By Prois Staffer Andrea Haas
So you think you would like to get into hunting but don’t know where to start? Whether hunting is completely new to you or you grew up in a family of hunters, knowing how to begin can seem a little overwhelming at first. The good news is there are plenty of people and resources out there that can help you if you are willing to do a little research and put in some work.
Getting Started – Hunter’s Safety Course
Getting the right introduction to hunting is important. A good way to start is by finding your state’s wildlife agency and finding a hunter’s safety course. Here is a great online resource from The National Shooting Sports Foundation with hunting information for each state. You can find your state, get direct links to your state’s Conservation Department, hunting regulations and more. You can also take the test online through Hunter-Ed.
Next Step – Apprentice Hunter Program
Even if you do pass your hunter’s safety course, become certified and buy your hunting license, it’s still a good idea to go hunting with someone else first. If you choose not to go through a hunter-ed course until you are positive that hunting is for you, most states offer an “Apprentice Hunter Program”. This means you can purchase a hunting permit and legally harvest an animal in the presence of someone who is hunter-ed certified. For example, I live in Missouri. Missouri allows you to do this for 2 years. After 2 years you must become hunter-ed certified in order to continue hunting & harvesting animals.
Most people begin by hunting with a firearm. While I encourage everyone to take up bow hunting, it’s not something that I recommend doing the first year you hunt. Before you handle a gun, make sure you are familiar with the NRA gun safety rules. Even if you’ve been hunting for years, it’s still a good idea to review these rules from time to time. Another great resource for all things women hunters/shooters is the NRA Women’s Network! They have weekly episodes that are fun & informative:
Practice With Purpose
To me, this is one of the most important steps to take in becoming a hunter. You must take into consideration that you are shooting a live animal. Strive to make the best, most ethical shot possible so the animal does not suffer long and so you can save as much of the meat as possible. With that being said, find a place where you can shoot, get out there and start practicing! We have about 200 acres of private land outside of the city limits where we can practice shooting. Private land is not available to everyone though, so if not try finding a gun range near you. Here is another great resource from the National Shooting Sports Foundation to help you find shooting ranges in your area.
Choosing Your Gun & Ammo
It’s not necessary at first to rush out & buy your own gun. When I first started hunting, I borrowed a family member’s rifle, practiced and hunted with that. Making sure you select the right gun is more important. Make sure you are comfortable with the gun and select the right type of gun & ammo for the game that you wish to hunt. The “Love at First Shot” episodes at NRA Women’s Network are an excellent resource on how to choose a rifle & the proper ammo:
Study Up – Learn About the Animals
Learn as much as you can about the animals you want to hunt. Study about their feeding habits, their senses (sight, smell, etc), and breeding seasons so you can be as prepared as possible for your first hunt. There are multiple organizations out there that have endless information about game animals and their behaviors such as the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Deer and Deer Hunting, Mule Deer Foundation and many many more.
Learn The Area / Pattern the Animals
If you’re able to, get out and scout the area you plan to be hunting before season starts. Start by becoming familiar with the land and your surroundings. Always tell someone where you will be and take your cell phone with you if possible. Check for signs of the animal you’ll be hunting and scout out good areas to put a tree stand or ground blind to hunt out of. Set up some game cameras near known trails and food & water sources so you know more about the animal’s activity & patterns. Here is a great blog from Dale Evans at EvoOutdoors about scouting new land.
Gear & Apparel
While it may not be necessary to purchase your own rifle at first, I do recommend investing in some of your own hunting gear, equipment & apparel.
Some basic items you’ll probably want to purchase:
-A good quality, sharp knife
-Hunting fanny pack or backpack
-Scent Control Products, (depending on the type of game you are hunting)
-For women, I recommend Her Non Scents scent free shampoo, conditioner & body wash
-A good moisture wicking pair, try FirstLite & Minus33 brands at www.EvoOutdoors.com
-The type of clothing you pick depends on where you will be hunting, what season it is & the
type of animal you’ll be hunting.
-Prois has a line of women’s hunting apparel that meets the needs for any type of hunt you
will be going on, whitetail, turkey, upland, etc. They even have a new safari line for 2015!
-If you need help picking the right apparel for your hunt, EvoOutdoors Camo Concierge is a great option!
Make sure you do your part to learn as much as you can before you go hunting. I began by going on a whitetail hunt with my husband one year & watching him harvest a buck. I practiced a lot and asked him as many questions as I could until the following deer season. I went out by myself one afternoon and shot my very first deer, a nice 8 point. I observed him hunting first, practiced and asked questions. By taking what I learned from that and applying it to my own hunt, I was able to successfully harvest an animal on my own. Not everyone has a family member or a friend to learn from though. Here are a lot of great websites, blogs and other resources to help you out!
Most important, second to safety of course, is to enjoy yourself! Hunting is a great way to get outdoors, enjoy the peace & quiet of nature, and just relax. Observe wild animals in their natural habitats. You will learn something new each time you go out! Not only that, you will gain a deeper appreciation for wildlife and for the food that you eat, knowing that you are providing yourself & your family with healthier, organic meat, free from steroids & preservatives. Get out there & do some grocery shopping!