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The Importance of a Child’s First Squirrel Hunt

Brodie Swisher

boy's first squirrel hunt

Dig back to my hunting roots, and you’ll find me squirrel hunting with my dad when I was 8 years of age. It was my first taste of the good stuff that would soon change my life. I wasn’t toting a gun on that first hunt. In fact, I was simply doing my best to keep up as we stomped our way down a muddy trail through the 18 acres of ground back behind our house. I remember the old wooden bridge we crossed, stumbling in the dark in oversized rubber boots, and the smell of fall leaves after a recent rain. I remember the quietness of the woods early that morning while the rest of the world was still sleeping.

My first glimpse of a squirrel scrambling down the tree, unaware of our presence, was nearly more than I could handle. It’s what we had come for! And there it was, playing out right before my eyes. I’ll never forget the smooth and steady motion of my dad raising his old, bolt-action 20-gauge shotgun and slowly taking aim. It seemed like an eternity before the boom finally came, and the squirrel fell to the ground. I bailed off the log and was headed toward our prize as quick as dad could pull the spent shell from his gun. 

I gathered my fair share of life lessons on that day. I remember the mix of emotions as I walked up to that first squirrel on the ground. I was thrilled, yet saddened. I gained an immediate thankfulness and respect for wild things, as well as a better understanding of the sacredness of life. Little did I know the importance of the lessons learned on that day, or how I’d pass those same values on to my own kids over three decades later. 

boys squirrel hunting

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Some say, “It’s just a squirrel!” And I get it. But it’s more than just a squirrel – it’s an opportunity. Here’s a short list of the life-long lessons gleaned on a child’s first squirrel hunt. 

The Need for a Quality First-Time Hunting Experience

A child’s first hunting experience needs to be one of the greatest days of their life. It’s the parent or guardian’s job to make sure that happens. Seriously, they need to look back on the day and think, “I wanna do this for the rest of my life!” Sadly, for many kids, the opposite happens. Just one bad experience, and they’ll swear off hunting forever. 

It can easily go either way. The key is to ensure their first hunt yields success. And there’s no better critter to pursue when you want to up the odds for success than squirrels. Turkeys will beat you down, and deer will often leave you hangin’. Squirrels are dependable, making them the perfect first-time hunt for kids of all ages. 

The Value of Time Spent With Family

Deer and turkey will forever find their place toward the top of the list when it comes to critters I enjoy hunting with my family, but when it comes to sheer fun and memory making opportunities, squirrel hunting is hard to beat. It’s a laid back, stress free, enjoyable hunt like no other. That first squirrel hunt with my dad was more than just man-time. God used those moments in the squirrel woods with my dad to shape me as a man, hunter, and provider for my own family. These memories and moments are the ones you pray will linger the longest. They are pure and simple, yet priceless in value. 

boys with squirrels on porch

The Realization and Respect for Life and Death

Whether it’s the video games they play, movies they watch, or the social media they scroll through, kids are being raised these days with little regard for the fragility of life. Kids need to learn early on in their hunting career that the life and death process of the hunt is to be respected. They need to understand that the hunt is a vital means of management for a species, ultimately leading to greater growth within the population as a whole. Squirrel hunting delivers the perfect training ground for this life lesson of management, respect, and conservation to take place.

The Early Development of Skill and Safety with a Firearm

Deep down in every child, particularly boys, is a fascination and desire to play with guns. You see it shortly after they learn to walk. They’ll start making pretend guns out of nearly any item in the house or yard. From sticks to Legos, to building blocks and bananas, most anything can quickly become a pretend gun in the hand of a child. That’s why it’s so important for them to learn, sooner than later, how to safely and properly handle a weapon. I’ve heard it a thousand times, “That little boy has no business with a gun!” But that little boy has been properly trained on how to handle a gun. He’s had the 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety from his Hunter Education class burned into his brain and is fully aware of the dreadful consequences that come when you slack on safety. 

boy with squirrels Ruger 10-22

When Should You Teach Children Firearm Safety?

Kids are curious. And sooner or later, they will get their hands on a gun. I want my kids to be trained in its use, respect the power it has, and always remember that once you pull the trigger, you can’t take it back. Squirrel hunting provides a low-stress environment for a child to begin living out these safety lessons and to hone their skills as a safe and responsible hunter with a gun in hand.

Final Thoughts 

In many states across the country, squirrel hunting provides some of the most liberal seasons and bag limits of any game animal in the woods. The chance at live targets and memory making opportunities are abundant. Take a youngster to the woods this season and discover once again the importance of a child’s first squirrel hunt. 

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