Hunting Tips for Beginners

If you’ve been thinking that you’d like to take up hunting as a recreational activity or food source, you might be wondering where to begin.  While the thought of spending more time in the great outdoors and experiencing the thrill of your first kill can definitely be exciting and inspiring, you would do yourself a disservice to think that it’s as easy as buying a gun and heading out.  Taking the time to understand some basic hunter safety rules as well as any licensing requirements in addition to knowing when and what you can hunt can help make this a lifelong pursuit rather than a short-lived hobby.

Educate yourself

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Look around for hunter safety courses.  There are online courses, but these should be starting points–a way to familiarize yourself with jargon and other basics.  A locally-hosted program is a must for the beginner.  In addition to basic safety precautions, you’ll learn what licenses or certifications you’ll need.  Most courses also include a shooting portion.  This type of environment, attended by other folks new to hunting and led by qualified and experienced instructors, is your best bet for an introduction to hunting.  An experienced instructor can also recommend the best type of gun and ammo for specific prey.

In many places, a licensed hunter may be accompanied by a non-licensed person.  While you won’t be legally permitted to hunt, it can be a great way to get a feel for the area and the process.  Finding a mentor or otherwise befriending experienced hunters is a fantastic way to learn the tips and tricks that only experience can teach.

You also need to learn about your area’s various hunting seasons.  Killing an animal out of season can result in license revocation or hefty fines.

Arm yourself

A woman looks over the "Wall of Guns" raffle case during the 144th National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Top Republican contenders for their party's 2016 presidential nomination are lining up to speak at the annual NRA event, except New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who were snubbed by the country's largest and most powerful gun lobby. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Once you’ve decided to become a hunter, you’ll probably want to run out and buy your own gun as soon as possible.  Unless you’ve got enough gun experience to know what works best for you, don’t make your purchase too quickly.  Having friends who hunt and are willing to let you borrow their guns for shooting practice is an excellent way to get a feel for different types of rifles.  Additionally, some shooting ranges provide guns for use on site.  If there’s absolutely no way for you to practice with different models before you buy, doing some online research about various models (how they perform, what they weigh, etc.) can make visiting the sporting goods store a little less intimidating.  Arming yourself with whatever knowledge and practical experience you can may help keep you from being the target of an aggressive salesperson.

Prepare yourself

If you’ve decided that you want to try bagging your first buck on the first day of deer hunting season, don’t wait until then to explore your hunting ground.  Your first hunt is sure to bring excitement, but it can also produce nervousness.  Spending time getting to know the area you’ll be hunting can help with the nerves, especially if you’re not accustomed to that environment.  Familiarizing yourself with the sounds and smells of the trees and other foliage and scouting out possible footpaths or perches can help keep your first hunt from turning into a nightmare of a trip because you weren’t prepared for the dense foliage, got lost when you wandered off a path, or spent too much time trying to find a good vantage point.  You also might consider making your first target something smaller than a deer.  Small game can be a better choice for new hunters because smaller animals are usually more plentiful and less challenging than bigger game.  Early success can increase your confidence moving forward.

Don’t go nuts buying everything in the store that’s aimed at outfitting hunters.  Again, talking to experienced hunters or doing a little online research can make sure you buy what you need without spending a ton of money on stuff you don’t.

Enjoy yourself

If you take the necessary steps to prepare yourself for hunting, you may find that it provides a great recreational outlet and a means of providing food for your family.  Jumping into it blindly can be disappointing at best, disastrous at worst.