By Tami Fox
My husband and I are raising four boys in rural North Carolina in an area that is great for hunting and fishing. Since our boys were very young, my husband has taught them hunting safety. He has hunting rifles and other equipment for hunting and fishing that they have to use, care for, and safely handle. The boys are taught to not handle guns unless an adult is present. We have never had problems with them handling guns inappropriately because they were taught safety and respect first. They have also been taught how to break down, clean, and reassemble a gun. They know that we keep all guns and ammunition locked up. The adults in the house have the combinations to the locked guns and ammunition, and the boys know they have to ask for an adult to help them if they want to go small game hunting on our property. They have been taught what measures hunters must take once they go out into the woods or fields for hunting. They have appropriate clothing for the type of hunting they will be doing and they have to go with a licensed adult hunter.
Each summer, my husband applies for his hunting license and deer tags and deer tags for the boys. Children under the age of sixteen do not need a hunting license as long as they are hunting with a licensed adult in our state. Each state has different requirements for hunting, so it is best if you check with your state and local wildlife agencies for hunting requirements for adults and children. Each state will also regulate the number of animals allowed to kill and tag per hunter per season.
There are a few different ways the boys and my husband go hunting. It depends on the type of game they are hunting, and it depends on where they are hunting. For deer hunting, they can either use a box blind that is up off the ground, or they can use a ground blind for hunting on ground level. They can also use a tree stand that is placed up in a tree with a one-man or two-man capacity. They prefer a box blind, since it can have a better seat and small, propane heater.
Once deer season starts, they have to know what type of equipment they can use for hunting. We have three types of seasons within deer season. The first season, archery, they can only hunt with a bow and arrow. Our oldest son killed a deer last year with his bow. The second portion of deer season is for hunting with black powder guns, called muzzle loaders. It takes skill to hunt with black powder guns. The final portion of deer season is for hunting with a rifle. During rifle season, they can still hunt with a bow and arrow or with a black-powder gun. One of our sons prefers his black-powder gun over a rifle for rifle season.
Once they are successful in getting a deer, they have to clean it and process it. My husband has learned over the years how to do this, and he has taught our sons the whole process. They have to remove the carcass to a place where they can hoist it up in a tree to skin the body and clean the internal cavity out. We are fortunate to have a friend with a place to do this. After cleaning, they have to keep the meat on ice for several days before they begin deer processing. At this point, some hunters will take the carcass to a butcher who specializes in venison processing, but my husband has the equipment to do this on his own. After the meat has rested for several days on ice, the butchering process begins. My husband has the type of knives and a meat slicer for processing. He will use freezer paper and freezer bags as he cuts up the meat. The boys assist him every step of the way. I usually make myself scarce during processing time.
They label the meat by type of cut, doe or buck, and date processed. If we get our deer meat processed by a butcher it is put in plastic, shrink-wrapped, and labeled. A butcher is able to cut roasts and make deer sausage or hamburger. We are not able to make deer sausage or hamburger at home since it also needs pork or beef fat added and a grinding machine used for processing. We do use our in-home slicer to make thin cuts for deer jerky made in our dehydrator.
I have learned a lot about cooking venison meat since my husband and sons are usually successful in bringing home one or two deer per year. The way we process the meat with letting it rest on ice before cutting it up helps reduce the wild taste of game that is associated with deer meat. We also use seasonings when cooking to give it a different flavor. The boys have learned to make jerky, smoke deer loins on our smoker, and to cook deer meat in a traditional way in my kitchen.
Our goal is for the boys to know how to hunt safely, clean their kill, process it, and cook it. These are life skills that we think are important to have as young men growing into adulthood. It starts at a very young age with teaching gun safety and hunter safety. They watch and observe for many years before they are allowed to go out and hunt with an adult. Even then, we limit how many children go out to hunt with a licensed adult hunter.
Tami Fox is a homeschool mom of six, who range in age from 24 to 8. She is currently homeschooling four boys who are in grades 10, 8, 6, and 3. She uses a hands-on approach to ignite the fire of learning in her children. Tami is a homeschool writer and conference speaker. You can contact her through her blog TamiFox.com