Written By Matt Heden

Passing The Torch: Our First Dad/Daughter Hunt


Unlike many, my journey into hunting wasn’t through family traditions passed down through generations. Instead, it was a friend’s invitation to a dove hunt in Tracy, California, a decade ago, that marked the beginning of my hunting journey.

I still remember that day like it was yesterday – the morning chill, the sun rising, the sounds of whizzing birds going by and the excitement of shooting my first bird.

It was a day that I’ll never forget, and I’ll forever be thankful for that invite as it marked the beginning of making many more memories over the years and ultimately creating memories with my daughter.

A Decade of Learning and Growth

Over the next ten years, I built friendships within the community and learned from both seasoned veterans and newbies. I knew one day I’d need the knowledge and experience to one day pass along to my kids – something that I didn’t have the luxury of growing up.

I’ve hunted 2-3 days a week for the next 10 bird (dove, duck, pheasant) seasons to be able to pass along this tradition – and it was worth it as I was finally able to take my oldest with me on her first hunt.

Passing the Torch: Introducing My Daughter to Hunting

The birth of my first child brought a new dimension to my passion for hunting. I wanted her to experience all the joys of hunting just as I had.

I waited patiently (and anxiously) until I thought she was old enough to join, all along I was picking up kid sized eye/ear protection and various kid sized clothing.

Finally, the year arrived when I felt she was ready, marking one of the most memorable days of my life – the day I got to share my passion for hunting, passing the torch in the most basic of ways: observation.

Our First Hunt Together

Given the challenges of hunting with a 5 year old, I chose a planted pheasant hunt as our first trip out together. Fortunately, Quail Point in Zamora, CA, had an open field and were excited to be a part of sharing this experience with my daughter and I.

I gathered a small kids upland vest, my shotgun, shells, her protective gear, and my 4 year old lab; we were set for our first Dad/Daughter day out! Knowing that I would want to document this day, I asked a friend to join us with his go pro and other equipment – a decision that was priceless.

Preparation and Anticipation

While anxiously waiting to get on the road, my wife got my daughter ready – orange bows in her hair and all.

Once we were ready to go, we loaded up and went straight to the local convenience store to get snacks – the most important part of taking a 5 year old hunting. After our quick stop to grab the essentials, we made our way to Quail Point.

The Hunt Begins

Upon arrival, we were greeted with an excited crew and invaluable advice for hunting with kids from the owner – they even gave us 5 of the best looking roosters they had.

As we began our hunt, a suggestion from the fellow who was planting the birds proved to be a game-changer.

It was suggested to mark the birds with ribbon, which almost felt like a offensive comment at first – my dog has found plenty of birds over the years. The suggestion though was from a good place and the man explained that hunting with a 5 year old often presents a major challenge that people tend to forget about – 5 year olds are sloooooow walking.

Marking the area the birds were planted with a ribbon gave us the ability to slow down and focus on making memories, always being able to circle back and put my dog on the birds scent, even if they had walked away by the time we got there. After the birds were planted, we took off – together. 

Celebration of Success 

After a short walk, lots of laughs and sneaking some treats while walking the field – Bear, my lab, busted the first rooster – bang, it was down.

I’ll never forget the shock, the hesitation and then the excitement that came from my daughter as my lab proudly brought back the first rooster of her first hunt with Dad.

We continued our day, eventually winding up with 4 of the 5 birds planted and after lots of pictures and high fives we headed back to the clubhouse to get the birds cleaned. This proved to be an educational aspect that I wasn’t expecting for the day, allowing me to share about harvesting animals and ultimately where our food comes from.

The day was a complete success! 

Ending the day with the best memories 

We ended our trip with a well deserved trip to the local ice cream joint – hot fudge sundaes all around.

Ultimately, we ate our ice cream while talking about the day, looking at pictures and watching videos that were taken of our time together – it was a day that I’ll never forget, passing the torch to the future generation.

Any chance I get, I bring my kids with me hunting now and I can’t wait until they are ready to go through hunter’s safety and get their first license. 

The Ethos of Hunting – Time Together

Reflecting on my own first hunt and the experience I shared with my daughter, I’m reminded of how important it is to pass this tradition down from generation to generation.

I want all of my kids to experience hunting and to understand where our food comes from. At the end of the day, I’m reminded that hunting is about more than just the harvest, it’s about the people you share it with – the memories you make and the time together.

I’m grateful to Quail Point for facilitating such a memorable experience.

Since that first hunt together, I’ve been able to share more first hunts at Quail point with my middle daughter and my two nephews. My advice to all Dads: take your kids hunting – whether it’s a planted hunt or not.

The memories you’ll create are priceless.


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