Raising A Coues Hunter
by Darren Choate
Like many, my father introduced me to hunting. To date, I have gone afield in several Western states; hunting with archery gear, a rifle slung over my shoulder or as a guide on another hunter’s hunt. I have successfully harvested elk, mule deer, Texas Whitetail, Carmen Mountain Whitetail, and my favorite, the Coues White-tailed deer.
Now, my two children (both boys) are grown and hunting on their own—my youngest more than his older brother. Early in their lives, I followed a regimented five-step plan to help them become safe and ethical hunters.
Step One – Safety
When my boys developed an interested in shooting and hunting, which was at an early age (around the age of three); I introduced them to the concepts of gun/archery safety. I used my hunting rifles and bows as props, showing them proper gun/bow-handling and safety procedures.
Step Two –Hunting Ethics
When I felt my boys were old enough to understand the basic concept of fair chase, I introduced them to the ethics of hunting by reading a book on the subject with them. I chose Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting, by Jim Posewitz. I selected this particular book because it has concise, easy to read chapters, catering to their short attention spans.
Step Three – Get ‘Em a Gun or Bow
Since I am an avid bowhunter, my boys became interested in archery hunting as well as rifle hunting. Archery is a great way to introduce young hunters to the sport because the safety measures are far less complicated than with shooting sports. I initiated my boys hunting experience with archery equipment. Both of my boys started with a recurve bow at a young age, and then quickly moved to a compound bow. Early on, they were not ready to hunt with archery gear, but they gained valuable experiences through shooting on a regular basis.
Once each of the boys passed my assessment of their firearms safety, I bought each of them their own BB gun. I made them follow the 10 commandments of firearm safety. After shooting, they were required to put their gun in a safe condition, and then into our firearms safe. Beforehand, I would inspect their guns to insure the gun was in a safe condition. If the gun did not meet the appropriate settings, we discuss the possible ramifications, and then they had to remedy the situation. Other times, I fiddled with the gun’s settings, and allowed them to put the gun back into the proper, safe condition before storing their gun.
Step Four – Practice
I took advantage of the technology age and my children’s love of video games. There were, and still are several high-quality hunting games on the market today for both PC and gaming platforms. Using video games allowed me to simulate real-world hunting situations that were sterile and safe, where I could assess their field knowledge without endangering anyone. During the simulation, if anyone violated a law, they would lose a turn and we would discuss the consequences that they would have faced in the real world. Video games also provided other learning opportunities, for example: shot placement, shot selection, and appropriate caliber choices for various game animals.
Step Five – Get in the Woods
I put the onus on myself to provide opportunities for all of us to get out hunting or scouting. I always asked my children if they wanted to tag along with me on hunting and scouting trip, without forcing the issue. I wanted them to enjoy hunting on their terms, not mine. As much as I could, I taught them about the quarry we pursued, how to identify: tracks, scat, bedding cover, likely forage, and many others
On some of the hunts, they accompanied me on, I successfully harvested an animal; and on some, I went home empty handed. In both cases, I enjoyed the time spent with my children immensely, and I think they did too. I always stressed the fact that hunting is just as much—or more—about spending time together in the woods, as it is the harvest. I experienced some of the most precious moments of my life while hunting with my boys, and most of the memories created were on Coues whitetail deer hunts. I encourage you to take your children on a Coues hunt soon.