a lot of friends and family following his journey. My little boy didn’t want to disappoint me. He wanted to make me proud. He struggled with a fear of failure right up until the moment he pulled the trigger on his first big whitetail doe.
We owe it to our kids to remind them that we all fail. It’s part of the journey.
We need to share stories of how we’ve fallen short in the past. We need to let them see our mistakes and watch us recover from them. Don’t hide your failure. Use it as a teaching tool to help your child overcome their fear or failure.
The amount of pressure we put on our kids to succeed can quickly lead to fear of failure.
Looking back on each of the issues mentioned above, you’ll see that for the most part they all go hand in hand. Cure one issue and the rest will follow. The right sized gun and plenty of practice will help your child shoot and hunt with confidence this season. The end result will be more notched tags and better memories made in the field.