Every year there is a group of hunters that tend to hide in the shadows and struggle to come out and be part of the fun. That hunter is the aspiring hunter. First of all, I think if you want to hunt every year and grow, you should keep being an aspiring hunter. Hunting is a hobby that brings on patience and humility and with that, you are forced to learn. I bet any of the hunters you see on tv or hear about in podcasts still go out and learn new things or try something different that they never thought would work. Hunting is a growing experience and one that brings you closer to nature, which is something bigger than ourselves. This week my goal is to help us, help other people who are afraid or even intimidated to join us out in the mountains or in the marsh.
Recently I used the Instagram machine and asked some people who introduced them to hunting. Most people stated that a family member introduced them to hunting. Learning to hunt from a family member appears to be a very common way to get introduced to the sport. Some of us don’t have that opportunity and those are the aspiring hunters that I mentioned. I was one of those. I grew up camping and hiking. I spent my time outdoors and loved being out in the desert in Nevada. I can’t tell you how many coyotes I saw growing up and had no idea that one day I’d be hunting them while I waited for waterfowl season to come around.
For those of us that want to learn as an adult, it all seems very intimidating and requires some bravery. My wife likes to point out anytime we go hunting and she does something new that she’s being brave. I’ve learned a few things introducing her to hunting and I’ve shared some of that. This time I also reached out to other people to get their thoughts and experiences. What I can say is that the more you do it the more comfortable you get with the experience. My wife used to cling to my arm as we’d walk through a marsh and by the end of the season she was leading the way and getting our hide set up while I set up the decoys. Maybe this next season she can help me set the decoys and if she’s brave I’ll hand her a duck call to try out.
My first advice comes from a follower on Instagram. He pointed out that getting people hunting starts with a conversation. When people see what we are passionate about, they want to listen and sometimes they want to learn. This gives you a starting point where you can talk about the experience beyond the obvious harvest of the animal. This is where we can talk about the prep, the offseason time at the range. This is when we can point out that hunting and conservation go hand in hand. Maybe this is where we can tell our friends about our time doing something wildlife-related like fixing fencing and banding ducks. To me, this becomes a first step to going on a scouting trip or to the skeet range and burning through some shotgun shells.
The other thing that’s fun when getting introduced to hunting is scouting. I don’t think I need to really mention the importance of scouting for a successful hunt but this is a fun cheap way to get into it. My boss who got me hunting used to take me scouting with him on our way to job sites. I remember this alfalfa field we used to drive by and glass. There were always does on it when we’d drive by and some days you’d see these antlers sticking out. The hunting unit behind that alfalfa field was an archery only unit and it was very hard to draw so this buck looked like the king of bucks. This little scouting and looking at geese and ducks flying that started that excitement for me. Eventually, I had to start watching and looking for patterns. I learned that animals have habits and you can predict some of what they’ll do. This puts you in a good position when it comes to the actual hunt and helps you be in the right place at the right time. This observing and watching for patterns really help in waterfowl hunting. My first few years I only hunted with 6 decoys. It worked great because I couldn’t afford a lot of decoys and I was forced to set up in the right place to be successful. That’s why taking someone scouting with you is a good way to get them introduced to the work that comes before the hunt.
Shooting is another thing that can be intimidating. My wife had never shot a shotgun before our hunt. She’s shot rifles and pistols but now I was asking her to shoot at an orange disc flying across the sky and hit it. The mistake I made was telling her that shooting clay pigeons is easier than shooting birds. This added to the intimidation. I think if I had just got her practicing on the clay pigeons and then just took her hunting, she would have shot just fine and wouldn’t have intimidated her self. Shooting can be scary to those that have never shot a firearm before. Starting small is the way to go. Starting with a .22 and getting them used to some basic safety and mechanics of a firearm can take the intimidation away when you hand them a “shoulder cannon”, as my wife calls my 7mm Rem Mag, and it’ll help them shoot better. Shooting some easy targets or even some soda cans can add to that fun. Who doesn’t like seeing things blow up? Eventually, we would want to work them into shooting some sort of game. Here in the west, jackrabbits are just about everywhere. Jackrabbits have no season or limit in my state so they’re a good one to move to when it’s time to get started. This will also get them past just the shooting and into the hiking.
Hiking and hunting go together like peanut butter and jelly! It doesn’t matter what kind of hunting you plan on doing, hiking is part of it. To get to one of my duck hunting spots it’s a mile and a half hike into it and another one it’s a 2-mile hike into it. That doesn’t sound like much but most people don’t like doing that through a marsh so I get pretty well away from people. When I go grouse hunting, a 5-mile hike into a spot and then 5 miles hiking looking for grouse is pretty average. So getting your legs moving is a big part of hunting. A good way to help bring hiking into the mix is doing some short hunts and going scouting. This gives you plenty of opportunities to help them see what there is out there when we get off the beaten path. Hiking for hunting to me is a little different. Because we do get off the path a bit, we get more of a workout by trying to read the terrain or following game trails that are cut into the mountain. Some of the best times I’ve had hunting were during those hikes. I remember being on a coyote hunt and walking right past a rubbed out baby pine tree. At least it was a pine tree at some point. Another awesome memory was grouse hunting and hearing some elk bugling. We put the hunt aside for a second and hiked to this ridge looking over a draw and saw 5 bull elk all bugling. That’s why getting new hunters hiking and looking for game helps a ton.
All of this is a good introduction. As part of this, It’s also important to teach them along the way of what they are seeing. If you go scouting for ducks early in the morning and you find the roost, teach them not to hunt it but instead watch where the feed is and where they’re going and that’s how you find where to set up. Or if it’s big game hunting, show them the patterns and the trails and help them understand what they are seeing as they hunt. The next step is going on the hunts. Once all the introductions are done, getting some boot leather down and hunting is how they will learn. There’s no need for fancy equipment. I used hand-me-down waders on my first few hunts and used equipment works great. Even now I won’t spend 100 dollars on a pair of pants. I’m rough on stuff and ripping a 100 dollar pair of camo pants that work just as good as a 30 dollar pair just doesn’t make sense to me. There’s a lot of marketing on gear out there and it’s an easy trap for new hunters to fall into.
The great thing about taking new hunters out with you is that they can see that there is more to it then shooting animals. Tv and Youtube have a great way of fooling people. It’s sort of that social media phenomenon that makes us think that if we don’t limit out or have piles of ducks, we didn’t do it right. Any of us hunters know that some years we don’t tag out. Some hunts we see no ducks or no birds. Or, my personal favorite, we see them right before and right after the season. That’s the part of hunting that doesn’t get talked about that new hunters need to be aware of.
Hunting is a good way to stay active and enjoy nature without any limits. It’s a raw feeling of being exposed and on the edge of civilization while conquering fears and participating in the life cycle. Knowing where my food comes from, that my food is completely organic, that also makes me feel good. Having some deer jerky in the truck while I drive around is something I miss. I don’t do much big game hunting since I’m the only one in the family that eats wild meat but I do miss that homemade jerky. This year I’m hoping to get a goose or two and make some goose jerky for a snack. I have a buddy that does that and it sounds way good. We have some adventures planned and hopefully, we have some fun trips. Don’t forget to mention that to others that want to hunt and help them see what this adventure is all about.
I got a lot of help on this blog post. Some from my friends on Instagram and some from one of the hunting forums I’m a part of. This goes to show that there are lots of people out there that are willing to help. We are a community and we can help each other navigate this hunting world. We may not be willing to share our honey holes but that doesn’t mean we can’t get them pointed in the right direction. I’ve added some links to this so that you can see what was said from the guys on the forum. I really did draw on a group for information and just want to thank them all.
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