If you don’t care about feel good stories or cheesy filler, skip to the bottom and find the answer.
When I was a young buck I expressed an interest in shooting from early on. I loved watching the Lone Ranger (or the “Long Ranger” as I called him back then) every single morning with my Dad. I loved John Wayne westerns and even Bonanza and Gunsmoke reruns when we could catch them on TV. Regardless, having shooters in the family but not grown up a shooter, my father had some catching up to do if he wanted to be ready for my apparent insatiable desire to be one with the trigger.
Dad started with a shotgun… an Ithica Model 37 featherweight to be precise (he’s since added a Hastings barrel with removable choke tubes and a limbsaver pad). And the first rifle he bought for himself was a model 1896 Swedish Mauser chambered in 6.5x55mm (or 6.5 Swede if you’re like the cool kids). He was a bit of mess from the beginning, feeling more comfortable from the left side than the right though no one taught him the importance of “eye dominance” and he quite literally struggled to hit the broad side of a barn with both the shotgun and the Swede. My mother would routinely school him at shooting clays and other demonstrations of marksmanship, so you could say his confidence may have been a bit shaky.
Thankfully, my Dad is a brave man and one willing to admit he needed help in learning from scratch. He made quick friends with a fella from church named Dennis who had grown up with a gun, bow and blade in his hand. Dennis was what Dad would call an “uber hunter” and he was willing to share his experiences top to bottom, from hunting to reloading, and from archery to processing the animal after the kill. I had already started small, with an air rifle in my hand and the basic safety principles in the back of my mind. The winter of 1991 I received my first shotgun and we declared war on all the squirrels in the Missouri backwoods. The next summer I saved up enough money from building birdhouses that I was able to buy my first compound bow as a 12 year old and fell in love with the flight of the arrow. I mean it guys, IN LOVE, absolutely obsessed and still to this day am infatuated with archery.
The ball basically took off rolling on its own from there. Dad and I, already the best of friends doing everything together, were now learning the shooting sports as fast as we could side by side. Rooted in hunting from the beginning, our passion has grown to projectiles of all sort and our love for shooting and the history of firearms (and still the stick and string too!) has continued to be cultivated as we make mistakes and learn from folks smarter than ourselves.
So how do you do it? How do you take a young person shooting? If you’re already a shooter yourself, you just need to do it. Make it happen, be courteous, respectful of the parents wishes if you’re not the guardian, but get after it. Start from the ground up, safety first, history of guns if you want so they appreciate the long line of shooters coming before them. What if you’re not a shooter? Be brave, find someone who is, and learn with your kid. It’s that simple, my experience and love for shooting has grown because my dad was willing to take a risk, ask questions and even appear to not know everything if that’s what it took to help me follow my passion. This meant that rather than just sending me to a Hunter’s Education course, he TOOK the class with me! But like anything, it comes down to actually doing it and getting it done.
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