Think "youth gun," and images of air guns or rimfires instantly pop into mind. But whereas just a generation ago, upstarts were introduced to the woods via the pursuit of small game, today's young hunters are taking their first shots at America's most abundant and popular big-game species--the whitetail deer. For that task, young shooters are going to need a firearm that not only fits their smaller stature, but is also accurate, is easy to shoot and packs some punch--but not so much that it scares them from pulling a trigger again. Following are five great options for the young hunter in your house.
Weatherby Vanguard Youth/Compact Weatherby is synonymous with big-game adventure, and the quality of its high-end arms is still present in the economical Vanguard line. The Vanguard Youth/Compact weighs a light 63⁄4 pounds and has an overall length of 387⁄8 inches and a length of pull of 121⁄2 inches. The synthetic stock keeps the gun light and rugged. The trigger is fully adjustable and comes factory-tuned. In fact, the gun is even shot before it ships; accuracy is guaranteed. For deer-size game, the gun comes in .243, .308 and 7mm-08. ($643;
Remington Model 700 SPS Compact From one of America’s most popular lines of rifles, the 700 SPS Compact shortens the length of pull, trims 4 inches from the barrel and shaves 1⁄4 pound of weight for its youth-friendly designation. Available in 2009 in a left-handed model for the first time. The 7mm-08 version (it also comes in .243), paired with the company’s Managed Recoil 7mm-08 ammo, is a good choice for young hunters. ($639;
New England Firearms 
Compact Handi-Rifle The single-shot, break-action NEF Compact Handi-Rifle tips the scales at under 7 pounds and offers a short, 113⁄4-inch length of pull. Chambered in .243, it features a Monte Carlo hardwood stock with a walnut veneer. Mounts are included, or you can buy the gun topped with a 3-9x32mm scope. Either way, you can’t beat the price. ($266 without scope, $305 scoped;
Savage Model 10GYXP3 Chambered for whitetails in .243, Savage’s light-shooting bolt-action rifle weighs in at a feathery 6.5 pounds. With cut checkering, the Monte Carlo hardwood stock, with the blued free-floating and button-rifled barrel, delivers a traditional deer gun look and feel. The Model 10GYXP3 now boasts Savage’s adjustable AccuTrigger. The rifle comes mounted with a 3-9x40mm scope. ($669;
Browning Silver Rifled Deer Slug Gun Browning’s new 20-gauge semi-auto slugster is perfect for young hunters whose woods are limited to the use of shotguns. The rifled barrel has a 1-in-28-inch twist. The composite stock and forend are Dura-Touch Armor-coated in Mossy Oak New Break-Up. Chambered for 3-inch shells, this 63⁄4-pound autoloader is gas-operated, which minimizes recoil. A cantilever mount makes this slug gun scope-ready. ($1,319;

Starting off with the right gun can ensure both success and a lifetime of hunting enjoyment.