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Becoming a Hunter From a Non-Hunting Family

Becoming a Hunter From a Non-Hunting Family
November 2, 2022

By ​​Joel M. Herrling

​This moment has been percolating for years if not a decade, ever since his uncle gifted him a lifetime hunting license shortly after being born. Finally, that time is here. The New York State Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt which occurs every Columbus Day weekend is rapidly approaching. My eldest son can finally experience the thrill of chasing these majestic whitetails. Hopefully able to understand his father’s passion, well, unhealthy obsession is more like it. To see why dad spends all year long consumed with chasing these magnificent creatures.  

In 2021, New York finally passed a law in which 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters can hunt deer with a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader. Youths are allowed and encouraged to hunt with a mentor during the southern zone regular firearms season however this special three-day youth hunt gives them opportunities right at the start of archery season here in New York. Youth hunters must be under the supervision of a licensed hunter (aged 21 years or older) with at least three years of deer hunting experience. The mentor also needs to be in physical control over the youth hunter and both are required to either wear fluorescent orange or pink clothing. I did get a blaze orange beanie for my son from the crew over at The Okayest Hunter. Hopefully, it can be proven as his lucky hat, making memories for years to come.

First, I was not raised in a hunting family, and it was not until in my late twenties that I started the journey. Everything I have learned as been through my own experiences with the help of a few close friends. Deep down I have always feared that this would somehow affect whether my sons chose to hunt. Worrying about how I initiated them to the hunting lifestyle, whether it was the right way or not. Despite this, I have done my best to introduce them to all things in the outdoors for them to make their own decisions when the time came. Ever since both were capable of walking, my wife and I have taken them outdoors and both have been around hunting related activities since early on. It may not seem like much but just taking your children to check trail cameras can spark this passion that we want to continue to pass on.

Both boys think nothing of it now when they come home and see a deer hanging in the garage during the season. Letting them explore their curiosity has led them to wanting to be involved in the skinning and processing of wild game. I just wanted them to experience this, but it was a fine line to not force it on them. When I could see their interest levels perk up, I enhanced it at every opportunity. This has also been aided in taking them to the stand when I hunted especially during the early warmer weather season.

​For the oldest one, getting his license was contingent on passing a Hunter Safety class and given the recent pandemic it was allowed to be done online. I must admit though the in-person classes are far more beneficial. There is only so much one can learn from reading slides and watching videos. Having developed a newfound respond, I would like to thank all instructors that volunteer their time to pass on their knowledge to our future generation of hunters.

Weeks before the youth season we headed to the range to get him comfortable with firearms. Despite both boys shooting their bows and arrows in the backyard with me, this was a different and eye-opening experience. The lessons that are taught about firearm safety are critical, allowing me to reinforce what he had seen in the safety class with some firsthand experience. Our main aim was to get him familiar with what to expect in shooting a gun. The trigger squeeze, noise and recoil can be a lot to take in. We started off with a .22 Long Rifle that was given to him my grandfather. Once we established some reassurance, we moved onto a larger caliber rifle.

From conversations we have had recently I believe he is excited to harvest his first deer. My only hope is that he is just as excited to hunt with his father than I am to finally share this moment with him. Eager to see if I have sparked his passion for hunting whitetails and if the methods used will enable him to enjoy it. Stay tuned for part two to see how we fared in the woods during the youth season, wish him luck!

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