When Game & Fish editors decided to feature two youth rifles as part of our pre-Christmas gear reviews, it brought back memories of hunting between fathers and sons.
Squirrel hunting with .22s, for example, was how many started hunting as youths.
That's part of the allure behind rifles like Savage Arms' Rascal and Traditions' Crackshot.
If you want to pass on your passion for hunting, instill firearm safety and connect with the next generation, these rifles are fun ways to get your kids fired up.
And don't forget, Christmas is right around the corner.
Stories by editor-in-chief John Geiger and region/state editor Paul Rackley
Shooting a gun is fun. But hitting what you are aiming at is even better. More than a few times, one of my young boys put a squirrel in his sights, pulled the trigger on the .22, and missed.
Would a step up to a more accurate .17 HMR rimfire help drop more those tree-top squirrels? My 13-year-old's new nickname is Squirrel Sniper.
The youth version of Tradition's Crackshot break-open-action rifle is an affordable option at just over $250.
Traditions, mostly known for their striker-plate-fire muzzleloaders, makes this hammer-fired, striker-plate/transfer bar rimfire in .22 LR and .17 HMR versions.
There are 16.5- or 20-inch barrels, with a variety of camo options or blued-barrels. The gun is just 4 pounds and comes with a bore-sighted, Traditions-branded 4x32 scope.
I was a little concerned that 13 inches was still too long of a length of pull for my small-framed 13-year-old.
I've found that it's usually a long length of pull that makes a gun unmanageable for kids. But so far, so good. That 4-pound weight and shorter barrel might mitigate the nearly full-length LOP.
I wanted a single shot in order to teach my boys the importance of being sure about that first shot. It's working.
"I love that rifle, Dad. It's mine, right?" said my boy after a successful three-day squirrel hunt. "I can kill a lot with it. And it's not too big, and I can carry it with the strap through the woods all day."
He went on and on. Yeah. He's a fan of the gun and hunting with his Dad. That's priceless.
If I have any hesitation about this gun, it's the fact that I must take off the trigger safety to cock it, and ditto if I want to de-cock.
So, I push the safety to "fire" to let down the hammer on a loaded gun. That just does not make sense to me, and my boy is not comfortable letting down the hammer. Can't blame him.
Otherwise, the Crackshot does have that trigger safety located on the trigger guard, which is good, as well as a hammer-block safety, or transfer bar, that prevents the hammer from accidently hitting the pin when it's not cocked.
When the hammer is back, the bar it up, of course, ready to transfer the hammer strike to the pin.
A single-shot .17 HMR is a great way to get your kid jacked about hunting and shooting.
By the way, it's always a good idea to call up some of your local gun stores, see if they have the model you are looking for and, if so, go handle the guns before you buy. Bring your kid, of course, and then tell Santa Claus your address.
I was five-years-old when my father decided to teach me to shoot with a Remington Speedmaster in .22 LR, explaining why firearm safety and proper gun handling is so important.
I spent a couple of hours putting holes on paper and into aluminum cans, coming away with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
That experience started me down a path toward becoming a hunter and shooter, just like millions of other youngers who take a steady aim down the sights of a small-bore rifle, such as the Savage Arms Rascal.
The Rascal is a single-shot, bolt-action rifle that is designed completely around younger shooters, with a 16.125-inch barrel and a 31.5-inch overall length.
However, despite its small stature, the Rascal comes with excellent features from more expensive full-size rifles, such as adjustable peep sights and Savage's user-adjustable AccuTrigger.
The Rascal is even drilled and tapped for attaching optics for additional practice and turning the rifle into a small-game sporting arm.
It comes with a synthetic stock, which is available in a variety of colors, such as black, yellow, pink, purple and more, along with a wood-stock version for a more traditional rifle feel, while the barrel is made of carbon steel, with a blued-satin finish.
The single-round capacity and manual safety allows younger shooters to learn how to load, unload and fire, all while allowing mentors to have the upmost control for safety, and the excellent trigger helps users to figure out trigger control.
The future of hunting is in the hands of kids, who have many activities vying for their time. A good starter rifle, such as the Savage Rascal, is a great tool for both explaining firearm safety and providing a new activity that parents can share with their kids.