1) Start a child with a .22 rifle at first, since a .22 has no recoil and doesn’t make too-much noise. This way a child gets accustomed to shooting, aiming and squeezing the trigger. Within a few shots, he or she can be successful shooting a target at 20 yards. Although this distance isn’t far according to adult standards, for a youngster with short legs and little feet, 20 yards is some distance away.
2) Build a desire to shoot muzzleloaders. Our two boys go with Marsha (my wife) and me to the range to shoot, and they accompany us on hunts. In the beginning of their shooting experiences, they were always asking, “When can we shoot black powder?” When a child wants to do something really badly, they’re much easier to teach, and they’ll have better experiences, because they’ve finally gotten to do what they’ve wanted.
3) Start with a light powder charge and a light bullet when your child graduates from the .22. You
don’t want children shooting the same loads you use to hunt. With loose powder, 30 or 40 grains is plenty. Pelletized powder is measured in 50-grain increments, so with pellets I suggest only one 50-grain pellet with a .223-grain bullet for children to shoot. This isn’t a load for children to hunt with, but a load they can shoot at 25 yards. It has little recoil, little noise and only a small amount of smoke, and they can become successful at 25 yards. Remember, this time is the teaching stage. We just want our children to learn how to load and shoot safely with black powder and teach them how to clean their own guns.
4) Try using a lead sled. We used a lead sled when we first taught our boys to shoot black powder. This drastically reduces the recoil, and youngsters won’t flinch as much.
5) Increase the powder charge to 100 grains with a light bullet like the PowerBelt Aerolite that’s designed for 100 grains of powder, when the youngster is ready to start hunting. After we stepped-up the powder charge, we took the boys to the shooting range and again had them shoot with the lead sled. When you take youngsters hunting for the first time, they won’t feel the recoil, because they are so intent on taking the animal.
6) Remember, there’s no magic age that fits all children for starting to hunt. Body size, age, desire and legal hunting age in your state determine the best age. Many yousters at ages 10 or 11 can handle a muzzleloader with 100 grains of powder. Every young person is different. Our boys are exceptions to the rule, because they started shooting .225 under our supervision when they were just toddlers. They both have taken deer, and Walker, my 12-year old, took his first black bear with a muzzleloader last season.
By Chad Schearer, who hosts “Shoot Straight TV” with his wife Marsha. The Schearers have two boys, 11- and 12-years old, Walker and Wyatt, who have been shooting CVA blackpowder rifles for 5 or 6 years.