5 Steps for Youth Deer Season Success

October 28, 2020
Kevin "KJ" Jarnagin

I recall a news clip with a lady exclaiming, “I ain’t got time for that.” Well, step aside failure, cause youth deer hunting season is here, and I ain’t got time for that.

Much of youth season is about preparation and getting ready for the hunt rather than the act of hunting. The steps you take before the hunt dictate the outcome. Here are five steps I took, as a dad, to allow my son to succeed during his 2020 youth season.

Clean Break

A couple months before, I took my son out to the garage to set him up with the rig he’d be shooting for youth season. His task? He was going to spend five minutes a day dry firing the gun, visualize the shot and break a clean shot. I sat with him daily to ensure complete safety. No magazine or rounds in the area. But, why dry fire practice? Why not roll out to the range once a week to fire actual rounds?

Setting kids up for success should be top-of-mind when it comes to deer hunting. The time you have better be spent wisely.

This is a busy season for me, and I have limited ammo. Yes, even guys/gals in the firearms industry have real-world problems. I travel so much that trips to the range are nearly non-existent.

Early on, my son looked uncomfortable. He didn’t set up on the gun right. This is why I like to sit with him and practice. I can see what happens through the shot. He suffers the same ailment as his father…right-handed, left-eye dominant. We made a switch to the right side of the gun and all was right with the world.

Visualize the Shot

During practice, I made sure he was visualizing the shot. I’d ask simple questions while he was taking deep breaths. Questions like: Where are you aiming? Do you know what is beyond the deer? Is your safety on? Questions to make him think about what he was doing. After practice, we’d chat about why those things matter and what he should look out for.

My neighbor and I came up with a good system of printing out different images of deer standing at different angles to better visualize where he needed to hold the crosshair. I believe if he were to line up the shot on a predetermined point-of-aim that would have helped immensely.

My son is a planner. He wants to know all the details so he is mentally prepared to engage. I do my best to walk him through what I’ve experienced and how preparing early leads to success down the road.

Everything used during dry-fire practice was exactly the same on the hunt. I set him up on a BOG Deathgrip tripod and a simple folding chair. I had him adjust the tension settings on the Deathgrip. This allowed for easier adjustment in the blind. The Deathgrip is super easy to use and builds a solid foundation. The gun does not move unless you do it. If you want kids to succeed in the field, allow them the chance by first building a stable platform. For us, it was dry-fire practice and the BOG Deathgrip.

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Round Selection  

Aside from a crisp, clean trigger press, your immediate connection to the animal is the ammunition you choose.

Using the right ammo is critical. HSM Ammo Low Recoil rounds dropped the deer in its tracks with devastating accuracy.

Last year, Jett used a 22-250. This is one of my all-time favorite cartridges, but I’ve upped my game for big game. He made a great shot last year, but I wanted him to have more than enough power to drop big deer or hogs. We settled on the 6.5 Creedmoor.

He’d shot my gun before, but the full house loads I shoot tend to wear him out. He’s not a big guy and needed something lighter. Thank the good Lord, HSM Ammunition developed the Low Recoil rounds. In the 6.5 Creedmoor, they boast 53-percent less recoil with the 140gr. Sierra bullet, and they don’t lie. It feels more like a shove rather than a kick. I know the guys over at HSM, and their stuff works wonders.

Again, setting kids up for success starts at practice and goes through the shot. My dad started me out at a young age shooting a single-shot .410 and that gun can pound sand for all I care. It kicked the snot out of me. I then moved to shooting a 30-30 Winchester for deer. That was a little better, but if I had Low Recoil rounds back then, I probably would have had a better time with expecting to get kicked after the shot broke.


Patience is one of the toughest lessons to learn. Young folks these days don’t have the skills to just sit and enjoy the outdoors.

This was a tougher hunt than he experienced in previous years. We hunted hard this year. We traversed nearly three miles, searching for a hint of horns. It seems as if the deer bedded early since temperatures rose to the low 90s. Patience never waned. He powered through, understanding that these hunts take time especially when hunting conditions are less than ideal.

We had an ace up our sleeves. I set up a stand with his help during the dove opener. He prepped the stand and that was our last set. His patience was about to pay off.

Closing the Deal

If you’ve listened to the shows Gun Talk produces, you’ve heard how excited I get when I’m on the hunt. There’s just something about closing the deal when it comes to big game hunting. The adrenalin dumps, and it’s a challenge to slow the heart rate.

Preserve the moment with a great photo. If you instill confidence early, success follows right in line. Jett pressed the trigger slowly and anchored a fantastic deer.

I coached him through the shot. I reminded him to breathe and to only take the shot when he was ready. The goal was for him to take his mind off the excitement and focus on the sight picture and trigger press.

There is no greater joy than seeing one of your own take down a big buck or any wild game for that matter. This sport means the world to me, and to enjoy it with my son expands the experience.

Setting up youth for success begins early, but you have to follow through. Happy hunting. ~ KJ

Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.