The first step to begin hunting
The very first step to begin any type of hunting is to take a hunter’s safety course. This course is a requirement before you can buy a hunting license. It is also very informative and a great introduction to the sport.
This course has 2 main portions. A classroom setting is where you will learn the very basics of hunting. The practical portion is where you will shoot a few different types of rifles, shotguns and bows to get a feel for them. This course is nothing to be afraid of in fact my wife took it about 2 years ago and had an absolutely great time.
This course can be taken online at http://hunteredcourse.com/
You can also contact your state’s Wildlife department for local places to take the practical shooting portion. This course is a requirement for buying an actual hunting license which you will need to hunt.
In this course you will learn a lot about what kind of equipment and skills are required to hunt game. It is a great place to start because you will learn more about your state’s laws and specific requirements than you can find on the internet.
Decide how you want to hunt
There are two main groups of hunters.
- Gun hunting – If you already own a gun that is compliant with your states laws you are a leg up. You will need ammunition, practice, a place to hunt, and a hunting license. For an absolute beginner you do not NEED anything fancy. I have seen a multitude of deer killed from sitting on the ground with no tree stand. Guns are also used to hunt everything from ducks to grizzly bears. Hunting is more about learning skills than buying gear.
- Bow hunting – Although it takes a little more practice to become proficient with a bow it is very rewarding. Do your research before deciding. A modern bow is a very effective hunting machine. They kill an animal just as humanely as a gun if you put in the practice. You will also learn more about animals and hunting as a bowhunter because you will have to be closer to the animal before taking a shot. I killed my first deer with a bow at age 13, so if a 13-year-old can do it so can you!
Decide WHAT you want to hunt
There is a huge variety of animals to hunt in every state. From ducks, turkeys, and doves to bigger animals such as whitetail deer, elk, and even bear. Set you goal now for what animal you will begin hunting. By beginning the process of getting your safety course and starting to try different things out you will learn what you prefer. My suggestion is to start with whitetail deer. The whitetail is one of the most commonly hunted and plentiful animals in North America. You will be challenged to try to take one and when successful you will have enough meat from one deer to last months. They also do not require as much knowledge to hunt as other animals.
Mix it up to stay interested
Once you have tried hunting a few different animals you will know what’s the most exciting for you. It’s hard to explain with words in an article, but most people get very passionate about certain types of hunting. After a few seasons you will most likely participate in hunting for the animals you prefer. So in the colder months you may like deer hunting. In the warmer months you may prefer hunting birds. Then when nothing else is in season maybe your state allows hog hunting so you don’t have to take any time off. Decide what animals interest you and research when your state allows those animals to be hunted.
Find a place to hunt
This comes in two forms most of the time
Private land hunting
If you know someone with enough land that will allow you to hunt that is great. If you don’t then there are several private land options available.
- Hunting clubs – Most counties and States are full of hunting clubs. These clubs are just groups of like-minded hunters who lease land from companies in order to hunt it. This works because the land owner makes money on empty land, the roads and trees are taken care of by hunters and it gives hunters a place to enjoy their hobby. By searching online especially social media you will most likely be able to locate a club near you. The only drawback to a hunting club is while some clubs are very affordable, some can be very expensive. So search online for clubs near you and find the right one that fits you budget and personality.
- Anyone willing to allow you to hunt their land – If a person owns enough land to hunt and is willing to allow you to use it this can be a great option. The only down side to this is you will have to put in the time to find someone willing to let you hunt. While some landowners especially farmers or anyone with a garden will sometimes be willing to allow you to hunt there are some who will be strongly opposed to it. By being polite and respectful no matter how the landowner reacts to your request you will always be ahead. After all, it is privately owned land and they are free to do with it as they see fit.
- Guidedhunts – Most states have some type of ranch or fenced area that you can pay to hunt. While I have never used this option I want you to be aware that it’s out there. Just be aware most places will charge you as much to kill one deer on a 3 day hunt as you could pay to join a fine hunting club for a whole year.
Public land hunting
- Public land – States have public land that everyone can enjoy. They also open up hunting seasons on that land to help control the animal numbers so that land can maintain a healthier population. Researching online you will read mixed reviews on public land hunting but I assure you it can be very rewarding. I have written an article on Public land hunting if you’re interested. This option is usually much easier on the wallet than a club but you will not have the comforts and freedoms you have with a club. From state sponsored wildlife management areas to federal game preserves there are multiple opportunities every season for great hunts. All it takes is a little time on Google to plan out a whole year’s worth of hunting.
Start with minimal gear and get to it
This is a very important thing to remember for a newcomer to hunting. Most books, YouTube videos and other articles will try to sell you gear or keep you watching more videos. The VERY BEST WAY to learn is to take only the things you NEED to the woods and just hunt. Once you have been you can see for yourself what things you were lacking and what gear you may want to invest in. Some things I suggest for minimal gear are:
- Bow or gun of choice – Remember don’t get sold on the latest and greatest gear. Your Grandfather’s old 12 gauge shotgun will do just as well as a brand new Benelli. In the same way a used bow from a pawn shop will kill a deer just as easily as a brand new Hoyt. Before investing your hard-earned money give hunting a try to make sure you enjoy it.
- Ammunition or arrows – You will learn in hunter safety what type of bullets are legal in your State, be sure to buy ammo before hunting season as it usually sells out quickly and practice. For arrows anything that is made for your bows draw weight will work. I recommend reading my article on rage broadheads also as a good broadhead is a must for a bowhunter.
- Bug repellant – If hunting in a cold environment this won’t be necessary. Having something to keep you mosquito-free will make the difference between having an enjoyable hunt and being miserable.
- Clothes for the weather – Again, don’t spend a fortune on camouflage before ever stepping foot in the woods. Dress warmer than you need in layers so you can remove clothes as needed. If you dress to light on a cold day you will be miserable and not have as good of an experience. Also realize that camo from your local box store works just as well as high dollar custom camo from big name brands. Also read THIS article I wrote on being prepared for the rainy days you will be thankful you did.
As far as gear is concerned this is really all you need. Just remember not to get sucked into being a year-long researcher. Instead of watching every hunting video you can find online just learn the very basics and get out there.
Soak up hunting knowledge
Once you have taken the first few steps and begin hunting you will run into others who love hunting as much as I do. Just like with any hobby there are many people who will be willing to give you tips and help guide you along. Soak up their knowledge and experience as you continue to grow as a hunter. Remember, everyone started somewhere. If you’re just getting started every other hunter has been where you are once. I’ve met multiple life-long friends through hunting as it’s a hobby that brings people together on a primal level. Scour the internet for hunting forums for scouting, tracking, calling and general hunting tips. The hardest part is getting started, once you’re hunting the fun part is becoming proficient.
While it is incredibly important to practice in the sense of shooting your gun or bow to become accurate I mean this on a different level. Just as a working Doctor is called a practicing Doctor. No one has MASTERED hunting. The longer you hunt the more you will learn and grow. No one is born knowing the perfect hunting spot, or the best way to call in a coyote. These skills are learned over time. Always continue to improve your skills by “practicing continually”. This means trying new things for yourself. Reading online the best way to control your scent when hunting will only go so far. By trying it for yourself you will begin learning what works and what is just hype or someone trying to sell you their product.
Use the internet
Once you’ve spent some time in the woods and know what type of hunting you prefer its time to learn everything you can. With the internet available to everyone there are an infinite number of resources available. From learning how to hunt predators to mastering bird hunting it’s all there. You’re luckier than previous generations in that you can draw on the knowledge of people who have hunted their whole life. Use this to your advantage. By continually challenging yourself hunting new species or using new techniques you will have a lifetime full of adventure, guaranteed.
Shadow other hunters
Undoubtedly you will meet someone else who hunts once you start. By hunting alongside someone else you will learn hands on. Sometimes this can be more eye-opening than just researching online because you can see the minor details. Things like how they move through the woods, what are they looking for and paying attention to, and what gear do they take along can all be useful. There’s an unmeasurable amount of tips that can be learned just by going hunting one day with someone more experienced.
ask someone to take you hunting
Find someone who hunts the same species and ask to join them. Most hunters will happily bring you along and you will have a free lesson. Make sure you ask them where you are going and what you should bring along. Show up prepared and you won’t spoil their hunt. This is one of the fastest ways to learn the skills necessary to be successful.
Study your prey
Don’t forget to learn as much as you can about the animal you’re after. Learn what type of food they prefer and what type of feeding cycle they typically have. Learn when it is legal to hunt them, when they reproduce, what type of habitat they prefer and what to do after you harvest one. Finding out all the essentials to the species you’re hunting will not just give you more success. It will give you greater respect and knowledge on the animal and allow you to understand what they are motivated by. Learning as much as possible about your prey will make you a better hunter.
Some tips for new hunters
Hunt where your preferred species is abundant
This is why most new hunters become frustrated. Say you’re a deer hunter. You have a choice to hunt a small 100 acre farm with great deer sign. There is a great food source, deer trails running all over the property, and the evidence is pointing to it being plentiful with deer. You also have a choice to hunt a 100,000 acre tract of land that is “known or rumored” to have great deer and isn’t pressured as much by hunters because of the huge amount of land.
Hunt the 100 acre farm! You will have an easier time scouting and be more successful because you are hunting where you KNOW there is deer. The same concept goes with hunting birds or any other animal.
Remember that safety is key. When dealing with firearms or elevated in a tree stand with sharp arrows mistakes can be costly. Ere on the side of caution especially as a beginner and take the time to do things safely.
Don’t believe that gear is better than knowledge
While buying the coolest new outdoor gear is exciting it will not make you any more successful. Quality equipment is important but just get gear that works. A reliable gun or an accurate bow is all you really need. If you don’t have money to buy the fanciest new tree stand or duck blind don’t be discouraged. Get things that are reliable, that will last, and that will make you more comfortable. This mindset will save you money and time in the long run and you will be thankful for it.
Be prepared for the unexpected emergency
This means have a plan for things that are not normal in today’s society. Most of us now days have it made compared to our ancestors. We aren’t accustomed to being alone in the woods. Being prepared for things like a snowstorm rolling in unexpectedly can actually save your life. Take the time to prepare for things like snake bites, animal attacks, inclement weather and even your vehicle breaking down. Once you get into the woods you will sometimes not have cell phone service. Having things as simple as a good supply of water, some snacks and a way to light a fire will go a long way. Also be sure to let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back in case you run into problems.
Know who to call
In every county there is a butcher, a taxidermist, a dog hunter, and a game warden. You should know how to contact all four. When you harvest a deer you will take him to the butcher if you haven’t started doing it yourself. When you get a trophy buck you will want him mounted by the taxidermist. The dog hunter can help you track a wounded deer. One day you will witness some illegal activity and you will need the game warden’s number. Know how to reach all four of these and you will be prepared for anything.
Things for new hunters to avoid
Don’t be pressured to trophy hunt
While big antlers are a bonus, you will have more fun challenging yourself to go after mature animals who you hunt fairly. Don’t think that because Ted Nugent is on TV with a 12 point buck that you can only kill a 12 point. Just remember that as long as you’re having fun and hunting ethically you should be proud of every animal you harvest. Otherwise, you are doing a disservice to the animal. You should be just as proud of a doe as you are a trophy buck.
Don’t break the law
Sooner or later you will get caught. By avoiding unethical hunters you will stay away from bad influences. While illegal baiting can bring in more animals just remember it’s illegal for a reason. Always follow your states hunting regulations and you will be more proud of the animals you do harvest.
Don’t over spend on the unnecessary
This is not the first time I’ve mentioned this in this article. I see it over and over with hunters who buy the latest piece of gear only to be unhappy with it and buy something else. This can be avoided by following the steps I’ve laid out. learning for yourself is sometimes the only way however.
One last tip
When starting out saving money is absolutely critical. The cheapest place to find hunting gear like camo, tree stands, boots, and almost every other accessory for hunting is through this link.