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Hunting Takes On New Meanings To A Parent Hunting With Their Children

Hunting Takes On New Meanings To A Parent Hunting With Their Children
February 28, 2023

The first hunting season begins

Part One 

By: Joel 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 wear either 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 my late twenties that I started the journey. Everything I have learned has 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 into the hunting lifestyle, whether it was the right way or not. Despite this, I have done my best to introduce them to everything the outdoors offers so they can make their own decisions when the time comes. 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 the woods and water has led them to want to be involved in the skinning and processing of wild game. It was a fine line to not force it on them, but I knew it was something they’d have to experience.  When their interest levels perked up, I enhanced it at every opportunity. This has also 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. Having developed a newfound response, I really appreciate all instructors who volunteer their time teaching 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 by my grandfather. Once we established some reassurance, we moved on to 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 as I am to share this moment with him finally. 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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