Hunting is an ancient practice that was once necessary to support a family or village. It was often a do-or-die affair. While the stakes and reasons for hunting may have changed, the basic principles remain the same.
A good hunt can provide a combination of meditation, sustenance and excitement. It does all this in a setting that allows you to uniquely bond with your hunting mates. But what if you’ve never been hunting before?
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re thinking of starting your hunting career, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Make Sure You’re Legal
Nothing would ruin your first hunt like being taken in by the authorities for hunting without a license. Similarly, you can also face legal repercussions for not having the proper tags for the animal you’re after.
Feel secure in your hunt by doing your homework beforehand.
When you decide to go hunting, the first thing you should do is research the legal regulations for the game and area. Many laws are similar from state to state, but it’s not safe to assume things will be identical.
Make time and do your homework before hunting in a new region. For good measure, consult some hunters who’ve been there in person or use online resources to get more information.
2. Understand Your Hunt
Now that you know how to hunt responsibly, it’s time to learn how to hunt successfully. Learn the seasonal behaviors of the particular animal you’re seeking. Find out how to mask your scent or apply scents that will attract game.
Learn what time of day animals are most active, what time of year is best for hunting and which feeding behaviors you can take advantage of to attract or locate animals.
Consider how you will dress. Find gear that matches your body well — you’re going to be in it for quite some time.
Getting the right clothing will keep you comfortable and well-hidden, both critical components to feeling confident and having a good hunt. If you’re going to wear a coat, make sure it’s practical. If you’re going to wear a hat, make sure it fits well on your head.
Your most significant advantage over your target is your big brain. Don’t go out there expecting to trip over a trophy buck — it won’t happen. When it comes to instincts, your target will outstrip you every time. Plan accordingly.
3. Learn From Others’ Mistakes
Prepping is valuable, but no one wants to read a textbook on how to hunt. Luckily, the internet provides. Great resources are out there in the form of message boards and even videos.
The legendary Joe Rogan himself has been known to share some of his bowhunting exploits on YouTube. Even if you don’t look up to Joe, he knows enough to hunt amongst capable company.
They still make mistakes, which means you can learn from them without ever leaving the comfort of your bedroom.
4. Get Some Target Practice In
Perfect practice makes perfect play. Target practice is essential before any hunt. Make sure you’re using as close to the same weaponry as you will in the field. There’s really no way to overdo it at the range.
Of course, your practice style will vary depending on the game you’re hunting and your weapon of choice.
5. Test Your Gear Before the Big Hunt
No one wants to pack things up and head home early when they find out they can’t use their water filter or set up their tent.
Failing to understand how your equipment works is a rookie mistake that you don’t want on your resumé. To avoid it, plan some time at home to test your equipment.
Getting your gear out can be fun. Particularly when planning a multi-day trip, go through the motions of setting up your shelter beforehand, so you have a good idea of how to do it.
You might have to do it in the dark or in inclement weather. Likewise, be sure you understand how to use any cooking equipment, foul-weather gear or other technical goodies like decoys or binoculars.
6. Bring an Experienced Hunter
If it’s confidence you seek, few things will help like bringing an expert hunter along. Going out alone for a first-time hunt is ill-advised and dangerous.
Find a hunting companion, ideally someone who has made the hunt you’re planning to go on before, and ask them to accompany you.
Just be sure it’s someone you can stand to be alone with for a prolonged period. You’re going to get to know this person well while on the trip. And remember, it works both ways.
Don’t drive your would-be mentor up a wall if you want to keep learning their best secrets.
7. Go Hunting as Much as Possible
Even if your first hunt isn’t the life-changing experience you hope it will be, it can be a good contribution to a successful hunting career. Ultimately, the only way to become a competent hunter is to get out more.
Yes, there are some things great hunters do universally, but every outdoor enthusiast usually has a few novelty practices, too. Those will become your calling cards as you continue hunting.
If you stay with it, one day you just might be that master hunter showing a newbie the ropes. They could be a friend or even your child.
Sound like something you could take pride in? If it does, start things off right and follow the tips above. And make sure to get the right supplies for the job.
Best of luck out there!
How was your first hunt? Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below!