A love of the outdoors and hunting usually starts early in life, with fond memories of family getaways, bonding over shared responsibilities, basking in the sounds of nature and observing animals in their native environment. Many adults look forward to their children growing old enough to preserve the hunting tradition.
A favorite pastime for many families is hunting quail, a member of the pheasant family. You can find these small birds in several states in the U.S., including Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas.
Quail hunting is a good introduction to the beauty and tactics of the outdoors, but it's not without its challenges—even for advanced hunters. Use the following tips to help you develop a safe, enjoyable experience that you, your kids and your grandkids will remember for a lifetime.
1. Learn where you can find quail near you. The most crucial piece of information you need before setting off to hunt a specific type of animal is where you’ll be able to find it. Sit down with your children and search the internet for quail habitats near you. Research the day-to-day habits of the quail to increase the likelihood of finding some on your expedition.
For instance, quail tend to move around a lot during the day. In the morning, they populate wide open fields, retreating into the woodlands to seek shade from the hot weather in the middle of the day, before returning to the fields once the temperature has cooled in the evening.
2. Find the proper firearm. To hunt quail effectively, your child will need the right firearm. Many hunting experts recommend a 20- or 28-gauge shotgun for hunting quail.
Several manufacturers offer youth guns that are noticeably lighter and smaller than their adult counterparts. Some have safety features such as locks that prevent accidental discharge.
Remember that children are smaller and not as strong as adult shooters. There are formulas you can use to calculate the right sized shotgun for your child, but it's often easier to simply bring them with you to purchase their first firearm.
3. Make safety your priority. You must emphasize safety during all aspects of the hunt, and those lessons should start well before your child’s first outing. Quail hunting in the middle of the day typically involves moving through woodland areas, so make sure you and your children are wearing the proper protective gear to move around the terrain safely.
Young hunters should be familiar with proper loading and discharge of their firearm. They should be aware of their muzzle direction regardless of whether the gun is loaded. Before heading out into the open, they should exhibit control and judgment when using their gun. When out on a hunt, make sure your child blazes orange and stays close. Ensure they know local rules such as not shooting until the call or staying within certain areas.
Review first-aid procedures and discuss a plan for emergencies. Whenever you're outdoors, there's a possibility of animal bites, insect stings, allergic reactions or a trip-and-fall injury. Children will react more calmly to accidents if you give them the opportunity to think about the possible hazards of hunting ahead of time.
4. Involve them in the whole process. It's crucial for new hunters to understand the process from beginning to end. The only way to learn—and eventually pass along their passion for the outdoors—is by participating in all phases of the adventure.
Let them help you plan by registering for permits, reserving campsites, scouting areas and gathering supplies. Participating in this aspect teaches kids the importance of the rules imposed.
Allow children to help clean and prepare any quail they procure. They'll learn valuable kitchen skills like working with sharp objects and maintaining clean surroundings, as well as gaining an appreciation for the animal they've harvested.
5. Bring snacks. Remember that kids are notorious for wanting to stop for frequent snacks and drinks. Quail hunting often requires participants to stay outside for extended periods of time, so having these items on hand will make the experience less stressful and more enjoyable.
Make sure the snacks are quiet because the crinkling sound of food wrappers can spook nearby wildlife. Pre-made sandwiches, soft granola bars and fruits like bananas are perfect choices. Don't forget to pick up any trash before you leave the area.
6. Set realistic expectations. Going hunting with a group of friends is very different from hunting with a child. Children have shorter attention spans, different interests and a lot to learn. Hunting with friends tends to be more competitive and game-oriented than children are ready for.
Many people prefer to leave their firearm at home when they bring their children quail hunting. Doing so allows children to set the pace of the hunt and leaves you free to help them when necessary. Leaving your firearm at home also allows you to focus all your attention on them, which is the primary purpose of having them come along.
Expect to spend more time than usual on typical hunting tasks such as setting up the area, dressing the harvest and packing gear. Having children assist you generally requires extra time to explain what you’re doing, and they accomplish tasks slower than you would.
7. Keep the experience light and fun. Focus on fun and spending quality time together rather than on quantifiable things like bag limits and making perfect shots. Children simply don't have the amount of target practice necessary to make consistently good shots, so concentrating on that is likely to lead to frustration and upset. Additionally, many new hunters, especially young ones, won't be ready to harvest an animal during their first outing, so it's a good idea to create an atmosphere that doesn't pressure them.
Children enjoy creating games out of whatever activity they're participating in. Whenever possible, make your activity into a game and give a prize to whoever wins. Award points for keeping the gun's muzzle facing the right direction, correctly loading the gun, remembering to wear orange, properly using sharps or using good hygiene when handling the quail.
While you may normally enjoy focusing on your target and sitting in silence, you might have to concentrate on other things when you bring children quail hunting.
Focusing on their entertainment may mean you spend more time explaining what's going on or identifying other wildlife, but the reward is that your child will want to return to the hunting world with you again and again.