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Mar 25th, 2012
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Youth Hunter's Nerves #7262220 08/20/18 03:03 PM
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I'm really excited guys, my son who turns 14 this week has started showing a reasonably strong interest in hunting this year. Through the advice from multiple members here, I created an account for him in the Texas Youth Hunters website. He took his online hunters education and safety tests, did the field trials this past weekend, and is now qualified (if that's the correct terminology) to apply for some of the youth hunts offered through the Texas Youth Hunters Program. The further along in this process we get, the more excited he has become and the more excited for him I become. It seems like all he wants to talk about now is hunting, fishing (he has been a fish head the past few years so nothing new there), and outdoors related topics. Its nice to see him interested in something other than video games, but now Im getting a little nervous.


A little background before the question:
Though he is 14, he is a young 14 that hasn't started to "grow" yet and still has a pretty tender heart. Though he has taken multiple squirrels and other small critters, he has yet to take any large game. That being said, he had his first shot at a hog the other night and missed. Knowing how well he typically shoots, this surprised me, but while watching him shoot I could see him becoming visibly anxious/nervous which is understandable since he has never shot at a large animal before. After the shot, when he realized he missed, I could see him tearing up a little which I assume is just him being overwhelmed with emotions. I explained that everybody misses, its nothing to be ashamed of, and I think he understood. However, he was still visibly shaken a tad and questioned whether or not the anticipated youth hunts were a good idea if he cant make a clean shot on an animal. His confidence was at a low for sure. On the way home I reiterated that everybody misses, and though we try to make the ethical shot and do our best, sometimes bad shots happen and we have to move on from them.

Thinking his confidence was shaken, I took him to the rifle range a few days later and he went through a box and a half at 100 yards. All shots with his .243 were smooth, no visible evidence of nervousness or anxiousness, and landed within a 4 inch circle at 100 yards with a majority being within a 2" group. He had a blast shooting and I think he did well considering he has only been shooting for a few months. His attitude picked up and he is again super excited about the potential upcoming hunts.

Question(s)
Knowing what happened on the hog hunt, I am trying to temper his excitement so that he doesn't get overwhelmed with emotions next time he has a shot opportunity. The last thing I want is for him to "get inside his own head" next time he is looking through a scope, and have a repeat of what happened. I will continue to take him to the gun range in hopes that some of the anxious excitement ebbs a tad, but I am not sure if there is anything other than getting a few pelts on the wall that can take some of the "first kill" butterflies away.

1. Do ya'll have any suggestions or ideas on how I can temper, or turn down, the level of anxiousness?

2. Did ya'll experience this with your own kids?

As kind of a side question...
3. For those of you who have participated in the Texas Youth Hunter Program, are there generally multiple shot opportunities for the kiddos or should I plan on the possibility of him only getting one or less shot opportunities over a weekend? I'll enjoy simply being in the woods with him, but I also want to manage his expectations.

Thanks for any and all information guys/gals, I appreciate it.


Aaron

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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262232 08/20/18 03:21 PM
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I have gone through this twice, both very recent. My son is 13 now. He's been shooting since he was 7 and took his first spike at 7. He's taken multiple deer since then. My daughter is 11 now, and she has been shooting since this last year. She was more challenging than my son. But both were very similar in my approach.

First, start them off with the 22 LR. Explain gun safety over and over and proper muzzle discipline. We shot fairly close range to get sighted in and making sure we were making hits. We shot some reactive targets so they can see some bullet impacts, which make it more fun. After some time, they will be comfortable with the 22. My son really wanted to shoot the AR in 223, so we shot some of that along with the Tikka 223 Rem. He loved the AR and everything about it. Both rifles were shot suppressed, which helps keeps things quieter. I had my son shooting longer ranges at the range and he felt confident.

Now, for actual hunting, my son had the case of buck fever really bad. He would start shaking really bad and even had an uncontrollable leg bounce from the excitement when we were getting ready to make our first shot on a deer. I worked with him on controlling his breathing and trying to make him relax. It took about 10 minutes for him to calm down enough to make a good shot. Now at this moment, the fundamentals go out the window. The main thing I had him working on was trigger squeeze and not jerking. If they jerk, they will miss. So, we did a few dry fires on a doe before he actually shot so I could see how he was doing. When he was ready, we took the doe. First time hunters usually get the buck fever pretty bad. It's part of the excitement. You just have to learn to control it enough to still function and perform. That takes a little time to work out.



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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262237 08/20/18 03:23 PM
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Lots of dry fire practice and watching hunting shows where I allowed him to touch the animal on the screen with his finger, to show me where the exact point of aim is. That seemed to help his comfort level get to where it needed to be. I also let him build confidence shooting several bricks of shells with a .22.


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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262251 08/20/18 03:34 PM
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Thanks for the info guys, I appreciate it.

Smokey Bear: We have gone through multiple bricks of .22, and his trigger squeeze is generally very smooth and slow. On the hog it was a quick jerk resulting in a low-left shot placement. Otherwise, he shooting is generally very spot on. I'll pick up another brick and let him do some plinking with it again, every little bit helps.

Chad: I never once thought about having him do a bit of dry firing while sighted on the hog, and we were far enough away that I feel confident that it wouldn't have spooked the hog too bad. I'll have him do that in the near future, and I'll check for muzzle movement during the trigger squeeze.

Two great suggestions already guys, thanks!


Aaron

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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262255 08/20/18 03:38 PM
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Have him work on breathing techniques to calm himself down. Deep breathe through the nose and breathe out through the mouth slow. Repeat 4-5 times and this will help to calm down his anxiety and heart rate. Also before shooting a large animal have him close his eyes and visualize the whole process.


Originally Posted by bill oxner
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Originally Posted by Roll-Tide
I did build a cabin. Aka the brokeback shack.

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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262266 08/20/18 03:44 PM
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This is based upon my personal experience with helping others and with my daughters (unfortunately zero interest in hunting on their part).

First, some folks just do not see their target animal (ex: buck) frequently enough at hunting ranges. Then when it comes hunting time and they finally see one, they get excited. Trail camera photos are nice but nothing beats actually seeing them in person. Things tend to be less exciting when they become common place.

Second, really practice shooting (target acquisition to follow-up) until it becomes second nature. People tend to shoot better when they do not thing about the shot. Easy to practice with a small caliber; remember it is all about the fundamentals. Those carry over to bigger calibers. There are tons of shooting drills that can be done with small steel targets that pay dividends come hunting time. Dry fire exercises are good as well; just follow standard firearm safety practices. You could look at using one of the portable "lead sled-type" devices that go on a tripod.

Third, you can practice dropping your hear rate. I use "sprints" while jogging and controlled breathing to drop my heart rate. Very helpful when a toad comes into range or you have to haul booty on a stalk to get a shot off.

One last thing. Everyone will miss a shot at some point. It is better to have a clean miss than a crappy shot that injures an animal.

Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262276 08/20/18 03:49 PM
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My grandson is 12 and took the youth safety class this past Saturday in new braunfels......kind of in the same mind set.....has shot 22...410 and looking forward to a a little dove action hopefully....then...up to the farm........

Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262290 08/20/18 03:58 PM
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Another thing I did with my son, was time him on his shot. We had a 2/3 IPSC plate (11"x17, I think) at 200 yards with his Tikka 223 bolt gun. I would give him 20 seconds to make a hit on the plate. He'd easily hit it. Then give him 15, then 10, then 5. Work it down to where it puts some stress into the shooting but still keep the fundamentals of shooting during the timed event. The timer will get in their head, and help with simulating the nerves. Find the amount of time where it challenges them on speed vs accuracy, while keeping good fundamentals for shooting and work on that. It will help improve their speed and confidence.



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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262302 08/20/18 04:03 PM
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Texas Youth Hunting Program is your best opportunity,

He will have you (or who ever his adult partner is) and his guide. No other youth present during the hunt. The average weekend has three hunts Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

His guide is his mentor you are along for the ride and support. The guides are volunteering to help and they want that youth to have the best time they can. They will do there best to get them on game. However they are taught that you do not get one every time, and that the harvest is a bonus, the attempt and the experience is what is important.

I am a Huntmaster / 4-H Hunting club leader / Hunter Ed instructor in the Texas Panhandle. If you are near Dumas (Amarillo) I would love to have you and your son. If not I may be able to put you in contact with folks that can help.


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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262424 08/20/18 05:38 PM
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Thanks again for all the great info guys, I appreciate it.

rdhibbs,
I appreciate the willingness to help, but we are just north of Houston in Conroe, Texas, quite a bit southeast of you smile. He knows that the hunt is the cake and the harvest is the icing, and even with no icing the cake is still pretty darn good! Hopefully, with he above mentioned advice from several members, I can manage the experience and expectations a bit which will in turn ease the nervousness.

Last edited by Gangly; 08/20/18 05:39 PM.

Aaron

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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262429 08/20/18 05:42 PM
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We started with LOTS of rabbit (and raccoon) hunting with a .22 and/or .17 hmr before my son shot a centerfire at a deer. I think it helped a lot. I also think lots of rounds at targets (like until he's bored with it) would be second best.

Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262449 08/20/18 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted By: Gangly
Thanks again for all the great info guys, I appreciate it.

rdhibbs,
I appreciate the willingness to help, but we are just north of Houston in Conroe, Texas, quite a bit southeast of you smile. He knows that the hunt is the cake and the harvest is the icing, and even with no icing the cake is still pretty darn good! Hopefully, with he above mentioned advice from several members, I can manage the experience and expectations a bit which will in turn ease the nervousness.


You are welcome sir.


Thank You
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To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, right or wrong - is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

Theodore Roosevelt
Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262600 08/20/18 08:55 PM
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Young nerves are what they are, time and experience will fix 'em, just go shoot. My older son was about 12 when he shot his first doe on a TYHP hunt, through the hips! smile Our TYHP guide had to go dispatch her via knife to the throat, he didn't see that part. He was still one happy boy.

Remind him he there's to experience hunting and have a good time, hunting isn't always killing though. TYHP is a great organization and the hunts are typically target rich with great people helping to teach the kids.

Charlie

Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262667 08/20/18 10:01 PM
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Killing is very emotional for most humans. It's natural. I'd be worried if they didn't get emotional over it.

I think talking about it helps. If they have the hunters blood, it all works out as a celebration in the end. If they don't that's ok too. My youngest has the blood my oldest does not.


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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Pitchfork Predator] #7262693 08/20/18 10:32 PM
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Took my sons with me when they were 5. Let them see a deer killed, the gutting, skinning and quartering. Both began shooing a .243 at age 6. Oldest son killed his first buck at age 13, youngest at age 7.
Daughters showed no interest. C'est la vie.

Last edited by DH3; 08/20/18 10:33 PM.

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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7262819 08/21/18 01:03 AM
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Great suggestions above. Itís all a part of the process and the excitement of hunting!


Originally Posted By: Russ79
I learned long ago you can't reason someone out of something they don't reason themselves into.


Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263123 08/21/18 11:42 AM
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On all the TYHP hunts my son went on we saw a lot of deer. The huntmasters who serve as guides don't push the kids. If they don't want to take a shot they don't have to. When a shot comes available they will help your son with his breathing. They will get him as relaxed as possible before he takes the shot. The first shot my son took at a doe he shot about 3 feet over her. The next shot she dropped in her tracks and he never missed again. The TYHP hunts are a great learning experience. Have fun. I noticed that the Timmons ranch in Brownwood is having a hunt this year. That hunt is for kids who have never got a deer. It's a great hunt with a great bunch of huntmasters/guides. Be sure and put in for it and tell them it'll be his first. Good luck


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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263186 08/21/18 12:56 PM
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Thanks again for all the great suggestions, I really do appreciate it.

upsslim: I'll check on that hunt now, thanks.


Aaron

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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263292 08/21/18 03:16 PM
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Lots and lots of shooting....the more he shoots with smaller calibers the better he will be. Try letting him shoot a lot of .223. His jerk reaction could be partially due to recoil and the only way to get over that is practicing with smaller calibers. Consider getting a suppressor....I doubt my kids will ever hunt without one and I haven't hunted without one in several years. They help a ton with recoil and obviously sound.

Also, if you are in the stand with him have him aim and pretend fire at every deer that walks by and even focus on his breathing...you can even have him pull the trigger on a dry fire if you want. I still do this (minus the dry fire) just to feel comfortable with holding the rifle at different angles, practice getting on target quickly, and holding the scope steady.

Btw, I get buck fever every time I shoot at a deer and I'm 38.

Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263312 08/21/18 03:50 PM
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There is nothing wrong with all the above comments, but I want to come at it from a different perspective...

Is your son mentally ready to take a big game animal? I would talk to him about if he wants to shoot a deer, or a hog, and see if there is any hesitation about it. Some people just get hung on the fact they are kiiling and maybe his friends are telling him he will be a bambi killer or something. COuld be a multitude of issues this kid is wrestling with that have nothing to do with buck fever or shhoting.

It sounds like he has the fundamentals. In sports we always see kids who know what to do, but in the end can't pull it off, or choke. Not saying your kid is doing that, but maybe talk to him about IF he wants to shoot a deer and make sure there are no hang ups on that end.

Just a thought.

Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263353 08/21/18 04:38 PM
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I had a lengthy discussion with him about it because my first thought was that he might be scared of taking the animals life, or might be worried about something else. He knows that there is no pressure on him to harvest and animal and there is no reason to shoot unless he feels 100 percent confident in his decision. The last thing I want is for him to feel ultimately guilty about shooting an animal and resenting it.


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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263560 08/21/18 08:43 PM
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Iíve always said if you canít close your eyes and visualize your sell shooting and killing an animal you wonít be able to do it in real life. Same with self defense against another human. Visualizing your self doing something makes it that much easier to do.

My 6 yr old has been hunting with me since he was 3. I shot a doe on his first hunt and he stood there and watched me gut her. He understands she is providing us with food and killing her wasnít for fun. Now that he is 6 he sits on the couch with pillows stacked up and shoots stuffed animals pretending they are deer and hogs. He has began shooting 223 a lot more and has shown me he is ready to take a doe or hog. Everytime we shoot I tell him to visualize that the target is a deer or hog and sometimes I try to pressure him so it is more realistic. Some kids take longer to really take in hunting and some are born running. When itís time it will happen and it will be one heck of an experience for you both.


Originally Posted by bill oxner
I plowed mules.
Originally Posted by Roll-Tide
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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263593 08/21/18 09:12 PM
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My boy missed multiple deer past year (9 years old), but I too knew he was a reasonably good shot. Long story short, I figured out that he was jerking the trigger. We spent some time at the range with both dry fire practice and live practice. Then, out in the field again, as he was fixin' to pull the trigger I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "remember, concentrate on the rifle not moving when you pull the trigger" He tagged three deer after that.


Originally Posted by txhuntingguide
If I choose to hunt in a coon tail hat, a pink tootoo and hip waders that is my fine...
Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: Gangly] #7263613 08/21/18 09:26 PM
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There are a lot of good responses here. I'm going to offer something simpler. It could be that he is aiming at the deer. Instead, show him exactly where to place the bullet and have him aim at that like a target. This is what cured my son from making some way off shots.


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Re: Youth Hunter's Nerves [Re: unclebubba] #7263900 08/22/18 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted By: unclebubba
My boy missed multiple deer past year (9 years old), but I too knew he was a reasonably good shot. Long story short, I figured out that he was jerking the trigger. We spent some time at the range with both dry fire practice and live practice. Then, out in the field again, as he was fixin' to pull the trigger I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "remember, concentrate on the rifle not moving when you pull the trigger" He tagged three deer after that.


up
Sounds like good advice


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