Being a new or aspiring hunter is a difficult position to be in. With so much to learn, so many regulations to keep track of, skills to gain-it's easy to get overwhelmed. If you don't have anyone to show you the ropes, whether family or friend, it's even harder. For any of you novice hunters out there, here are some tips that, obvious though they may be to experienced hunters, should help you on the road to filling a tag.
1.) Take a Hunters Ed Course
If you have any desire to hunt, this should be your first step. They now offer Hunters Ed courses online in many states, but there is still a field day required to receive your certificate. An important aspect of this, besides getting the certification itself, is talking to your instructors about potential ways to connect with other local hunters. Most instructors are avid hunters themselves, and can be a helpful resource.
2.) Do Your Research
After you've completed a Hunters Ed Course, get online and delve into the plethora of articles the Internet has to offer on the prey of your choosing. Whether looking at articles from different hunting magazines' archives, or simply visiting your state's Fish & Game website, you will find beneficial information. On your state's Fish & Game page you may also find classes, hunts or mentor programs for new hunters. If you can't find anything, give them a call and see if they can recommend a particular program to get you started. Another web option is to join an online social group or forum related to the type of hunting you're looking to do. This is a great place to socialize with other hunters, and find hunting clubs or groups you may not know about.
3.) Visit/Join a Local Hunting Club
Once you've found a list of local hunting clubs in your area, give them a call. Often times you will find that clubs looking for new members are more than happy to take a newbie under their wing to help promote and spread their favorite pastime. Only do this, however, if you know exactly what you want to hunt and have the money, or at least the interest in potentially joining said club.
4.) Visit a Gun/Hunting/Outdoor Expo
What better way to meet fellow hunters than to go to their mecca? A hunting or outdoor expo is a great way to not only get chatty with other enthusiasts, but also to find the hunting tool of your choice; whether it be a firearm or something more primitive like a bow. To find one near you, visit HuntingFishingandOutdoorShows.com for a comprehensive list.
5.) Find a Hunting Mentor
This can seem easier said than done, but-lucky for you-many states offer mentor programs. If your state doesn't offer a mentor program, and you haven't found one from the other tips already suggested, try going on a guided hunt. Tight budget? Fear not, NRA Outdoors has a guided hunt for every price point.
Often the best way to find a mentor, or at least to meet like-minded people, is to attend a course or event related to hunting. If you're a woman, the NWTF offers the Women in the Outdoors program, providing hands-on instruction at different events across the country. The Becoming an Outdoorswoman program is another option for ladies looking to learn basic skills and meet other women who love to hunt. The NRA offers women, beginners included, the opportunity to hunt and shoot in a safe, friendly environment-no experience necessary-with its Women's Wilderness Escape.
Many local 4-H camps and centers hold educational classes across the country that are a great opportunity for new hunters to gain basic knowledge, while making new hunting friends. A great example of one such class is N.H. Fish and Game Department and 4H's Wild Game Culinary Adventure that brings seasoned hunters in contact with novices to teach them the basics of skinning, cleaning, quartering, cooking and more.
6.) Practice, Practice, Practice!
Once you've taken the Hunters Ed course, made new friends, learned basic skills and hopefully even found a mentor you must put your skills to use and practice. Whether joining a local archery or gun club, or just using your own land, perfecting your skills to make a clean, humane shot is very important. If you're not sure where to find a local range, visit FindNRA.NRA.org and select places to shoot to find a range near you.