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We discussed the importance of getting kids into the outdoors during Podcast: Episode 203, Why Take Kids Hunting?. This article is a follow-up to our discussion on how I am working with my daughter to get her ready for the Fall squirrel season here in Pennsylvania. I will be providing a couple of follow-on article as we progress and actually get out hunting.
I have long talked about the importance of taking our kids hunting. There are many different lessons kids can learn while hunting that will translate to everyday life. The lessons I learned and the memories I have made have motivated me to take my kids into the woods and on the water with me.
My daughter and I have been squirrel hunting together for the past four years. The time spent in the woods together has been a concentrated effort for preparation, for learning, and for understanding. Over time, she has learned a lot about hunting and what it takes to be successful. She understands the rules of gun safety. She knows how to sit quietly when we are waiting for a squirrel. She knows we must move slowly and carefully through the woods when we are stealthily sneaking up on our target. The foundational ideas above are the skills and knowledge that every hunter needs to know, and she has a head start on them.
Throughout these past four years, I have been the one that pulls the trigger, but this year is different. This year she takes the next step as a new hunter. This year she will be the one pulling the trigger. As a father I’m excited she’s making that next step as a hunter. But a part of me is scared. Am I pushing her too hard? Am I projecting my own hobbies and self-interests onto her? Will she enjoy it as much as I do? Am I being a good teacher and mentor? My hope is our time spent hunting together strengthens our bond as father and daughter.
With safety, form, fit, and functionality in mind, I went about looking for the right gun for her to get the job done. I considered both a rifle and shotgun as her first gun for squirrel hunting. I’ve had her shoot my .22, and a BB gun. One major factor became clear. The conditions and aspects of the hunt would have to be nearly perfect for a rifle to be effective. The squirrel would have to be completely still and my daughter would need to have a solid rest. We would require ample time to set up take a shot. Squirrels never want to sit still for that long. The chances of everything lining up perfectly while squirrel hunting with a new hunter is unlikely.
The other factor lies in her confidence. If everything lined up perfect and she missed, what would that do to her confidence? How often do I miss myself, a hunter with over 20 years of experience, when using my .22 while squirrel hunting? With all of that in mind and not wanting to stack the odds against her, I decided a .22 was probably not the best choice for my daughter’s first squirrel gun.
My research on youth shotguns brought me to the Rossi Youth Model 20 gauge. It is a single shot, break action shotgun equipped with a safety that blocks the hammer from making contact with the firing pin. The shotgun met our needs for safety, but needs a little bit of updating to get the form, fit, and function where we need it. At less than $200 it was an easy choice to make.
The Rossi has a synthetic stock, so it’s light enough for my daughter to handle and bring to her should with ease. Being light weight may have a downside. The amount of recoil may be an issue for my small framed daughter. With this in mind, the Allen Company Recoil Eraser recoil pad is my first update to the set-up. The pad has the ability to reduce the recoil felt by the shooter by up to 70%. I just slip it over the stock and it’s ready to go. It’ll give my daughter some extra cushion for her shoulder and she won’t be hesitant to pull the trigger when that squirrel bounces in front of her.
Another item I’m using to help with the weight issue is the Allen Company neoprene stretch buttstock shell holder. The weight of the four extra shells on the stock will help reduce the recoil somewhat without making the gun too heavy for my daughter to handle.
Years of shooting guns, running power equipment, and listening to the stereo way too loud has made my hearing less than perfect, although not as bad as my dad’s. So hearing protection is a major concern of mine when my daughter takes to the woods. Simple ear plugs are not going to cut it. While ear muffs will block the sound of the shot, she won’t be able to hear my instructions, which are crucial when hunting with a beginner. Allen Company has the perfect solution to my problem with the new Shotwave Low profile Emuff. These electronic muffs have built-in directional mics that will amplify my instructions to my daughter when those bushy tails are in sight. I’ll be able to whisper to her, letting me avoid alerting every keen eared animal in the area, and she’ll still be able to hear me. As soon as she takes that shot, she’s protected from the muzzle blast. They are adjustable so they fit her head correctly and because of the low profile design she won’t be bothered by muffs that are big, bulky, and uncomfortable.
We both have a lot of practicing and learning to do before we take to the woods for her first season behind the gun, but we’re excited. There are squirrels to be had and memories to be made.