I grew up in a family who were avid hunters so getting started was easy for me! If you are someone who doesn’t have family or close friends that hunt then you may be thinking how in the world can I get started in hunting? Here’s some tips on getting started!
First, you must complete a hunters safety course.
This course is offered online and also in a classroom setting. You will need to research hunters safety courses in your area or state to see what is available. This course will teach you a variety of information about hunting such as the rules and regulations, game seasons, safe hunting practices, firearm and archery shooting instruction, understanding wildlife, and also responsible and ethical hunting practices.
Decide what game you plan to hunt.
Are you interested in big game hunting such as elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, or bear? Maybe you are interested in going turkey hunting or small game hunting rabbits or squirrels. Upland birds or waterfowl are also popular game to hunt! This decision depends upon the area you live in and what is native to that region. Also, your decision of what hunting you want do depends upon what is in season at that time! There are specific seasons of hunting for particular wild game. Turkey season starts in the spring and lasts around a month. Your state may offer a fall turkey season as well. Deer season starts in the fall for bow hunting only and extends well into the winter. Gun season for deer hunting will be in the winter with a specific muzzleloader season as well. The season dates will change yearly so you must be aware of season dates as well as bag limits to hunt legally. Bag limits are the amount of game you can take for that season or for that day. In Ohio, you can only shoot one antlered deer (male deer) and typically multiple female deer depending on the bag limit and area you live in. Other states will vary. When waterfowl hunting, you can harvest 6 ducks a day but only so many of a certain species in that day. As you can see, there are very specific rules so it is your responsibility to research before going hunting as to what you can harvest. You can find the season dates and bag limits for your area by doing research online at your state’s division of wildlife website.
Ohio’s season dates and bag limits are listed below.
Pick your weapon of choice.
Depending on your state, you can use guns (shotgun/rifle/muzzleloader) and bows (crossbows, compound bows, and traditional bows). A crossbow is similar to a gun in its shape and function but shoots an arrow instead of a bullet. A traditional bow is well.. traditional and primitive. Think of Native American Indians using long bows with wooden limbs. The primitive bow is by far from most challenging and should only be used for hunting by experienced archers. A compound bow is a modern twist on a traditional bow but has cams on the end that give tension relief and aid in a smoother, more forceful shot. It is personalized for the archer so it is not a weapon you can borrow or share with another hunter. It is set to your draw length and also your draw weight. Draw weight is the amount in which you can pull back. Obviously men can typically pull back more than a female. You must have at least 40 pounds of draw weight to be able to hunt with your compound bow. This means children typically cannot hunt with a compound bow due to the minimum draw weight. The compound bow is a popular bow of choice due to its functionality, light weight, and performance in the field. It still takes a lot of skill and practice to be consistent. If you plan on using a compound bow for hunting just know that you will need to practice and perfect your skills for many months before using it for hunting season. People just starting out in hunting would be most successful and confident using either a crossbow or a gun. Guns can shoot much farther distances than bow, take less practice to perfect, and leave more room for error. Investing in a bow or firearm will be the most important investment as a hunter. Make sure to do your research and if you can try out the product first to make sure it is the best fit for you. Always make sure to have you firearm registered and practice safety at all times.
Where do you plan on hunting?
There are many options for hunting opportunities. If you live in a major city you will have to venture out a bit. Doing research online you can find public hunting land in your state. Maybe you have a friend or relative who has given you permission to hunt on their private land, or you can join a lease for hunting. There are also outfitters who will take you out on their land to hunt for a fee, typically provide lodging/ meals, and also provide some hunting equipment such as stands or blinds. If you are getting permission to hunt on someone else’s land it is always wise to get signed permission from them. Never trespass or hunt on land that you haven’t gotten permission to be on. You can download an gps tracking / parcel app, I suggest HuntStand, to make sure that you are not going off the land you have public access or permission to hunt on. Through hunt stand you can also mark your stand locations and also monitor weather and wind direction.
Find the right gear for your hunt.
If you want to have a successful hunt, you must prepare. You prepare by making sure you have the ideal hunting gear and accessories before you head out to the woods. Plan according to season and weather when choosing hunting clothing. As a newbie don’t feel like you have go out and spend a ton of money on hunting clothing. Once you become a more experienced hunter you will know what gear will best fit your personal needs and will want to make an investment in high quality hunting clothing. You will want to be warm, dry, and comfortable. Boots are the most important clothing article for a hunter. My favorite boots of choice are Lacrosse Boots alphaburly pro. As far as gear goes the options are endless! If you plan on deer hunting you will want either a ladder stand, climber stand, or a ground blind to hunt out of. You could also build your own blind or cover by using brush.
List of gear needed
- Hunting license and game tag
- Weapon- gun or bow
- ammo or arrows
- Quiver – to hold your arrows
- Broadheads- tips for arrows
- Boots – supportive, warm, and waterproof ( recommend Lacrosse Boots)
- Appropriate clothing – be sure to check the weather so you know if you need to layer up warmly or wear light waterproof clothing
- Backpack for all your gear
- Water/ snack
- Scent spray
- Game calls and decoys- optional
- Flashlight/ headlamp
- Game bags – to carry your game
- Tree stand or groud blind unless spot and stalking
- Parachute cord or short length of rope to pull your bow/gun up to your tree stand. Never have gun loaded when doing this.
- Tree hanger or bow stand for bowhunting
- Face paint ( Recommend Hardy Facepaint)
- Phone for GPS tracking/ location/ help if needed
Reach out to other hunters.
Honestly the best way to start hunting is to have a friend or another experienced hunter take you out to show you the ropes. Most hunters will be excited to take you out and teach you what they know. They will have all the equipment already and can point out what is necessary and what is optional. After going out a few times with another hunter you should have a better idea of what you need to do to be successful! If you cant find someone to take you out hunting then reaching out to people with questions or guidance will also be helpful. There is always something new to learn whether you are an experienced hunter or just starting out! Always be open and eager to learn new techniques!
Practice makes perfect.
Practice consistently in preparation for your hunting season. You will want to practice shooting in whatever stance you plan to be in while hunting. Whether that is standing, sitting in a stand or blind, or sitting on the ground. Practice shooting in the clothing you will be wearing. If your coat is too tight or too large it can hinder your shot and movement. Realize that wind can also affect your shot placement especially when bow hunting. If you plan on using game calls, the off season is the best time to practice and improve.
Buy a hunting license and a game tag.
Before heading out make sure you have your state hunting license and also a game tag for the animal you plan to harvest. You will want to keep this license and tag on you or in your hunting gear bag at all times when actively hunting. Once again make sure to do a lot of research about the laws and regulations for hunting in that specific area.
Tips for in the field.
You must be stealthy as possible. Any movements should be made slowly and quietly. Good cover and camouflage are necessary. Covering your face with either a face mask or face paint may be needed. I use Hardy Facepaint. It is not greasy, sweatproof, does not cause breakouts, and is easy to remove. When hunting animals with good scent receptors you will need to make sure to be as scent free as possible. This means washing your hunting clothes, body, and hair with a scent free soap. I highly recommend Southern Racks for female hunters. It will not dry out your hair and is safe on color treated hair. Make sure your weapon is within reach once you reach your destination and ready to fire, BUT with the safety on.
Hunting takes a lot of time and patience. Don’t be discouraged if you go out and don’t get anything the first few times. Even experienced hunters will go out and may not see anything, will accidentally spook off their target, or will decide the timing or set-up is not right when their target does come in. This is all part of hunting and it is why it is called “hunting” not “killing”. Being a responsible and ethical hunter is of the utmost importance. Never take a shot at an animal that is not ideal. Always know what is in the distance. Never shoot at something you cannot fully see. Wait until the animal is in an ideal position to make a lethal shot placement. You must know where the vitals are located on the animal to know where to position your shot. These are all things your hunters safety course will also cover so don’t be alarmed! Continue to learn and improve your skills and most of all remember to have fun!
Take it all in.
The best part about hunting is getting to enjoy nature. When you are out hunting don’t forget to take in all the noises, smells, and sights. God created such a beautiful universe for us to enjoy! Being out in nature makes me feel more connected to God and brings a peace to my soul. In everything be appreciative and thankful that we can spend time outdoors and have the potential to bring home 100% organic wild game to our family. Hunting teaches you many lessons and will be a beneficial skill for your lifetime.
God Bless and Happy Hunting,
Sarah Beth Lawhorn