This November, deer season will begin once more in Texas. If you are the parent or guardian of a pre-teen, this could be the perfect time to bring them out with you on your hunts. On the other hand, you may be daunted at the prospect of pulling your child’s attention away from their devices, waking them before dawn, and asking them to sit quietly in a blind for hours in the cold. Try not to stress too much! We’re here to help with our best tips for introducing your tween to Texas deer hunting.

Tip #1: Start With a Low-Stakes, Action-Packed Hunt

A common mistake we see is parents taking their children out to hunt deer at 4 am as their first hunting experience. The kids are miserable, they don’t associate the outing with anything enjoyable, and they certainly don’t take down a deer in their first season.

Avoid this pitfall by taking your tween out ahead of the season to hunt squirrels, doves, or even grasshoppers and lizards. The main objective is to keep your child moving, motivated, and hunting game they’re able to take down on their own.

A dove or squirrel hunt is also the ideal opportunity to teach your child how to clean their kills. Starting small can help them get used to this process incrementally, thus hopefully making it easier for them to understand and feel comfortable with the cleaning process for deer.

Tip #2: Allow Your Tween to Dress Comfortably

Rather than insisting that your tween be kitted out in the newest camo patterns, allow them to choose weather-appropriate clothing of their own that fits the general color scheme for staying hidden. Muted greens, browns, and khakis can all work just as well as camouflage, especially when your pre-teen will be spending the morning waiting in a blind.

This bit of independence is especially important to children at this age, and by giving yours this responsibility, you will be communicating your willingness to trust your tween to make smart choices.

Tip #3: Protect Their Ears

The tiny hairs deep in your child’s ear are fragile and irreplaceable. Once damaged, they cannot regenerate or be repaired. Please insist that your child use ear protection, properly fitted and worn, before every single shot is fired. Instill this habit now, and your child will continue to use proper ear protection on every hunt throughout their lives.

Perhaps just as important, model this behavior yourself! If your child is told to protect their hearing, but sees that you do not protect yours, they are far more likely to think of this precaution as something only necessary for children. Hearing loss is tragic, painful, permanent—and usually preventable!

Tip #4: Let Them Bring Their Devices

We have seen plenty of parents and guardians insist that their kids leave their devices at home, then act irritated and surprised when children and tweens cannot sit still and silent for hours waiting for deer to walk by the blind. We recommend allowing them to bring their devices, quiet snacks, plenty of water, and allowing them to create positive associations with the hunt.

Spending time with you, learning about the process of the hunt, helping wherever they can, and gradually working up to taking down large game is the way to create positive memories. If a smart phone, tablet, or portable gaming device brings you closer to this ultimate goal, there’s nothing wrong with bringing it along.

Tip #5: Manage Your Expectations

Your child is not going to be the perfect hunter from the first outing. They will make too much noise, they’ll move too much, they’ll ask too many questions, they’ll slow you down, and yes, they will wear you out.

And that’s okay. That’s just the nature of introducing your tween to the hunt. Expect each of these issues, plus several more, and you’ll be better equipped to be patient and positive throughout the outing.

Over the next few years, your tween will come into their own as a hunter. Before long, they’ll surprise you by sitting silently in the blind without distraction, watching the morning mists carefully for signs of movement. Finally, they’ll take down their own buck, handle most of the cleaning, and even help cook up the venison that winter.

As proud as you’ll be in that moment, there will be a part of you that misses the days when a talkative, bouncy, distractible tween scared off deer after deer. Enjoy each age and stage along the way, nurture your child’s love of the outdoors, and you’ll have years ahead of you to enjoy your child as a capable hunter at your side.