Tips on Duck Hunting with Kids

Submission by Travis Thompson

Can we bring kids on a duck hunt? I really want my son to be able to shoot his first duck . . . If I had a nickel for every time I get asked this question, I’d be able to buy a Coke . . .

Here are the best tips I can offer on taking your younger family members waterfowling. Keep in mind, these are the ramblings of a father, a fishing and hunting guide, and a lunatic waterfowler (redundant) who shirks all responsibility for 59 days every year in order to chase things that quack or honk.

1. How old should my kids be to go duck hunting?

This. This is my favorite question ever, mostly because it is a trick question! There is no magic number that says “oh, she’s 8, that’s perfect, phew, she just made the cut off for this season . . . “. You’re the parent. You know the kid better than anyone. Is she big enough to safely handle a firearm? Has he ever handled a firearm? Do they have any interest in hunting? Because ducks make lightning seem predictable; they tend to keep crazy schedules and cancel on appointments with regularity.

2. Understand the difference between shooting a gun and shooting a duck

Targets in the back yard are vastly different than pintails and teal. #9 target loads are vastly different than #3 Hevishot. Most mistakes I see kids make in the blind come because they ARE NOT COMFORTABLE with their gun. It’s worth reading that sentence 28 more times. In a duck blind, as safe as I can make it, ducks don’t typically hang out and wait for you to stand up, take careful aim, someone to instruct you to click the safety off, someone instructing you to pull the trigger. Your kids need to have some familiarity with their weapon to feel comfortable and safe enough in the blind to get a shot off at a bird. This is worth whatever you paid to read this article. Don’t buy your daughter a gun, let her shoot it once, then ramble off to the marsh and hope for the best. Teach her. Comfort her. Be patient with her. Then, when the feathers start flying, she’ll have the time of her life.

3. Let them shoot a duck on the water

I’ll put my email and social media handle at the end of this article for you to hit me up with hate mail, but I’m fairly certain I’m right about this one. If your son or daughter is big enough to hunt ducks, has an interest in hunting ducks, and feels comfortable handling their firearm, then I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he gets his shot at his first duck. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like the smile of a person holding their first duck, be it an 8 year old or a 28 year old. We’ll discuss ethics, and we’ll discuss sportsmanship, and the right way to harvest the birds. We’ll make sure they understand this is a one time/first time thing, and that they’re not going to limit out on sitting ducks. But sometimes it loosens the pressure valve they put on themselves. Missing the next 20 is a lot more fun when there’s one already in the boat.

4. Relax.

Know what’s important? Being a cancer doctor. Paramedics are important. Military personnel. Teachers and nurses. Know what’s not important? Killing ducks. Don’t put pressure on the youngsters, particularly when they’re trying to be sportsmen and kill a bird on the wing. Are they shooting? Are they smiling? Are they hearing the wind through the wings as birds buzz the blind? And watching the sunrise and eating twizzlers and cracking up at fart jokes? Then you’ve had a successful day afield. Don’t stress about how many birds are in the bag. I do this for a living – know how many duck hunts my son went on before he fired a shot? A bunch. He went to Arkansas and back and never fired his gun. This is okay. In fact, it’s fantastic. Not every hunt will result in wall mounts dive bombing your spread. This is part of the hunt. Hang in there. And relax.

You’re already way ahead of the curve. You are raising your kids the right way, and looking to pass along a heritage of waterfowling. Take these 4 tips to heart and get them out on the water!

Let us know any tips you’d like to add, or that we’ve missed in the comments. If you’d like to take your kid duck hunting with me (or snook fishing with me, or tarpon fishing with me, or you just like me so much you want to hang out and buy me lunch), hit me up on social media @travisthompson or e-mail me at