We were kids once. Dreaming of having a real gun to call our very own. It didn’t matter if it was a 20-gauge shotgun or .22 rifle, as long as it burned powder. And then it arrived.

Our fathers or another role model took us out to a hayfield, set up a target and demonstrated the basics. Those were the days. Now, as another generation approaches the age of responsibility, it’s time to start thinking about taking that next step in choosing a youth hunting rifle.

Set Realistic Expectations

In The Education of Pretty Boy, Havilah Babcock tells the pleasing tale of a young boy who acquires a gun-shy bird dog. It’s the “crawl before you walk” ideology meshed cleanly into a parable that demonstrates the true essence of patience. The boy is able to lift Pretty Boy out of his frightening dilemma by simply starting with a pop gun and gradually working his way up until he’s shooting over the dog with a 12 gauge.

Much of this is true in the way that kids should start in the outdoors. If it’s not there, don’t force it. That’s the best way to create resentment in a youngster. Remember, you can lead a horse to water.

Kids just want to have fun. Don't force them to hunt or shoot if they don't want to.

With grocery-getting spots located within a stone’s throw of many urban areas, hunting is no longer about survival. It’s about fun. Kids just want to have fun. If they can associate fun with their early experiences, the foundation is set for a fruitful life in the outdoors.

Don’t Force Them

The most important point of all. If a youngin’ doesn’t want to shoot a gun, so what? Don’t force them to do it. Sure, make them to eat their vegetables and respect their elders, but never something that won’t necessarily make them a better or worse person. Resentment is the hardest block of all. Like a gun shy dog, that kid is likely to retreat every time a gun comes out of the case.

Starting Small

They’ve consented and are ready for that first trip to the range. Let’s say your eight-year-old, 80-pound son is interested in deer hunting. It’s all he talks about, reads about, thinks about, probably dreams about. So naturally you need to get him started with your .30-06, right? Wrong.

Start small, like a rimfire, when choosing a youth hunting rifle.

A rimfire is about right for the youngster’s first trigger pull. If you don’t own one, surely you know someone that does. A light-kicking, relatively quiet rifle is the best way to ease him in. Also, he won’t develop the ultimate accuracy killer: flinching.

The Youth Model

Finding a proper-fitting rifle will help him feel more comfortable behind the gun. Nobody likes awkwardness. Most manufacturers are turning out production-grade rifles built specifically for small frames. That’s likely a rifle that your son or daughter will pass on to their kids one day.

Scope With Proper Eye Relief

“Oh, boy! This is about to be the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” thought your young self. You’ve moved up to a bigger caliber, even shot it a few times, and are beginning to consider yourself pretty handy with the long rifle. Then you pull the trigger, the firing pin hammers the primer and the next thing you know, there’s a mixture of blood and stars in your eyes. Touch the scar above your dominant eye if we’re talking to you.

Ensuring that this does not happen to a newbie can help keep him moving in the right direction. Some kids are less resilient than others and could potentially hang it up for good if that scope knocks them senseless.

Go for good glass when you’re out shopping riflescopes. Choosing about a four-inch constant eye relief will save you from a great misfortune and a possible trip to the ER.

Our children are the next generation of hunters and shooters. There is a strong enough force against them in the anti-hunting and -gun community to keep them interested in video games, which, if that’s what naturally interests them, great. But, as parents, let’s not be the cause of any ill will toward burning some gunpowder.