- Where Do I Start? A Question Every New Hunter Will Ask | How & Why To Start Hunting
Where Do I Start? A Question Every New Hunter Will Ask | How & Why To Start Hunting
Human beings have been hunters and gatherers since the beginning of time. This is evident when looking back through history. We can see it when looking at cave paintings all over the globe including Combarelles, Bhimbetka, Serra de Capivara, Chauvet Cave and the list goes on. If these snap shots that have been handed down from our Paleolithic forefathers aren’t enough, we can also see this in relics such as Folsom and Clovis Points along with various other artifacts left behind from these hunter gatherer tribes that roamed our planet many years ago. Also, let’s not forget our dear friend Otzi, the famous ice age hunter who was discovered in 1991, frozen near the Austrian-Italian border. Although the conditions surrounding his death are up for debate, there is no denying that Otzi was indeed a hunter. The Bible even has references to hunting all the way back to the beginning of time in Genesis.
Hunting is part of human nature, we are made to be hunters and for this reason, it is no surprise to me when someone who did not grow up hunting in our modern times feels an urge to go into the wilderness, tap into their reptilian brain, and quench the thirst for hunting. We have canine teeth, forward facing eyes and the ability to sweat. These traits, along with many others make us ideal hunters and stalkers of prey. Unfortunately though in more recent history, hunting has become less popular. There are many reasons for this that could fill countless novels, blogs and coffee table magazines but for the sake of time we will accept this fact and move on. There is hope though. Hunting, gathering, and self-sustaining is on an upward trend. People in today’s times have become more interested in knowing where their food comes from. Individuals want to support smaller local farming and homesteading operations, and an increased desire to learn more self-sustainability skills have arose out of recent events.
If this is you, the question is how? How does a 35 year old man living in suburban Chicago working a nine to five get into hunting or fishing if he’s never done it before? How does the single mother of three in Seattle Washington learn to provide locally sourced, naturally grown game meat to her children? How does the 16 year old boy without a father figure learn to fish while also attending school and working a part time job? I hope to help answer those questions in the remainder of this article. Although I may not have all the answers or the fail proof guide to success, I do hope to at least help point you in the right direction and give you a foundation to build upon.
First, you need to ask yourself if this is something you truly want to do and you have to redefine what success looks like. I will be the first to tell you that this is not an easy path to travel on. I grew up hunting and fishing. I was blessed to be born into a hunting and gathering family. In the fall, we chased whitetail deer, the spring we hunted turkey, and in the summer, mom would garden while we cooled ourselves on the banks of rivers, lakes and ponds in pursuit of any fish that would bite. These childhood experiences laid the groundwork for me and provided me with tons of knowledge that I took for granted. It wasn’t until my early adulthood that I began to challenge myself by hunting and fishing new species and new areas and I believe the experiences from my childhood were detrimental in my ability to grow as a hunter and an outdoorsman. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if I didn’t grow up doing these things. I say all of this to not discourage you, the reader, but I want you to be fully aware that this is not easy.
One of the biggest factors that I believe keeps people from continuing to hunt after they start is they do not see what they define as immediate success. Success in hunting unfortunately, has been falsely defined due to the hunting industries depiction of hunting. For years, we would turn on the TV and see “hunters” killing monstrous deer or filling the tailgate of their truck with ducks all shot “before breakfast was even over.” This image of hunting success hasn’t gotten any better with the invention of social media. This is not success. We must redefine success if we want to continue to pursue game. Let me take this time to tell you a quick story that I believe is a more accurate depiction of success.
In the fall of 2021, I loaded my truck with my rifle, food, a pack, spotting scope and a tent and drove twenty two hours west to the beautiful state of Wyoming. I have hunted Wyoming before and was hunting the same general area that I had hunted the year before although this year I had a mule deer tag in my pocket. I had never hunted mule deer before and was excited about the potential of being able to fill my tag and my freezer. For seven days I hunted from sun up to sun down. I hiked many miles, wore blisters into my feet, got sun burned and also slightly hypothermic all in the same 24 hour period. I was hungry and thirsty and didn’t pull the trigger one time on this hunt. Tag soup as us hunters call it, when you return home with your tag and no harvest. Let me ask you, was this a success? The answer is yes, or at least it is based off how I define success and how I encourage you to also define it. I learned so much about mule deer while on this hunt. I learned their feeding habits, where they like to be at certain times of the day and their general behavior. I also learned a ton about other species that I observed while on this hunt such as antelope and pheasant. I learned about the landscape and non-game species and I also gained a deeper appreciation for our natural world. Not to mention, I saw some incredible sunrises and sunsets. This hunt was a success and helped me gain more knowledge for future hunts.
So, let me ask you again. Is this something you truly want to do? Please understand that I’m not saying that you have to embark on some difficult hunting journey like the story mentioned above, but you will have similar experiences while hunting even at your local public lands and hunting spots. Fully know and understand that it is not easy, respect it, and redefine success and I assure you that your love for it will increase. As your love for it grows, so will your knowledge, and eventually you will see a harvest. Now that we have asked this important question and hopefully you have answered it, let’s move on to the next bit of advice I have to offer.
For years, hunters have been hoisting the flag of conservation. This is a good thing but in today’s times, we have to do more than just pay for our license and tags which directly fund conservation. This is why I strongly encourage you to join a conservation organization. We can’t continue to live in a world where we take from the natural resource but don’t give back. There are many organizations out there that are doing incredible work such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and so many more. A Quick Google search can help you find many conservation groups and organizations. Look for a group that is represented in your area and is doing work for species you wish to conserve so that we can have a healthy and sustainable population to hunt.
Do more than just become a member though. Sure, a lot of these memberships come with some fun and cool gifts such as a magazine subscription, stickers, maybe a hat, etc., but be involved. Stay up to date when the local chapters are doing clean up days on public lands. Attend meetings or social gatherings where you will meet other hunters and conservationist who have the same mindset as you do and volunteer your time to help these organizations achieve their goals. In doing this, not only will you learn more about animal species and hunting as a whole, but you will also have the opportunity to network and form relationships with others in your area who I am sure would be more than glad to take you under their wing and teach you everything they know about hunting and the great outdoors.
Finally, the last thing I have to say is simply get out there and have fun. You will learn so much more about deer hunting by driving out to your local public land during deer season and actually hunting for them than you ever will by watching videos online or reading articles. Sure, all of those resources are good and are very useful, but actually doing it, even if you don’t see a single deer for the day, will teach you more. Don’t be afraid to take chances and don’t be discouraged by not seeing the target species. Simply stay with it. This does go back to what we discussed earlier. You need to remember that this is not easy, but you have decided that it is something that you want to do and you have devoted time, money and resources to it, so pay hunting the respect it deserves and stick with it.
Apart from getting out there and doing it, there are still tons of great resources you can learn from and use to help you along the way. As mentioned earlier, there are countless TV programs and other videos that can be found online. Podcast are another great way to learn and absorb tons of information to help you figure out more about hunting, fishing, conservation, and the outdoors. Another great platform is GoWild, which is an outdoors social media app which is designed to help educate people and connect people through the outdoors. Most importantly, find others around you who will help you grow and learn. Find people who are willing to encourage you and help you through the tough times that will come while you’re on this journey. I promise you though, if you stick with it, it will be worth it. Good luck!