We all want to share the things that are important to us with our kids, and fewer pastimes are as steeped in tradition and full of passion as hunting. Passing on this tradition is a huge deal—but what if your kid has no interest?
First, if your child is really young, I encourage you to start developing this interest by exposing them to hunting and the outdoors at a very young age. If you can get them interested in wildlife, nature, hunting, butchering and cooking wild game, and the whole hunting lifestyle when they are little, you’ll have an easier time getting them to join you on a hunt when they’re old enough. If you wait until they’re 11 to start bringing the subject up, you’ve probably already lost them to sports, video games, friends or other interests.
Now, you can do that and still have a kid who just doesn’t want to go hunting. That’s what happened to me. There are photos of me in one of those 1980s-style baby backpacks going on hikes with Dad; Mom’s old photo albums are full of pictures of me and my younger sisters posing with squirrels, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and other game that Dad brought home. I was playing with rabbit-hunting beagles and toddling around the skinning shed since I could walk. I was exposed to hunting practically from birth, but when I was finally old enough to go deer hunting (the legal minimum age was 12 back then), I wasn’t interested. I was a homebody and a bookworm, and getting up before dawn just to freeze all day in the woods sounded like torture. I kept taking those pictures with Dad’s harvests, shooting clays on the back 40, and eating wild game, but going hunting myself held no appeal to me.
And that was OK. If you’re in my Dad’s boat, where hunting means a lot to you but your kid isn’t interested, my advice is not to push. Keep asking—once or twice a season is enough; don’t be pushy—but accept that they might never say yes. Again, don’t push, but ask why. If they just think it doesn’t sound fun, enough said. If they have moral objections, you can have an educational-but-not-boring talk (not a lecture) about why hunting is such a great conservation tool. If they’re afraid of guns, see if they might like to try a crossbow, or see if you can get them started plinking at cans with a .22LR and gradually develop an affinity for shooting.
This is a take-what-you-can-get situation as far as I’m concerned. Maybe they’d like to go sit with you while you hunt, even if they don’t want to carry a gun themselves. Maybe they’d like to go to deer camp and be the camp cook. Maybe they’ll help you cook what you bring home. Maybe they’ll go to the sporting clays course with you instead of the dove field. Anything you can do to keep them in or adjacent to the hunting lifestyle is great. And if they don’t want to do any of that, that’s OK. I know it breaks your heart, but I promise you, you and your kid will be happier if you let them be who they are and do the things they’re passionate about instead of dragging them along to something they don’t want to be a part of.
The good news is, there’s a reasonable chance they’ll come back around. I was the only one of three kids who never hunted with Dad growing up, despite how much he encouraged me from a young age. But I came to hunting as an adult, and now I go hunting with Dad and bring my daughter with me. He’s as proud as you can possibly imagine (and the granddaughter gets all the primo hunting spots, of course), and the tradition he always dreamed of passing on is alive and well.
It's OK if your kids aren’t interested in hunting. Encourage them to participate at whatever level they like, even if it’s only hiking or cooking or tying flies from squirrel tails or checking trail cameras with you or riding the UTV around the hunt club in the off-season. The time with your kid doing something you both enjoy is priceless, even if there’s no trigger time involved.