The first thing you need to know about hunting is that it is a lifelong endeavor. If you were fortunate enough to learn all the skills and knowledge from childhood, you wouldn’t have given much thought to what hunting entails. But if you come to it fresh as an adult, there is a long road ahead. To get you the best advice, we found out what experienced hunters had to say. We have boiled down their advice, much of which overlaps, to arrive at the top six tips. This is encapsulated in the guidelines that follow.
Gun Safety and Proficiency
Some areas require a hunter safety course before you are allowed to hunt, but regardless, this is essential training before you even enter the woods.
A general firearms course is also mandatory. As the hunters say, you should not enter the woods bearing a weapon that you are not proficient in using. Don’t be overconfident in your skills.
Get advice on the hunting weapon you should use and be sure that it can kill the prey you are going after cleanly and efficiently.
Learn From Others
A guided hunt is a good way to learn the basics. Make the most of the opportunity and bring your efforts to bear, as permitted. If you have a friend who hunts, ask him if he is willing to teach you. He should preferably have a decade or more of hunting behind him. Most hunters will agree to help you learn.
Find a shop that specializes in all things hunting and talk to a pro. Tell him what type of prey you are interested in hunting and how often you want to go on hunting trips. Once the shop assistant knows you are new to the game, he will flood you with advice and information. These shops focus on selling bulk ammo, which is cheaper, especially if you order it online.
You can also watch videos on hunting and the animals you want to hunt.
Respect Your Prey
Before you point your rifle at a living animal, practice, repeatedly. Know your limits. If you cannot fire accurately at a target from a certain distance, don’t hunt at higher distances. Respecting your prey means making a clean kill.
Tracking has two purposes: to locate an animal and to find it if you have only wounded it. This is because you need to track it down and end its suffering. Don’t ever walk away from a wounded animal. This is anathema to hunters.
If you can’t guarantee a clean shot, don’t attempt a low-percentage shot. Don’t even put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Hunters with 15 years of experience still get excited once their prey is in sight but warn against rushing the shot. Don’t fire your rifle until you have 100% sighting and know what you are shooting at.
One hunter noted that he and his family collectively spent 90 days hunting and only shot a buck and three turkeys in that time. Focus on learning the basics.
You will need to acquire basic skills. These include:
- identifying signs
- picking sites, and
- dressing, butchering and preparing a kill
Start small with squirrels until you have acquired stalking and woodcraft skills.
Hunters share a set of unspoken rules. Until you cross one. Learn these by heart:
- Treat the landowner who lets you hunt on his property with respect
- Behave as a trusted guest and respect the property
- No damage to property or littering
- Stick to the game rules, including a clean shot and not letting a wounded animal escape; and
- Stick to all safety rules you have been taught.
One hunter who is in his 60th year of hunting stressed that he is still learning and that the learning never ends.