Youngsters & Live Quarry (Air Rifle / Shotgun)


Well-Known Member
I would be very grateful for members thoughts and experience as to "how young is too young" to start youngsters taking live quarry with air rifle / shotgun?

My lad has accompanied me progressively from airgun shooting in the back garden, to rough/hide shooting with the shotgun to several successful (and many unsuccessful) stalks since he was four. He's now almost eight, as keen as mustard and a competent airgun shot at targets in the back garden with a specific junior air rifle (HW30S). Indeed, it's reached the stage where if he had either an air rifle of sufficient power to do the job (his HW30S is only ~8ft/lb and not really up to the job unless [bird] head shot under 25 yds [rabbits are totally out of the question with that sort of low power]), I've been having to really reign him in / discourage him from moving onto live quarry, either with airgun or shotgun.

I'm aware that I could for example, purchase a junior .410 on my own ticket and VERY CAREFULLY teach and supervise him on clays and the like until I can trust him sufficiently to prospectively also VERY CAREFULLY and closely supervise his assistance with my controlling the collared doves (explicit requirement from the landowner on one of my permissions) around the barns. I would actually even have him initially taught at the local clay school as I did with my daughter - although she has not pursued any further, pursuing ballet instead - although still liking an occasional outing with me.

I'm aware there is no lower age limit for which I could apply for my lad to have his own shotgun certificate and that there are examples where children as young as seven have been granted. These are however the exception rather than the norm and it still being relatively infrequent use for the time being, I'm not sure its worth complicating matters with a shotgun certificate app for him until a few years time. Indeed, as explained, I could purchase a specific junior .410 (Yildiz do a lovely junior O/U) on my own ticket and VERY CAREFULLY teach and supervise him in its use for the next few years until it feels the right age (~10?) to apply for him to have it on his own ticket.

On the one hand I don't want to hold him back and on the other, push him on to too much too young.

So, would be most grateful for other members thoughts and own experience with their own youngsters. Many thanks in advance :tiphat:
My first experience of shooting was targets in the garden at about age 8-9 with my dads old air gun. I might get the odd glimpse of his rifle/shotgun before/after a shooting trip. I occasionally got the chance to go beating or foxing which I loved. I think this limited experience kept me wanting more.

At about 12 years I got my first air gun. This was what really improved my hunting skills. Although safety was drilled into me from about 8 yrs It was only when I was let loose that I practiced these important skills.
I learnt to clay shoot at about 13-15 and also did more rifle shooting with my dad. I shot my first deer at 14yrs.
To be honest I didn't really appreciate stalking then. I preferred foxes/rabbits.
I didn't appreciate the stalking because I was at the age where a full day hike for a deer seemed like hard work and there was more pressure on taking the shot than I was used too!
I was young and although good with an air gun shooting a high powered rifle was a different fish. I wasn't used to the recoil then.
I didn't shoot another deer until I was about 18 with my own fac.
I got a shotgun cert at 15 (I think thats the legal age you can use a shotgun unsupervised, correct me if I'm wrong).
My opinion only but I don't see the point in your son having a certificate at 10 yrs? He would still need your supervision and having his own certificate wouldn't really change anything.
My opinion again but I don't think it would do your son any harm from holding him back from live quarry.

In hind sight It wouldn't have made any difference for me If I had got my FAC and SGC coterminous at age 17 rather than getting my SGC sooner.
I think I should have had more full bore experience before I shot my first deer. To enjoy shooting deer you have to feel confident in your rifle.
My dad got my first shotgun when I was about 9. It was on his ticket a 20g. I only ever shot supervised either by hin or other experienced shots. I started live quarry around the age of 13. I was supervised until 15.
I had safety drummed into me from about 4 years old.
I think only you know when you're son will be ready. As every child is different.
Glad to see the young coming through the ranks!
Just to note for what it's worth that legally he's only actually allowed to use your shotgun on land which you own or rent (the phrase in the legislation I believe is if which you are "the occupier", which is not the same as land over which you either have permission to shoot or even hold the sporting rights. It means YOUR land.) This is not the same as for rifles, obviously, or obviously for clay grounds with a section 11(6) exemption.

So, legally, strictly speaking, he should have his own SGC if he's going to shoot anywhere except clay grounds or land you own.

I'm well aware that many people don't do this, and I'm not saying it's a big problem or a law that's very likely to be enforced unless something very untoward happens. I just mention it because it's relevant to your post, and very widely misunderstood (it's an illogical anomaly, which presumably was not intended by the legislation, but that's the way it is).
Two different things here in my opinion

capability and mental awareness.

my kids (6,7,11) have been prepped from an early age as to where the stuff in the fridge/freezer comes from, they know that the chickens running round taste good and the big brown fluffy things in the fields are the same deer we eat.
they have been slowly immersed in country sports from day one. Helping pluck, training dog, cleaning stuff, attending clay grounds, beating, butchering, fishing, stalking, skinning and constantly reminded about quarry ID
my 6 year old girl takes great pleasure in knowing the difference between guinea fowl and partridge!
my son caught and killed a small trout aged 7, cleaned it and to his credit cooked it and ate it!
he has been shooting air rifles sporadically from a similar age and more recently clays with a mix of 20bore and 410.
just before Christmas and shortly after his 11th birthday we went on a rough shoot, I was with him at all times and have beaten muzzle awareness into throughout
he didn't get anything but then with a double digit bag and 7 guns he was not alone!

i think he is mentally prepared to take the life of an animal and he certainly has the capability to do it humanely

i am not sure either of these are age specific though.
Only you can decide

i would say I don't think you can start too late, only too early.
once put off i would imagine it's a hard task to reintroduce.
gun shy dogs would be my analogy
From what you have posted its obvious that you put great concern on safety and teaching your lad to respect the gun and the animal / bird, if it was me I would get him a .410 on my ticket and take him out with me on stationary targets and buy a hand thrower for clays to get him used to shooting at moving targets and once you judge him good enough take him out for live quary, then get him to clean and prepare it for cooking, then be prepared to be outclassed as he gets better than you, whatever way you decide, as long as you both enjoy shooting together safely that is a great thing
Thank you all very much indeed for your excellent, considered opinions and experiences, which have been most helpful!

Whilst he ticks many boxes in his progress in capability and mental awareness, considering carefully, whilst he is for example starting to show capability and control with a knife, still not so much as I would quite trust him with his own yet (and have told him as much). Whilst I have also been pleasantly surprised at his maturity and desire to get hands on with gralloching, skinning and butchering the deer, catching, preparing and eating trout from Bibury trout farm and controlling the pigeon's eating grass seed on the back lawn (breasts promptly removed and cooked/added to the freezer), I'm still not sure he yet fully grasps the vital 'respect' element and pest control/provision for the table vs. 'just killing stuff', which I am determined he will grasp before he takes an animal's life for himself. He also really still lacks the physical strength to confidently handle the air rifle/small shotgun on his own.

So, all things considered, I think for now we'll continue as-is. I will however get him the 1-hour introduction/hands on .410 tuition/practice at the local clay school for his 8th birthday in March and once funds allow, I do also like the idea of having a small gun in the cabinet he can start to handle under careful supervision leading to some practice at stationary/hand thrown clays and we'll see where we go from there.

I'm much obliged gents, thank you :tiphat:
First thing I would say is don't let him use an air-rifle for live quarry to start off with. Takes a lot of skill to kill cleanly with an air-rifle, and a lot of so called "misses" are nothing of the sort.
.410 is ideal for stalking rabbits - teaches fieldcraft and good shooting.
Start him off on quarry that are edible, and stick to the rule of "what you kill, you pluck / skin / gut etc".
Don't start on inedible vermin that will simply be killed and binned if you want him to develop a respect for his quarry. These species can be tackled later when he's got a greater understanding of the need for pest control.

There's no ideal age, it's more to do with maturity and physical capability.
Myself had a 410 age about 6 or 7 used my dads 12 from about 9 wasn't brought up on targets as my dad said if you can't eat it don't waste a shot.
My daughter used a 410 from 3 years old but now age 6 prefers air rifle and air pistol she has shot squirrels but prefers targets.
Let them develop at their own pace just be on hand regards safety and ethics
trapping at 6ish air gun seem to always have it ? cant remember a use of a greener gaffer buy 7 and with my own folding 410 by 8, also had use of granddads 303 when he was with me , he would't let me shoot unless I could kill it and bring it home , he said the only use for paper targets was in the thunderbox outhouse down the end of the farm :norty: but am a strong believer in target practice practice practice
Don't push it at all. My daughter, now 13 loves plinking with air rifle and shooting clays. Very happy coming beating but doesn't want to shoot live quarry. I respect that. When / if the time comes then that's also good.
As others have mentioned age and maturity are not the same I've taught 8 years to shoot and they have understood the danger an incorrectly used gun can present and 14 years olds that haven't been mature enough.
Strength is another factor to be able to support the gun and swing it if he's arching back like a banana it's to heavy and or to long.

You know your kids!

on the topic of youth guns most of these are still to long for small kids being aimed more at later teens, the combs are also no higher than the adult version most young kids need a higher comb. A single barrel is a very useful tool as it's light enough for them to handle, if you can find one a single 28 bore is a very good starting point for smaller kids also more capable if you let him shoot the odd pigeon etc. But 410 or 28 or light 20 all should have short barrels and open chokes maximum success equals happier kids.

Just my 2p worth as an instructor.
Thanks gents, more great and helpful points. Thanks also Daf, very helpful counsel on prospectively suitable guns. I too had thought to start with 26", but had (clearly stupidly) ruled out single barrel. However, on reflection, such would be a much for affordable and good place to start with him on static then hand thrown clays (thanks Ray7756), moving onto stalking rabbits (thanks VSS) once I'm certain he's fully ready from maturity, weapon handling and accuracy perspectives.

However, as you state Daf, finding a suitably light single barrel .410/28 aimed at an 8-10 year old I guess could be pretty tricky?
However, as you state Daf, finding a suitably light single barrel .410/28 aimed at an 8-10 year old I guess could be pretty tricky?

You should find a little .410 with no bother.
My wife has two, one single barrel and one double, both tiny and easy for kids to use. One cost £65 and the other £125
Yes thanks VSS, Daf's kindly helping me with such. A Yildiz TK36 single barrel 410, with specially shortened stock and barrel for my lad's 8 birthday at end of March.
Thanks VSS, but sadly I've had to put on hold for now. Just as I was confident his maturity and behaviour had reached sufficient high standard for taking next steps, per a parallel thread around which knife to buy him (ironically just bought this afternoon), he and his sister already had their TV access and new school pencil cases taken away from them this week, in response to their behaviour at a friends over the TD day on Monday. We then received another complaint from his class teacher today over his behaviour.

He's been well and truly read the riot act and given the simple choice of showing himself responsible enough to be trusted with the additional responsibilities in question, or the whole lot will be denied, including accompanying me. It might sound harsh, but it's already been underlined enough in this thread that sensibility and maturity are the most important elements in taking next steps.

The only concession I will hold up my sleeve, is taking him for a taster session for his birthday, like I did with his sister at a local clay ground. We'll see. Rather disappointed though, as I'm sure can be imagined.
Don't worry mate - maybe feels like a hard knock for you now, as you obviously had certain expectations of some quality dad / lad time, but he'll grow up (all too quickly). Don't force the pace, and it'll naturally become apparent when he's ready for it.
Yeah, thanks, not forcing things was also helpfully mentioned above, so know in the heart that deferring is the right thing to do.
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