How to Start Hunting as an Adult with Confidence: A Newbie’s Guide

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Wondering how to start hunting as an adult? I created this guide with the goal of offering practical steps for beginners like me eager to take on the adventure of hunting. Jump in as I map out the foundational knowledge, equipment insights, and important regulations you need to hit the ground running in this rewarding activity.

An Author’s Note For The Newbies Like Me: Getting into hunting as an adult without any prior experience or exposure into this activity can be very scary. Coming from my own experience, I urge you not to give up, and look for mentors who will guide you and help you build confidence. You can look for mentors within your group of friends, or in various hunters’ clubs, where there are many people who would love to show you the ropes. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

For Those Short on Time

  • Mastering hunting begins with education, like completing a hunter’s education course, and evolves with experience and becoming part of a community, including local hunting clubs.
  • Gear selection is very important, with a focus on quality footwear and understanding when to buy new vs. used gear, aligning choices with hunting style and budget.
  • Hunting is not just about the harvest; it’s about the experience, patience, respecting nature, and involves challenges such as unpredictable weather and scouting locations.
  • Every region is different, so please take this guide with a grain of salt, as the rules and regulations can be very different.
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Serene views of Alberta’s wilderness on my second-ever hunt

Embarking on Your Hunting Journey

Starting your hunting journey is like embarking on an adventure into the heart of nature—each step is filled with anticipation and growth. Remember, a positive mindset isn’t just fluff; it’s the bedrock of patience and perseverance, helping you savor the unique moments nature offers. As you set out, be realistic—hunting is not just about the harvest; it’s a fullfilling experience where every outdoor moment counts.

Patience is indeed key here. Take the time to research, and embrace the serenity that unfolds as you wait, camouflaged in nature’s embrace. And most importantly, know your ‘why.’ Whether it’s for conservation, sustenance, or the challenge, your motivation will shape your journey.

Embracing Nature

Have you ever experienced the calm of dawn or watched the forest come to life as the sun climbs the sky? Hunting immerses you in these experiences, deepening your connection with the great outdoors. It’s not just about chasing elk, bird hunting, or deer hunting; it’s about being part of an ecosystem, appreciating the untamed beauty that unfolds around you, and becoming an active participant in wildlife conservation. Once you’ve started hunting, you’ll understand the unique bond between hunter and nature.

This connection with nature is a priceless part of the hunting journey.

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Understanding Challenges

But let’s not gloss over the challenges. Identifying prime hunting spots is a quest in itself, often feeling like a puzzle that new hunters need to piece together. You’re not just competing with other hunters for space but also with the unpredictable turns of weather that can transform a hunt into a challenging test of endurance.

Adapting to these sudden changes and preparing for all conditions are skills that are honed over time, essential for both your success and safety. And don’t think that you need to have these skills from the start. It will come. Every bad experience will teach you something to overcome it the next time you set off on your huntinr trail.

Hunter Education: The Foundation for Success

One non-negotiable step in your hunting journey is completing a hunter education course, which is an essential part of getting a hunting licence. It’s a legal hoop to jump through, yes, but more importantly, it lays the groundwork for responsible and ethical hunting practices. These courses are a treasure trove of knowledge, covering topics such as:

  • Firearm safety
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Hunting regulations
  • Hunting ethics
  • Field dressing and game care

Completing a hunter education course, which includes a hunter safety course, ensures that you’re well-equipped for whatever the hunting season throws your way.

It’s heartening to know that these programs have a history dating back to 1949 in New York, with a consistent curriculum established globally in 2014 to keep hunters across the world on the same page.

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Online and In-Person Courses

Whether you’re a fan of the traditional classroom or the digital age, hunter education courses come in both flavors. Oftentimes you can choose the convenience of an online course or the tangible experience of an in-person class, where handling equipment and engaging directly with instructors can enrich your learning.

These courses will introduce you to the essentials, from the lingo to the legalities and, of course, all things gear-related.

The key is to find the format that best suits your learning style and schedule. If you don’t have an option to choose a course method that suits you, don’t overthink it. Just go with what’s available and the rest will come naturally.

Hunter Safety and Ethics

Safety is the cornerstone of hunting. The hunter education you undertake will hammer home this point, ingraining safe firearm handling and ethical shot placement into your DNA as a hunter. It’s not just about targeting the big game animal; it’s about doing so responsibly, respecting the environment, and adhering strictly to hunting regulations.

Mentorship programs, often run by state departments, provide a safe environment to translate what you’ve learned in theory into practical, hands-on experience. Remember, proper game management is as much about the ecosystem’s health as it is about your success.

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Choosing Your Hunting Gear Wisely

The gear you choose is your ally in the wild, so it pays to select wisely. Starting with essentials tailored to your hunting style will save you from unnecessary expenses. And here’s a tip: you don’t always need to buy new. Used gear can serve you well and save you a few bucks, giving you the room to gradually figure out what works best for you.

But when it comes to weapons and ammunition, make sure you’re spot on—these directly influence your success and the game’s condition post-hunt.

Personal tips:

  • Make sure you have the right clothes and footwear to stay warm in cold and humid conditions, and be prepared to remain still for long periods of time, which, can gert real cold real fast.
  • If you’re going hunting with a mentor, chances are, that they have enough gear for you both. You don’t have to buy EVERYTHING before your first hunts. You can even share one rifle. The key here is to learn the ropes.
  • Listen to advice, and stay away from the cheapest gear but don’t feel pressured to get something you feel isn’t right for you or your budget. Sure, they can tell you what gear not to get and which one is the best. But you are just starting out, you might not even like it. Hunting gear is expensive and you can easily blow a lot of money on it trying to chace the pros.

Prioritizing Quality Footwear

Let’s talk boots—arguably the most important piece of your hunting attire. A pair that fits your hunting style, terrain, and weather conditions is non-negotiable for comfort, stability, and protection.

A hard lesson I learned was taking the wrong pairs on my first three hunting trips, where I ended up putting ziplocks on my tows two hours in, just to keep my feet warm in a harsh November morning in Alberta. What fooled me too, was that while you’re hiking, you always feel pretty warm, but there’s a lot of stalking, waiting, and sitting. I wasn’t ready for that in my first season.

Here are some tips to consider when choosing hunting boots:

  • Go for durability and proper ankle support to navigate rough terrains confidently. It’s not a hike, there usually are no designated trails!
  • Choose boots with insulation for cold weather hunting. Account for the fact that you’ll have to sit still for extended periods of time.
  • Look for waterproof or water-resistant boots to keep your feet dry. THIS IS CRUCIAL, especially up north.
  • Consider the weight of the boots, as lighter boots are more comfortable for long hikes, but heavier ones often are more durable and better insulated.
  • Pair your boots with non-cotton socks to keep your feet dry and warm. Merino wool or a mix with nylon are usually a great option.

Leather or rubber? Each has its pros, with leather molding to your feet over time for that perfect fit. Personally, I will go with leather, but I am not saying this is the best choice. And remember, insulation is measured in grams; align it with the seasonal temperatures you’ll face in the field.

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My first time ever practicing shooting at an outdoor range

Buying New vs Used

The debate between new and used gear is not just about cost—it’s about understanding the value of each piece. Yes, used gear can come at a great discount, which is particularly alluring if the previous owner barely used it. But buying new means you get the latest models, customer support, and that precious warranty.

Another thing to look into before deciding buying a used item, is how well the previous person has taken care of his gear. This is especially important for rifles.

It all comes down to your budget and how much you value the assurance of untouched gear.

Budget Gear vs High Quality

Starting with budget gear doesn’t mean compromising on quality. Focusing on the essentials and resisting the temptation to splurge on every shiny accessory is OKAY. As you gain confidence and experience, you can gradually invest in higher-quality items that offer greater comfort and could boost your success rates.

Saying that, I would also recommend to avoid the cheapest gear. Check reviews and ask around before buying, but as mentioned above, don’t feel pressured to get top tier gear as a beginner; first, learn what works for you.

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Many start with hunting pheasants

Selecting Your Quarry: Small Game vs. Big Game

When it comes to choosing your quarry, it’s a matter of preference. Do you seek a quick-paced hunt close to home, or are you after the thrill of pursuing a majestic big game animal? Small game like rabbits or upland birds, such as pheasants, are great for beginners, offering manageable hunts with less physical demand.

Big game, on the other hand, presents a different set of challenges and rewards, with a successful hunt deer or elk yielding substantial wild game meat provisions. For those interested in a duck hunt, consider your firearm preference, the time you can commit, and the experience you’re after before making your choice.

Small Game: Rabbit, Pheasant, Waterfowl

Starting with small game offers several benefits:

  • Access to spots can be easy, sometimes as close as your backyard (provded you live in a rural area, of course)
  • The physical exertion is often less than that of big game hunts
  • The diversity of landscapes and animals is a plus
  • Generous seasons and limits mean more game and more fun.

Plus, the meat yield from small game, enough for a few meals, encourages you to return to the field and hone your skills.

Big Game: Whitetail Deer, Mule Deer, Elk

If you’re drawn to big game hunting, pursuing animals like whitetail deer, mule deer, or elk can be immensely rewarding. The meat yield from a single successful hunting deer—a freezer’s worth—can sustain you for months, making it an attractive option for those looking to provide larger quantities of meat. But be prepared: big game hunting requires more planning, skill, and often a higher level of physical fitness.

Hunting big game also exposes you to more danger. Remember that these animals weigh a lot more than you do, are fast and can get angry pretty quickly. There are usually many predators around as well. remember, you are not the only one hunting that game; you will have to share the same environment with mountain lions, wolves, bears and other predators alike.

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Scouting and Finding Hunting Locations

Finding the ideal hunting location is a blend of art and science. Whether you’re seeking the solitude of public lands or the controlled environment of private leases, scouting is key. Start hunting by observing the habits of your quarry, look for signs like game trails and droppings, and consider investing in tools like trail cameras to increase your odds.

And don’t forget, apps like HuntWise and iHunter can be a modern hunter’s best friend, offering valuable insights right at your fingertips.

Private Land: Building Relationships

Gaining access to private land is about building relationships. Making a good first impression and being respectful can open doors to long-term hunting permissions. Sometimes, a well-written letter can be your golden ticket, especially if you can provide character references to back up your credibility.

Once you’ve established trust, you’re not just getting permission to hunt; you’re potentially securing a spot that can provide countless seasons of memories.

Remember to nurture the relationships with land owners after the hunt. Share your game with them when you can. Offer to help on their farm if they need assistance.

Public Land: Utilizing Technology

For those of us who don’t have connections to private land, technology is our ally. Digital mapping apps like HuntWise and iHunter are revolutionizing the way we scout, offering detailed maps and even offline capabilities for those remote spots where cell service is unavailable. And with millions of acres of public and crown lands (in Canada), the opportunities for hunting are vast and varied.

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Hunting Strategies and Techniques

Developing effective strategies and techniques is what can turn a good hunt into a great one. From the basics of stealth and marksmanship to understanding your target’s behavior, each skill you hone plays a crucial role in your success.

Practice is key, and there’s no better place to refine your shooting than at the range, where you can build the confidence and precision needed for an ethical kill.

And let’s not forget about the importance of the right attire—dressing appropriately can make or break your hunt.

Staying Stealthy

The element of surprise is your greatest weapon in the field. Moving silently and minimizing noise from gear are skills that, once mastered, can significantly increase your chances of success. But it’s not just about being quiet; it’s also about knowing when to move.

Timing is everything, and understanding the behavior of your quarry is what allows you to make the right move at the right moment.

Wind Direction and Weather Considerations

The best-laid plans can be foiled by an untimely gust of wind carrying your scent straight to your quarry. Being mindful of the wind’s direction is a subtle yet crucial aspect of hunting, as is adapting your strategy to the weather conditions of the day.

These environmental factors can be as influential as your own skills, so respect them, and plan accordingly.

Field Dressing and Meat Processing

The hunt doesn’t end with the shot; field dressing and meat processing are where you truly honor your harvest. Being prepared with the right tools and knowing whether to process your game yourself or seek professional help are decisions that can affect the quality and taste of your meat.

Essential Tools and Supplies

A field dressing kit should include:

  • A sharp, fixed-blade knife
  • A reliable guthook
  • Gloves for hygiene
  • A good headlamp

These essentials can make the process of field dressing smoother and cleaner.

DIY vs. Professional Processing

DIY game processing can be incredibly rewarding, giving you full control over the entire process, from aging to butchering. But if you’re new to it, you might not get the same quality cuts as a professional—at least not at first. That said, the savings from investing in your own equipment can be substantial over time.

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Joining the Hunting Community

They say it takes a village, and the same can be said for hunting. Joining the hunting community, be it through local clubs, conservation groups, or online forums, can accelerate your learning curve and connect you with experienced hunters who can act as mentors.

This community is a treasure trove of knowledge and support, where seasoned veterans and novices alike share their passion for the great outdoors.

Local Clubs and Conservation Groups

Dive into the local scene by joining hunt clubs or conservation groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation. Not only can these organizations provide you with more hunting opportunities, they also offer the chance to meet like-minded individuals who prioritize wildlife conservation. By engaging in club activities, you could even improve your chances of gaining access to private lands through the relationships you build.

Plus, hunt clubs can offer amenities like camping spots, which can save you both time and money. The camaraderie found in these groups is invaluable, as is the collective wisdom and shared responsibility of its members.

Online Forums and Social Media

The world wide web is your oyster when it comes to expanding your hunting knowledge. Online forums and social media groups dedicated to hunting are brimming with experienced hunters eager to share their tips and stories. Here, you can ask questions, get gear recommendations, and learn from the experiences of others without ever leaving your home.

Engaging with these virtual communities can be a great way to find hunting partners, share your own stories, and stay up-to-date on the latest hunting trends and techniques.

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To Conclude

As we wrap up this guide, remember that hunting is a journey that extends beyond the pursuit of game. It’s about connecting with nature, embracing new challenges, and continually learning and growing as an outdoors person. From the patience required to embrace nature’s pace to the thrill of a successful hunt, each step of this journey is rewarding in its own right.

I am still very new to hunting, and just want to say that it can be a daunting activity, if you don’t have experience in it. But just ask for help, and I am sure you will get it. Drom my experience, people in the hunting community are awesome.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is needed to start hunting?

To start hunting, you will need essential gear like hunting rain gear, base layers, hunting socks, a fixed blade, a folding knife, and a multi-tool. You will also need your rifle or a bow, but if you have a mentor, you can start with sharing it. Additionally, make sure to have maps, a compass or GPS, a hunting pack, water bottle or hydration bladder, decoys, game calls, scent eliminators, and scent attractors.

What is the easiest hunting for beginners?

For beginners, easy hunting options include pheasant, raccoon, rabbit, turkey, squirrel, and duck. These animals are easier to locate and approach, making them ideal for those new to hunting. From big game, hunters often say that mule deer tend to be easier to hunt, as they are not as easily spooked as some other og game.

What should I consider when choosing between small game and big game hunting?

Consider your hunting experience, physical fitness, time commitment, and firearm preferences when choosing between small game and big game hunting. Small game is more accessible and requires less physical effort, while big game hunting can be more challenging but provides larger meat yields.