Parents, let's discuss the ethics of our kids' first kills...

IN_Varmntr

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Nov 6, 2018
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Ohio/Indiana
First off, let me say that I understand there will be many subjective outlooks on this subject driven by personal experiences. That's exactly what I'm looking for, but instead of just stating your opinion, please provide some context for your answer. I feel forums are good platforms for long-form discussions so please dive as deep into conversation as you'd like while remaining respectful.

This will undoubtedly be seen as silly to some but it's something I've been considering as a parent and is very much going to be a parenting as well as a hunting discussion.

For example, I grew up hunting whitetails by myself in Indiana, which is a no bait state. My father provided the vital role of teaching me about building arrows and playing around with our equipment, but when it came to the pursuit and taking of deer, I was on my own to learn tactics. He hunted quite a bit and I can remember sitting in a stand with him many times as a kid. He doesn't have the passion for deer hunting like I do but still hunts on occassion.

I killed the first deer that gave me a chance at 13 with a bow. I have never picked up a gun in pursuit of a whitetail, it's been all bow for me since the beginning. It was a button buck and I heart shot him. There wasn't a soul on this earth that could have convinced me that it was a small deer, I was proud and hooked on bowhunting from then on.

Nearly 22 years later, I now own my own farm in Ohio, a state in which we can hunt over bait. I've never been big on baiting and don't utilize the tactic. This is partially due to the fact that we weren't able to in Indiana but more so due to the fact that I find the pursuit of the animal an enjoyable part of the process and don't consider sitting over a bait pile much of a pursuit.

I have 3 boys with 6 being the oldest, and want to instill in them a love for hunting. That said, I'd love for them to get hooked on bowhunting mainly because it's my passion that I'd love to enjoy with them in the future but don't want to curb their enthusiasm for the hunt by limiting them to any one piece of equipment. We now have a crossbow that both my oldest son and my wife practice with and use to hunt.

Naturally, over the last few years as my oldest son who's 6 has been accompanying me in the woods. We watch select hunting shows together and he shoots his kids bow with me as well as the crossbow as we prepare for season. The subject of his first deer has come up numerous times and I always lean towards him shooting the first deer that gives him a chance. Naturally he wants to shoot a "big buck" and nothing else. That said, I feel weary of allowing that first deer to be a large buck, or even a buck for that matter.

It's hard for me to understand why I feel that way, and that is where I'm looking for input.

I feel like it's in large part because it's how I began and naturally want my kids to follow my footsteps. I think that's natural for any parent. As the years went by I shot larger, more mature animals as I learned how to hunt and became more comfortable being around animals in the woods. It helped drive me to pursue larger deer but I had a hard time passing up opportunities at quality animals that would provide meat for our table. I don't hunt for the meat but at the same time if I didn't get meat from the hunt I would hang it up.

I feel like I want to provide my kids with a foundation similar to mine to enjoy a quality hunting experience as they grow up. This is where subjectivity comes in. They're obviously not mature enough to create their own experiences at their ages so it's up to me to pave the way for them, but nothing guarantees they will get out of it what I'm wanting them to.

I could go against my gut and put a blind over bait piles providing them the best possible chance of killing any deer. However, I fear the consequences of unintended lessons they may gain from it when it comes to gratification and other feelings.

I could do what I want, immersing them in the pursuit that I enjoy so much and observe how they react in an attempt to keep them on a path that gives them just enough to keep them interested. This may involve making them pass deer I that I don't feel fit the narrative of what I'm trying to teach them. I want them to learn the value of hard work and preparation and how it leads to success.

I feel I need to end up somewhere in the middle and start there.

To play my own devils advocate here, this could also stem from the fact that for the last 21years, hunting has been something I have done my way and have kept to myself. Admittedly, it's been a difficult thing for me to throttle back my love of the pursuit and I've struggled with becoming more selfless and less selfish when it comes to this time of year. This has become very evident to me as my wife and I banter over who gets to hunt and who gets to stay home with the kids. :ROFLMAO:

Now, please don't take any of this as me crapping on your tactics. If you hunt over bait with a rifle, good on you. I'm more interesting in observations that could help me expand my thinking from those further along in parenthood than where my wife and I are and what their experiences have taught them with kids. Thanks for reading.
 

JBrown1

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Sep 8, 2021
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138
It sounds like you’re not comfortable with bait, so don’t bait. No question there.

I agree with not taking a big buck for their first kill. I don’t like the idea of kids getting caught up in the trophy aspect from the start.

But if a big buck steps out, all that goes out the window.

But it probably won’t happen that way.
Just discus it with him first and explain that you want him to take the first legal deer(or whatever you want him to take) and explain why.

*BTW, I wanted my daughter to take a caribou cow as her first animal. After a lot of unforgettable, but fruitless, hunting when we got our first chance at a cow she decided to take a young bull from the herd. It worked out just fine.
 

Theringworm

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Jul 30, 2019
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I have taught all of my kids the importance of shooting a mature animal (male or female). If it’s mature and steps out while we are hunting and they want to shoot it, they are free to do so. Only time immature animals are free game is if it’s a button buck, spike, or a lame/wounded one. My kids sit with me until I feel they are old enough to sit and hunt by themselves. When they have progressed to hunting by themselves (which the two oldest have) they have yet to harvest an animal that I myself would not shoot. I have no issue at all that their 1st deer are mature animals and trophies.
 
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Elmer J. Fudd

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Mar 22, 2020
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When it comes to a persons first kill I think the most important aspect of it is how the animal dies. If it is a good hit, they die and it is uneventful. But when it is a bad one it can get ugly with the seeing the animal struggle and possibly making noises that completely turn a person off. I feel that for a first time hunter that bait provides the best opportunity to take a clean shot and have the animal expire without an incident that may turn the person off for life. I think it’s ok to start out with some easier methods and then let that person build off of that. No matter what with both parents hunting your family is in great shape. Good luck.
 

HeavyAssault

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Oct 22, 2022
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Let's say: You raise you child over "no baiting".....At some point he learns baiting is legal. How does that square up with you?

Just teach the field, talk about the regs, engage on both sides, speak about your views. Let them hunt.

At some point they will be in the wood line without you.
 

WI in the west

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Apr 4, 2019
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For my forst archery deer my dad set me up over bait a lot. It helped keep it a controlled situation a bit more in my opinion. The distance is known, the deer is very stationary and allows time for a perfect broad side shot. After getting that first one under my belt I dont think we ever set bait out again. The whole bait thing also tips theodds towards younger deer coming in.Best of luck for you and your kids i hope they love it
 

Yoder

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Jan 12, 2021
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For young kids I would make it as easy as possible to see deer and get a shot. Only sit for a few hrs and try to make it fun and comfortable. I think bait would be great for that. I would explain that we won't always hunt like that and it's just to get him started. Shooting something over bait is probably challenging for a young kid. If he was 15 I wouldn't bother.
 

Northpark

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My kids are just starting to hunt at 9 years old. For me it was a maturity thing. I wanted them to be old enough to understand they were killing an animal. I have taken both my kids on tough and unsuccessful backpack hunts so they see the hard work side. But when it came time for the oldest ones first hunt actually pulling the trigger I picked a hunt where we could get close and focus on a solid killing shot. For me I wanted her to see success and have a positive experience. I let her shoot whatever animal she wanted not what one I wanted. I wanted her to Get out what she wanted out of the hunt not what I wanted.

I say if 6 year old is pumped about hunting then take him. Explain the rules let him make the decisions on how he wants to hunt and provided it’s legal hunt that way. If he wants to hold out for a big buck let him. If you throw out a pile of corn and hand him a rifle I’d bet the first doe that steps out will catch a bullet.
 

Dexter Grayson

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I’m almost in the same predicament. I have a 3 year old. We hunt over bait and I’m not that good of a deer hunter because of it. But one of my boy’s favorite activities is filling deer feeders with dad. The discussion my wife and I have is about what age is appropriate to let a kid harvest their first animal. I think for your situation you should continue what you’ve always done, boys emulate their fathers. They are going to want to do it like dad.
 

summs

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Jul 29, 2021
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Wont bait, but live on a farm. So long term baiting with extra cost associated, corn, soybeans, clover didn't grow naturally in clean large acre fields, Iffy on bait, but let him use a crossbow... but I digress.

Not a parent, I feel your sentiment about the first deer being a 'big buck', I hate seeing post of kids/grown ups 'well it's not the biggest but I'm proud'. Kills me that people feel the need to write that. I always believe if it makes the heart flutter, than its worth it. And bait or not, I bet that first spike that walks out will get his heart racing. Start with passing fawns and button bucks to instill selective harvest.

I have spots where I bait, and spots that I don't. I've killed less deer over bait. It's a tactic, like sitting soybeans late season, or a scrape line mid October. It's not a punched tag, but an option that on conditions is effective. If your looking to see deer, doe and mostly young of the year bucks. It's a damn good option.

One spot, I have access to 3 acres out of 220. Big deer in those woods, but no reason to come past my 3 acres without bait. But buck chase does, and does like corn.

Bait will most likely see the most deer, which is probably the most fun, bring some hot chocolate and hand warmers too. Shooting a deer is only half the experience, tracking, gutting, dragging and butchering still follows.
 

GAHunterJim

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Oct 20, 2022
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I have three sons and I brought them up hunting on our own land in GA, we had a goal shooting mature bucks and harvesting does to keep the population in order. When it came to the boys first deer, any legal deer was ok with me, you have to start somewhere. In time, they held out for better deer. When I grew up hunting, any legal deer was a good deer but times have changed.
 

WCB

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Jun 12, 2019
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If he only wants to shoot a big buck then so be it...just remind him every time he complains or gets upset about not shooting something that it is his choice. I don't agree with the don't let them shoot a buck thing but shoot the first deer they get a chance at. If it happens to be a buck who cares? I'm not going to tell hold them off on a deer. Same with "up and coming" bucks...IMO your buck management goes out the window with new hunters until they get a couple under their belts.

I don't get the "pass deer that don't fit the narrative"...thing. The narrative is you are deer hunting and a deer is in front of you...that is what you are there to do....get a deer in front of you to kill, plain and simple.

ZERO difference between a bait pile and a food plot IMO. I have hunted over both and have actually had more deer in small area at the same time on a food plot than a bait pile.
 

Bearwhisky

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I struggle with many of the same sentiments as I will be in your shoes in a couple years. I think if a big buck walks out and you make your son pass on it for the sake of teaching a lesson, you are doing more harm than good. Go out and hunt like you normally would (not over bait since you dont personally align with that tactic) and let your son shoot the first legal deer that HE wants to shoot.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

kwackkillncrew

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Eagle River, AK
Let him make the decision on which deer he shoots. Even if a giant 10 pointer walks out if he wants to go for it be there to cheer them on and coach them through the process. Shooting a big buck or animal isnt going to make them want to quit and say they shot a monster so i dont want to hunt any more. I think it is a little funny when people say i dont like hunting or wont hunt over a bait pile while their stand is on the edge of a food plot or corn field.
 

dutch_henry

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New Hampshire
I don't think you're overthinking it. Taking a life is a big deal, especially when you're young. You want it to be a good experience for your kids. My opinion is that as a father, your best lessons to your kid come when your own mind is resolved and your heart is unconflicted.

My son is just over 2 and already asking about hunting. When his time comes, I want him to enjoy the whole experience, deer or no deer. At his age, we go out to look for tracks and sign and sheds, talk about what animals eat, etc. He sometimes spots things I miss! I'm hoping it adds to his appreciation of animals and makes him a keener observer--and a better hunter. So if we miss out on a deer, meh, we still get to see that stuff and drink some cocoa in the woods together.

I do my own butchering and hide tanning, so my thought is to have him plan some projects for his first deer that get beyond trophy status. I won't care if his plan is to eat backstrap with ketchup and mac n cheese. Preserve and then paint up the skull as a wall-hanger. Or make a drum with the hide. I just want him 'get' that animals are more than trophy measurements.

Nothing against anyone who hunts over a bait pile. It's just not my personal preference. If his style of hunting ends up different from mine, that's great. But I know the foundation I want to give him.

I also wonder if there are good books or stories about hunting. Found these but can't vouch for them.
 

stanginthe11s

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I taught my kid and many friends by not letting them take bucks first. all animals are trophies. you need to have the same excitement regardless of antlers, and if the first deer you shoot is a 10 then you will expect that and treat doe like they're nothing. making your son pass on a good buck will teach him respect, patients, and how to control that buck fever but you also have to pass on that deer. if you make your son pass then next week you kill then you will have taught him nothing. personally, I think watching those shows is the worst thing for hunting. your son sees the excitement from you and the guys on tv and naturally wants that feeling for both you and him so he associates that big buck to that feeling. Take you son to a spot that has plenty of doe and show that same excitement when one comes out, he needs to see that. We cant just teach kids to run out there and kill the first thing they see.
 

huntineveryday

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Baiting is illegal here, so I have nothing to contribute the that discussion.

People frequently drive pastures until they find mule deer, haul ass to get them cut off, then jump out and take quick shots. I have never enjoyed hunting that way, so I take my time and still hunt pastures, going slow with the goal of being able to find, watch and judge, and then potentially sneak into good position and take a high percentage shot at a deer that has no idea that I'm there. While it would be easier and more comfortable to drive my kids along in the pickup, they hunt the way I hunt and I explain why I choose to hunt that way.

When it comes to turkeys and deer (the only big game my kids have hunted so far) my rule is that they can shoot any animal they would be happy with. That rule stays in effect the first couple of years. I explain to them why I choose to be selective with my harvest (mature buck or doe, mature non-dominant tom, etc), but also that they can take any animal that they are legally allowed to. Before they pull the trigger I ask if they are happy with that animal. If they say yes and they seem excited, they shoot. My oldest has enough experience with turkeys now that I want him to be more selective and not shoot jakes. But he has enough turkey hunting under his belt that I know he loves to go. I also let him make some mistakes and learn and don't "spoon-feed" him great opportunities anymore. He isn't there with deer yet, so he will have another season of "shoot whatever you are happy with".
 

hh76

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Aug 2, 2021
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Just keep in mind, every kid is different. Just because you come up with a great plan, know that your kid may not fit that model.

As has been said before, make sure they are having fun. We hunted over bait the first years I was old enough, and I'm kind of sad that I can't do the same for my kids. It's not my style of hunting, but it really kept things interesting, watching the squirrels and birds while waiting for deer. The nearly guaranteed evening deer sighting was also nice.
 
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