Beginners Guide to Hunting

So you’re interested in hunting but you’ve never done it and you don’t know where to start. Well for starters “Welcome” and relax it is not as daunting as you may think. This article is going to lay out some of the basics and make it easy and fun.

Best place to start is with your state Department of Fish and Game. The name of this department varies from state to state but a quick search of your state government website should lead you right to the correct agency or department. Most states have copies of their regulations available online or for free at your local Wal-Mart.

Don’t panic yet, you don’t have to read the whole regulation all at once, this is just to let you know what type of hunting is available in your area and so you have access to the regulations to look up answers to your questions as you go along. A quick glance through the information is all you need to get you started. What you want to look for is the type of game that is available, when the seasons are and what weapons are allowed for the game you choose.

You don’t want to spend money on a great Elk hunting rifle then find out there are no Elk or no rifle seasons for Elk in your state. Most, if not all, states have some sort of Deer seasons, but not all states have rifle seasons for Deer.

At this point we have the state hunting regulations, we know what type game is available to hunt and what type of weapons we can use. See how easy that was. You’re well on your way already.

Now that you know what game is available, what method of take is available, and when the season is, you want to look into where the seasons are open. Check the regulation to see if the season is on public or private land. If it is public you’re done for now but if it is private you will need to find contact information for the owners of the land to see what is required to hunt the land. Sometimes you just need written permission and other times they require you to pay a fee. Personally I would plan on public land whenever possible.

Next it’s on to the weapon. Let’s say you found a rifle season for Whitetail Deer in your area but with little experience the “Caliber” is a little confusing. In a nutshell caliber is the inside diameter of the barrel. Just to get you started think of caliber in relation to the game. The bigger the caliber, the bigger game it is designed for. Imagine a .22 caliber for rabbits and a .338 for Moose. Somewhere in between there is the Whitetail deer and somewhere in the middle of that caliber range is the .270. Of course this is an extreme over simplification but it will get you started. What this means in short is that a hunting rifle with a caliber in the .270 range should be well suited for your Whitetail deer. There are of course a number of other calibers that would also do well but this article is just to get you started. This aspect is not as difficult as you might think and you will find yourself picking up information almost by accident as you start looking around. When you get to the actual purchase, whether you buy online or at a local retailer, take a little time to get to know the people you are dealing with. This will become important as your hunting involvement increases. You will likely be continuing to do business, buying ammunition, additional hunting rifles, and other hunting gear and you don’t want to have to dread going back to shop at a place where you don’t get quality service or you don’t trust the staff to be as knowledgeable as you would like. Don’t be shy about sending emails to online dealers to see what kind of service you get in the form of a response. Whether you stop into a local retailer or email an online shop you should expect professional and courteous responses to your questions.

Now that you know what you’re going to hunt, where you’re going to hunt, and what you’re going to hunt with, you want to look at where you are going to practice. Again if you live in a state with available public land you probably have already seen areas where others have been practicing. If you live in an area without public land access a quick internet search will provide you with information on local private ranges. I recommend you go to these ranges and find one where you are comfortable with both the facilities and the staff. Most private ranges will have instructors and a variety of other amenities. Since you are just starting out becoming a member of a range can be a great way to learn a ton of information from the staff and other members. Don’t be shy about admitting you are new to the sport and you will find other shooters who are usually eager to help and chat with new comers. Any information you pick up at the range you can verify and research on your own with simple internet surfing local hunting regulations. The main thing to learn in this stage is that your goal is to become proficient with your weapon so you can start harvesting the game of your choice. One caveat, this part can be so much fun you may be tempted to forget hunting and enjoy the fun of shooting at the range, you can make that decision when you get there but for this article we’ll assume you have become proficient and are still motivated to pursue hunting.

You’ll want to keep up with shooting at the range but now you need to add another skill to your resume. Hunting! This is where you do your research on the particular game you want to hunt. You will want to get all the information you can on the area you will be hunting, maps, Google earth views, and as many times hiking and driving through the area as you can get. Study the habits and particularly the identification of the game you’re after. Find out what that species likes to eat, when they eat, how they behave when spooked, do their habits change depending on weather or phase of the moon, and compare that information to your study of the hunting area. Can you find an area full of their favorite foods, are there signs like tracks or droppings in the area and what other signs are there.

Congratulations, you are already on the hunt because this is part of it. Get to know the quarry, the habitat, and even the competition. Though you may be the only human around quite often you are not the only hunter in the territory. You need to be aware of this and be prepared in case you cross paths on your hunts. More often than not other hunting species will turn and run at the first sign of humans, usually before you even know they are there, so it is not so much that you may be in danger from the other hunters but more that it will benefit you as a hunter. For example if you go to where you plan to hunt and stumble on wolf tracks and a fresh kill it may be a good sign that your quarry has been run from the area and you need to adapt your plan. If you have studied the habits of the game and you are familiar with how they react when hunted by predators, and you have studied the area and are familiar with where chased quarry might hold up or hide, you are already a step ahead on adapting your hunt.

Make sure you plan ahead for your actual hunt. You have learned the area, the game, the competition, and have become proficient with your hunting rifle and familiar with the rest of your hunting gear. You don’t want to go through all that and wind up in the woods with a hundred and fifty pounds of delicious meat on the ground and no knife in your pack and no way to get that meat back to camp. When you are planning for the hunt think about the details, how long will you be there, what will the weather be like, how many people will be with you, where will you sleep, cook, eat, do you have your license, do you have the correct tag, etc… The more of these questions you ask yourself before your trip the more prepared you will be when you start putting together your supplies. In my experience something is always forgotten or left behind, having a big smile and the ability to laugh at yourself will help you to be prepared for that too.

Prudence (and maybe confidence) also demands that you are prepared for harvesting your game. Do a little research on the internet, with friends you have met along the way and even your local library. Watch videos and read articles on how to field dress and pack your game. Are you going to take your game to a butcher or do it yourself? In the beginning you’ll probably want to focus on the basics and not get too caught up in the fancy or elaborate processes that other hunters have come up with over the years, start with the basics and build from there. Field dressing is not difficult but can seem that way on your first attempt. You might get a little messy, and make a few mistakes on your first go but that just adds to the stories you’ll have for next years campfires. If you are doing the butchering yourself make sure you have a cool place to store the meat until you can do the cut and wrap process. If you are going to take it to a butcher have the address on hand and their hours, including an after hours phone number so you can quickly get the meat to an appropriate storage facility.

Most importantly remember it is called hunting, not shooting, not killing, “Hunting”. You want to enjoy the hunt, finding your quarry, stalking the quarry, becoming proficient with your hunting rifle and knowledgeable about your quarry, spending time in the great outdoors, and spending time with your friends and family. The more prepared you are the more enjoyable it will be, and success will not be defined solely by whether or not you fill a tag.


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