If you’re wondering how to start hunting yourself, or researching for your child or other person in your life, this is the only hunting for beginners checklist you need. Important step #1: do not rush out and buy a hunting rifle! Ok, I’ll get off the tree stand. 🙂 Here’s what else you need to know to get into hunting.
If you are a beginner at hunting, how do you start? There are several steps you can take to get started hunting, at any age and in any state:
- Enroll in your state’s approved hunter’s safety education course.
- Find hunting mentors, whether family, friends or organized mentoring programs.
- “Shadow” hunt with a mentor before you carry a gun or bow to learn what hunting is like.
- Participate in local hunting and related conservation group events.
- Read hunting books and watch hunting videos.
- Off-season, explore areas you may want to hunt.
- Practice shooting at a designated firing range.
- Focus on the experience, not just the kill.
Getting started in hunting can be daunting. Hunting is a lifetime sport. Start slow and focus on a few skills and experiences. Hunting is not just about killing a wild animal – it’s about the experiences you have in nature and getting in tune with animal habitats and behaviors.
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How to Start Hunting as a Kid
Starting hunting as a kid is a great way to get into hunting. You can gain hunting skills at an early age, develop a lifelong conservation ethic, and build lasting memories of time with your hunting partners.
Start with learning about what kinds of hunting you might want to do. Upland birds and small game, waterfowl and ‘big game’ are all opportunities for you to start with.
Get connected with a hunting mentor, whether a family member, friend or other trusted adult. Your hunting mentor should be capable of teaching and reinforcing safety practices, hunting ethics and giving you practical tips for successful hunts.
Enroll in your state’s hunter education course, which will introduce you to safety skills, including gun safety and survival skills.
Your next step is to get out on a hunt with your mentor, either in-season on an actual hunt, or off-season exploring habitats and scouting for animals. Observe the actions and behavior of your mentor. Notice how they move about and how they act while searching for animals.
How to Start Hunting as an Adult
An easy way to start hunting is to simply go out and shadow another hunter. You won’t carry or fire a weapon, but you will learn what it is all about, how to take care of yourself outdoors, and what skills you are going to need to learn for your first hunt.
Your next step is to take a hunter’s safety course – usually a mix of online lessons and quizzes, with some in-person training and a final test. Once you have your hunter’s safety card, you can then get a hunting licence or enter a ‘draw’ for limited big game tags.
Read books and articles about different kinds of hunting. Video streaming services also have hunting shows and videos, where you can learn tips and techniques while getting inspired to go out on your own hunts.
Multi-day private hunting courses are a great way for you to quickly develop an abundance of hunting skills in just a short time. These courses provide an immersive experience covering the entire process of hunting. Instructors will share with you the process of planning and preparation, navigating in the field, stalking or calling in animals, and field dressing and processing the meat.
Finding a hunting mentor is helpful to getting started. Your mentor can show you what kinds of equipment they use for certain species, when and where to hunt, and strategies on how to have a successful hunting experience. Your mentor is also the ideal person to take you out to go hunting for the first time.
How to Go Hunting for the First Time
Here is a quick checklist to help you prepare to go hunting for the first time:
- Plan your hunt. Study maps and get as much information as you can about the area.
- If you will carry a gun or bow, practice shooting it at a designated range. Practice caring for and maintaining your firearm or bow as well.
- The better physical condition you are in, the more you will enjoy your hunting experience. Do a little training before you go on any hunts that require any hiking.
- Wear at least the minimum required orange ‘blaze’ clothing. This varies by the type of hunt; 500 square inches of solid blaze orange material above the waste is generally enough.
- Prepare your gear and practice packing your pack. You don’t need fancy gear from the big outdoor stores. Focus on the essentials: water, food, rain gear, wool and other non-cotton layers. Don’t forget game bags for bringing home some meat!
- Check the weather report. Prepare for all weather types.
- Let a friend know where you are going and when you expect to return. Make a plan to check in with them at that time.
- Observe and practice all the hunter’s safety skills you have learned.
When hunting for the first time, decide on what will feel successful. Maybe it’s seeing signs of your target game. Do you see their tracks, markings or scat? Visual sightings of any animal counts as success with most hunters, especially if it is your target species.
When hunting for your first time, focus on what kind of experience you have, and what you notice about nature, the animals and yourself. If you enjoy the experience, you will be sure to go out again and again, increasing your chances of a successful harvest.