Most adult women remain the same size, but kids grow. Take that into account when shopping for a "starter" waterfowl gun for a youngster. It would be smart to select a model for which adult-sized stocks are also available from the manufacturer.
As mentioned, gun fit is an important aspect of the recoil issue. Gun weight also affects recoil because heavier guns absorb more of the jolt. However, this must be balanced with the fact that some female and most young shooters have less arm and shoulder strength. Light guns firing light loads are a tried-and-true solution. Also, there are several recoil-reducing devices available. Some are inserted into the stock and some go in the magazine. (Some of these replace the three-shot plug—but you should check to be sure.) The magazine devices have the added benefit of putting more weight out front, which promotes a smoother swing and better follow-through.
One of the most effective recoil-reducing measures is the development of good shooting form through lots of practice. Proper gun mounting and a good shooting stance help deal with recoil. Much recoil can be caught in the hands before it hits the shoulder. No one can teach a new shooter to do all this automatically and consistently; it has to be learned and ingrained by practice.
Practice-shooting at clay targets also adds greatly to the "comfort in the situation" part of the equation for all beginning waterfowlers, regardless of size, sex, or age. Having a degree of confidence in one's shooting ability is a great way to begin the first actual waterfowl hunt. There are enough new challenges in the real hunting experience that comfort with the gun shouldn't be one of them. Actually bagging a few birds is one heck of a good start. There's nothing like a bit of success to encourage beginners to want to go waterfowling again.
—Originally published in the September/October 2003 issue of DU Magazine