A .30-30 is a great gun for a young hunter. I got my .30-30 when I was a pretty small 12-year-old. The kick was strong, but manageable. As long as you don't shoot a dozen rounds at a sitting, it'll be OK. For a few shots at targets, you should be able to handle it. And, of course, when you're shooting a deer, you only need one, right? And trust me, when the time comes to shoot a deer, you won't even notice the recoil. The 12 gauge, on the other hand, carries a little more kick. I tried my dad's 12 gauge when I was 12, and it was a little much. I kept shooting my .410, and a couple of years later I was given my grandpa's 16 gauge. By then, I was a lot bigger, and the recoil wasn't a problem at all. If you are planning to buy a shotgun, I'd recommend a 20 gauge. If you already have the 12 gauge, look for "reduced recoil" shells. They have a smaller load, so they don't kick as badly. And you can work your way up to full loads in a couple of years.