Here are 5 simple hunting tips for the self-taught or beginning hunter.
Hunting is an area with a long history and many traditions for some families. For those fortunate enough to grow up in a hunting family or community many life lessons, best practices, and fond memories were gathered over years of learning the craft. Young boys and girls have watched their fathers, grandfathers, and other family members with wide eyes for centuries as they pursued game or shared stories.
On the best mornings, they'd even sometimes ask the little ones to come along. Covered in layers of over sized camouflage clothing and making very clear that silence is of critical importance, this is where the addiction began for many of our readers. For those of us that were not able to enjoy hunting in our youth, however, or those who have only recently become interested in the sport, here's a helpful list of simple tips every beginning hunter should consider before entering the woods.
1. Research gear before buying
Choosing proper gear is of critical importance for beginning hunters. It may make the difference between getting some early wins or starting off with a string of disappointments ultimately resulting in this new hunter giving up on what many consider one of the most rewarding past times our freedoms allow. However, that all said, for beginning hunters, this does not mean dropping thousands of dollars on top of the line gear and equipment right out of the gate. When it comes time to add a piece of equipment to your closet, always start with a little research. There are resources all over the web that will help narrow the selection for beginning hunters. When considering a new bow or gun, after narrowing the results during your research, go to a local shop and do some test shooting . Any good local shop will have trained staff with years of experience that can help put you into a great set up. This also includes ammunition. Not all ammo will perform equally or produce the exact same results, even being shot from the same gun.
As for clothing, concealment and comfort should the two primary criteria used when considering new gear for beginners. Finding something that is inexpensive is ideal; however, you must consider the conditions you'll be hunting in and plan accordingly. If you're hunting in the north country in December, don't skimp on warmth and insulation. If you're planning to hunt only in mild conditions, you can likely get away with a lower quality product, at least for some time.
As a self-taught hunter, on my first deer and elk hunts I used clothing from the local hardware store and hunted almost solely when the conditions were ideal. The low cost of the gear had zero impact on my ability to stay comfortable and concealed and they certainly didn't prevent me from learning many valuable lessons for future hunts, not to mention harvest a few nice animals. One simple tip in regards to gear and clothing is to shop immediately after the hunting season ends to take advantage of discounted prices on higher quality gear as you wish to upgrade in preparation future hunts.
2. Practice realistic situations
This is of critical importance. Most hunters can recall the first few times they saw a large buck or bull heading their direction. No practice situation can fully prepare beginning hunters for the emotional and physical effects of drawing back on that first buck or looking down the scope at a wall-worthy bull. It's of vital importance, then, to practice shooting in scenarios that are as close to real hunt conditions as possible. This will also help you familiarize yourself with your equipment at a deeper level. More importantly, it will help you understand yourself and your personal tendencies in higher stakes situations.
One common technique employed by some hunters is to raise their heart rate before practice shooting. To do this, run on a sprint to your target and back to your shooting station. Do this as many times as you need to raise your heart rate from a calm, resting state to a more intense pace. As quickly and safely as possible, shoot a small group of arrows or practice rifle shots. Repeating this process will not only simulate a heightened sense of adrenaline that hunters often experience when seeing big game, but it will also help you control your breathing.
You could also consider doing some small game shooting before your hunt. Practicing on squirrels, rabbits, and other varmints might not seem all that valuable when preparing for a big game hunt, but like big game hunting it also requires stealth and control while providing an unpredictable target. Practicing on life-size 3D targets can also dramatically improve a beginning hunter's success rate.
3. Focus on one species first
No one becomes an expert over night. If you're new to hunting, pick the primary species you'll be after early on and forget about the others, at least at first. Focusing in on one specific species allows to you learn the laws of nature while perfecting the art of pursuing one game at a time. It also allows to you slowly build that inventory of gear and skills we mentioned earlier.
4. Be honest about your inexperience
There isn't one hunter on the planet that was born with the knowledge and skill set needed to consistently, successfully harvest game. Even born into a great family heritage of hunting, all of us started of in the same place, with little or no hunting experience. That said, being honest with yourself and others can have a tremendous impact on how quickly you'll pick things up as you continue your journey into the hunting world.
Pretending you know a thing or two just because you spent 20 minutes on the internet watching online videos is just plain silly. Besides, you'll end up being much more transparent than you hope when out at the range or down at the local shop. Be honest with yourself and others, and you'll quickly have folks willing to jump in and help get you started or answer questions. Having an ego will quickly result in the opposite.
5. Get a mentor
Probably the simplest, but most important thing a young hunter can do is find a mentor. Find someone who can help you learn the skills and the sport and you'll be on the fast track to success. An experienced mentor can help you learn the rules and regulations, get you familiar with gear, explain what products are hype and what others are worth the money.
They can also introduce you to the local hunting community at shooting clubs, provide tips on public areas for hunting or make connections for you with land owners. Find a quality mentor and mimic them as much as possible. Ask if they'll allow you to shadow them on one of their hunts. Learn their behavior and ask them as many questions as you can. And for Heaven's sake, make sure they show you how to field dress that animal so you're prepared when the time comes.