Do you want to get into hunting but aren’t sure where to start?
Have you been reading about hunting but feeling overwhelmed with all the information?
If so you are in the right place.
I am going to outline the steps I would take if I were just beginning to hunt for the first time. The suggestions are meant to be a little general so they can be applied to any type of game.
Don’t be intimidated. Although it might not feel like it, it is possible to learn how to hunt as an adult.
I want to break it down into actionable steps. We all know how easy it can be to get stuck in a rut when wanting to try something new but never take action.
The secret to becoming a proficient hunter quickly can be boiled down to the following 7 steps.
If you have a little more time, checkout my article on how to get into hunting which goes into every possible detail you need to know when first starting.
This is going to assume you do not have access to private land or friends that have a lot of experience hunting.
This is VERY important. You must know how to safely handle a firearm before even thinking about hunting with one.
Taking a hunter safety class should give you enough information to get started. There are many important lessons you will learn in this class but here are a few that are especially important.
- Always treat your firearm as if it is loaded. Never point it at anything you do not intend to shoot.
- Never put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to fire. DO NOT rely on your guns safety to keep it from going off.
- Before shooting, always consider what is behind your target.
- Always keep your firearm unloaded when you are not using it.
Find a local gun range and spend time practicing with your firearm. Do some searching online and you might be able to find a forum dedicated to the region you want to start hunting in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you plan to hunt with a rifle and you do not have much shooting experience, consider buying a .22. The ammo is much cheaper to shoot and much less intimidating for someone just starting out. Shooting the .22 will help you learn and practice the fundamentals of safe gun handling. Ruger 10/22. Even a pellet gun.
If you plan to hunt small game or waterfowl then a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun is a good choice. Rabbits, turkey, squirrel, grouse, duck, pigeon, pheasant, etc. Some states even allow hunting deer with a shotgun. Make a model suggestion Remington 870.
Buy the Correct License and Tags
Make sure you understand all laws associated with the type of game you want to hunt. Pick up a copy of your state’s hunting regulations and make sure you don’t end up breaking the law.
Although you can hunt multiple species of game, stick with one to start. You already have a lot to learn, why make it harder on yourself.
Small game are easier to start with. Much less intimidating to field dress and process small animals than it is to field dress a deer. All of these are fairly easy to handle and don’t take up a ton of room in the freezer.
Find a Place to Hunt
If you are new to hunting there is a good chance this means you don’t have access to private land. Your best bet is to locate public land that has the game you want to hunt.
Do some searching online to find a map of the public hunting land in your state.
Write down all of the locations near you that you are interested in. Now look up each of those locations and take notes on the specifics of each. Some locations are going to have special regulations and may only be open certain times of the year.
If it turns out to be somewhere you want to pursue further, see if you can get a more detailed map of the area. Look at the map ahead of time and get a feel for the land so you know where you are going instead of trying to figure it out on the fly.
Only Buy the Gear You Need
Acquire the gear needed to hunt. I recommend starting with just the bare essentials. What gear is going to suit you best is so dependent on the game you are hunting, the location etc. It is best to acquire gear slowly when you are just getting started.
Checkout this hunting checklist for suggestions.
Learn How to Field Dress
Watch a few videos on field dressing the type of game you are hunting. YouTube is great for this. Here are a few good example videos:
Spend some time thinking about and planning what you are going to do in the event that you have a successful hunt.
Watch everything Steve Rinella produces. Start with MeatEater and his YouTube channel. He produces tons of amazing content and it is very welcoming to those with little experience hunting.
If you are lucky enough to be successful and are interested in making something like a European mount, checkout my article on bleaching skulls.
Get Out There and Hunt!!!
This is what you have been preparing for. Don’t expect immediate success. Commit to spending a lot of time in the field. You will learn a lot by spending some time in the woods and just sitting still for extended periods of time. When your starting out, pick a spot that has a lot of visibility but also keeps you and your silhouette concealed.
If you are hunting public land you may run across other hunters. You may be worried about disturbing others etc. A good rule of thumb is to think, “how would I like that guy to treat me/respect my hunt?” Following this should give you a good place to start.
6 Quick Tips for Beginning Deer Hunters
This is one I see new hunters mess up all the time. You have to remember that most animals survive on their ability to hear well in their environment. They have evolved to do this.
Don’t think they can’t hear you. Get into position early and sit still. Try to walk on damp or soft ground when traveling.
In addition to having much better hearing than humans, most game are on the lookout for unusual scents.
Picture this, if a squirrel started living in your house don’t you think it might noticed when it starts to smell different?
Don’t worry about fancy scent blocks for now, start by:
- Not wearing strong smelling deodorant, cologne, etc.
- Wearing clean clothing. You don’t want to smell like your dog or cat.
This really depends on the type of game you are hunting but make sure you dress appropriately. You don’t want to spoil your chances because you can be spotted from a mile away.
Make sure you do some research on the type of camo and cover necessary to stay concealed from your game of choice.
START EARLIER, LEAVE LATER
Despite many great hunters echoing this one, many hunters do not get out there earlier enough or stay late enough. Whether they are hungover from the night before or anxious to get back to the cabin and sit in front of a fire, this is an area where you can get an advantage over more experienced hunters.
Trust me, nothing is more frustrating to come across a fresh gut pile in the morning and realizing someone beat you to that kill.
OFF SEASON SCOUTING
Do you take off on vacation without looking at a map on your phone or computer?
Then why would you expect to have success hiking out into the woods without knowing where you are going?
The more time you can spend learning the area, the better you chances of success. You want to try to have some idea of:
- Feeding areas
- Water sources
- Animal sign and travel paths
- Bedding areas
- Routes to and from the area
- Typical wind behavior
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
A successful hunt starts off with a plan. You should only bring the gear that you need. You don’t want to be carting around more gear than you need.
Study your map ahead of time. Plot your route, where you are going to stop, eat, turn around, etc. While you are hunting, you want to be focused, not trying to figure out where you are or where to go next.
Hunt as Much as Possible
Keep at it.
Whether you have success or not, think about what you tried when hunting.
Did you sit and still hunt? Are you wearing the appropriate camo?
Read a few good books on hunting the type of game you are after. You can greatly speed up your learning process by reading about the experiences of others.
Be safe, get out there and hunt. Simply spending time outdoors can be extremely rewarding. Hopefully you will have some success along the way.