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Posted on Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 10:40 a.m.

Make sure your child is emotionally prepared to ensure a good first hunting experience

By Rick Taylor

I’ve always dreamed of the day when my son would be old enough to hunt with me. It’s a dream that most hunting fathers have; to promote a hunting heritage way of life. But, I’ve always known that age only plays a partial role as to when that day comes.

Is he old enough, mature enough, safe enough and mentally prepared? Does he understand that he’s taking the life of another living creature? These are painfully difficult questions to put upon oneself — even harder to answer honestly.

A part of me says that he’s just a kid; that he can wait for a few more years. Doubt and a loss of his innocence are something I wrestle with internally

Ricky 1st Turkey.JPG

Ricky Taylor and his dad proudly posing with the wild turkey Ricky harvested during his first hunting experience.

Rick Taylor | Contributor

But, there are many arguments that indicate Ricky is old enough to hunt. First and foremost; he’s been by my side in hunting blinds since he was 2 years old.

More importantly, Ricky has a strong knowledge base of wildlife behavior. In other words, he knows more about wildlife habitat and behavior than many adults. He can tell you when and where deer sleep, where and what they feed on and about anything else you’d want to know.

And, that’s just deer. He has an elaborate knowledge base of most wild animals in our geographic location.

Unlike most kids his age, Ricky knows that the hamburger meat and chicken breasts from the grocery store come from farm animals that are eventually slaughtered. He also knows that we’ve eaten every deer and turkey I’ve ever killed. He loves venison and doesn’t think twice about asking for seconds.

Ricky has been counting down the years to when he can go hunting. He pesters me; I mean reminding me of the “Apprentice Program.”

The Apprentice Program is through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This program allows kids who are 10 years old and over to go hunting with a parent, legal guardian or adult hunter.

I recently purchased a 20 gauge shotgun for the expressed purpose of allowing my kids to hunt wild turkey or deer. I removed the butt stock recoil pad and replaced it with recoil reducer pad; this reduces the recoil of the shotgun, making it very easy to shoot.

I had Ricky practice shooting with the 20 gauge for two months, and he quickly grew proficient with his shooting ability. You should know a few things I’ve done to help prepare Ricky for hunting.

I’ve helped teach Hunter Safety courses; therefore I’m acutely aware and promote safe hunting practices. Ricky has also participated in shooting .22 caliber rifle classes at Camp Michigania. These classes are taught by camp staff; they’re professional instructors. Furthermore, Ricky has spent years watching as I sighted in various firearms.

I took Ricky turkey hunting on the second day of the season, just last week. I brought my compound bow and the 20-gauge shotgun to our hunting blind located on the edge of a meadow. I told Ricky that I might go with the shotgun or compound on that particular day.

We went into the blind and I loaded the 20-gauge with turkey loads. I then got my compound bow ready and put the video camera on the tripod.

We weren’t there for 20 minutes when I caught movement to my immediate left. I could see the turkey walking into view; it had a six-inch beard. I turned on the video camera and started recording the bird.

I quietly grabbed the 20 gauge shotgun and asked Ricky if he’d like to try getting his first turkey? His eye’s got as big as saucers and he said “yes, yes, yes!”

I handed Ricky the shotgun and help place the barrel on the bipod; a bipod is used to rest the barrel of the gun making it a steady rest.

I turned my attention back on the turkey as it crossed just 25 yards in front of us from our left to right. I zoomed in on the turkey a bit more and asked Ricky if he was comfortable and ready to shoot. He said yes, and I told him to shoot whenever he was ready.

About three seconds went by when Ricky touched off the trigger. The turkey immediately fell to the ground after Ricky made a perfect shot. It’s rare to see a turkey drop like that, and I couldn’t have been prouder of Ricky.

Ricky asked if he hit the turkey because he couldn’t see it drop down so fast. I told him he got it, and we were both elated at Ricky’s success.

And just like that Ricky’s very first hunting experience happened and was soon over. All those years of hoping he’d do well came to fruition. I’m so relieved and elated that Ricky acted like a mature hunter and conservationist.

I’m already preparing a brine for the turkey and we’re looking forward to having some friends over for dinner. It’s hard to believe Ricky is hosting this dinner; it leaves me speechless.

I’d like to wrap up this column with the following statement: Every parent who decides to take his or her kid hunting must make a determination as to whether or not the child is ready.

My decision was based on many factors. Ricky’s behavior, ability and mental awareness were just a few of many things I took into making that decision.

Furthermore, I strongly believe that not all kids are ready at a specific age. Please take the time to make sure your child is emotionally prepared to hunt at any age.

Our hunting experience was captured in a YouTube video you can see by clicking here, and it will be aired on Michigan Out of Doors TV in the next few weeks on your local PBS station. I hope you enjoy the video as I did making it.

Your story ideas and comments are warmly welcomed. Rick can be reached at 734-223-5656 or by email at



Sun, May 8, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

Mr. Taylor, I am not a hunter ,but I do respect how you are bonding with your son. But have you ever just taken your son out in the wild just to appreciate the beauty of it? That would include admiring the animals you see like the poor creature in the photo! Try it sometime...take a walk to see the flowers, the trees and God's creatures.

Rick Taylor

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Thanks for your comment....I think. I read your comment over and over and I'm honestly wondering if you believe we don't do that already? Of course we love nature in its natural state. Yes, we do smell the flowers without feeling the need to pick them. I've taken numerous photo's of live animals without feeling cheated that I didn't kill it first. The point I'm trying to make is that we are human and love things alive much more than dead. So...I must say with regret that I'm disappointed that you feel that I can't see the beauty in a live creature. I'm not one diminsional nor are the vast majority of other hunters. I'm not picking on you but you're the kind of person that just doesn't get it. We're not Godless or loveless. We simply take the responsibility upon ourselves to harvest the animals we eat rather than hide behind a grocery reciept. Somehow people feel as though their hands are clean, that they don't kill animals with their own hands-but they do through the hands of their butcher. You may not have killed that chicken but your money and demand certainly did. By the way...that poor little creature you write about will literally peck another turkey to the death if it senses the other one is weak. Again, its this misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of wildlife biology that fuels this ignorance. Take a picture.....really?

Jim Pryce

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 10:02 a.m.

Thanks, for the great story. My son took his first turkey in May 2008. I also am a hunter education instructor, & when the folks who have taken my class over the years happen to see me out at the store or a ballgame, they'll sometimes recognize me & want to show me photos & share their stories of their hunting trips. I'm at the point in my hunting lifestyle, where I would rather see my son, daughter, niece, nephew, or any young hunter be successful before me. Thanks again, for a good job, keep promoting the outdoors heritage here in our great state. We need to get kids outdoors, & away from video games & TV. How many kids have seen a sunrise? Those that have are amazed as you see the world awaken around you.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

Thanks for for your insightful piece, and for your thoughtful responses in the comments. I'm 31, and will be going on my first hunt this year, better late than never.

Dog Guy

Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

I haven't hunted, fished, or trapped for decades. When I did those, I was part of the natural world, not just an observer. Being predator or prey (something I also remember) focuses one's attention mightily. But I am not nostalgic for the field dressing, the scaling, and the tanning.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

Rick Thanks for sharing your experiences. I always spend time reading the new and opinion sections of , but never knew the outdoor section was here! I will be spending a lot less time on the opinion and "news" sections now. I started hunting at about age 8, 53 years ago. My oldest son started hunting with me at age 12 and got his 1st buck at 14. This year his daughter got her 1st buck at 13 under an apprentice license. My youngest son started hunting at 18 because he was too busy with team sports to have time for hunting. But his 10 year old son started hunting this year with an apprentice license and has taken rabbits. He came within a whisker of getting a small buck with a bow this year. We are now trying to get his 1st turkey. Both of these grandchildren have been with their fathers at the age of 5 or 6 when animals were taken and in the woods just watching wildlife from the age of 2. My now 14 year old granddaughter is hoping to become a vet. Hunting has been a great way for me to not only connect with my sons and grandkids on a different level but a way to teach them that every life has a purpose and that purpose will be different for different people. Thanks to my daughter in-law for sending me this article.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

Glad to see you teaching your son hunting safety and stewardship. We need more hunters raised in this way. The hunting porn you link to, however, is a bit much. You video yourself killing stuff? Seriously? I guess it takes all kinds.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.

THANK YOU TDW! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Rick Taylor

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

Hi Ann Arbor Mom, I looked through my column, quickly I might add and I didn't see where I used the word &quot;sport&quot; as you described in your comment. I'm honored that you would take the time to express your opinions on hunting. However, putting words in my mouth isn't intellectually honest. Furthermore, I don't find killing an animal to be taken lightly. That's the whole point of this article if you really take the time to read it. Calling it a &quot;sport&quot; is not what I do or condone to my kids. But, thanks for reading none the less. Let me also say this. Wild animals always know they're one step away from feeding something else; whether its a coyote or my dinner plate. That's the natural world in its honest sense. I'd agree with you if I were at the Zoo but that's just not the case. Rick Taylor


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

There is no better memory than you childs first animal taken while hunting. I have one more to go. My older sons first kill was a gray squirrel and the younger sons was a wood duck. The are both mounted and in their bedrooms. A2mom if you eat meat you have nothing to complain about. Animals die to feed you.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they're in the game. ~Paul Rodriguez


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 10:43 a.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Rick Taylor

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

Thank you all for your comments about this story; it was a thought provoking and deeply personal story to write. Craig, your question/doubt is well taken. My sons conservationism doesn't necessarily come from hunting per say-although hunting plays a role. It comes from from years and years of being taught how to be stewards of the land; hunting being just one of many things. I called out the conservationism issue because hunting is a part of that; although some would strongly disagree. I'd like to change the persona that hunters inherit; both fairly and unfairly. Thank you again for your comments.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

&quot;I'm so relieved and elated that Ricky acted like a....conservationist. &quot; Huh? I'm not a hunter but I'm not anti hunting and Ido eat dead animals. But how did shooting his first animal make him a &quot;conservationist&quot;?


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

I am not a hunter, but I respect hunting done with care. Rick Taylor should be admired for instilling respect and the proper training into his young son. My family purchase locally raised chickens and pork at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market through a CSA program -- Community Supported Agriculture. I believe that the hunting heritage, as well described in this article, is perhaps an even more legitimate and accurate avenue to Locally Harvested food.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

I find it refreshingly open-minded that would present a hunting piece - this is the first I know of, or I haven't caught the others. I used to love reading Bob Gwizdz's hunting and fishing pieces in the old Ann Arbor News. I think he must have known which way the wind was blowing, as he moved off to work for the dnr at the right time. I hope this is a preview for things to come, as I for one would be a regular reader. Bravo to this dad and son - this is a smart, sensitive story, and that is an impressive first turkey!


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

I could not agree more. I was so thrilled to read a hunting article on Michigan is known for its sportsmen. I understand that Ann Arbor, is a perceived island (in Michigan) for its hunting and sportsmen views. Thank you for covering all sides!