• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

5 hunting tips for beginners

Unlike many hunters, I didn’t start hunting until I was 20 years old. Not having been raised in sports presented me with a steep learning curve; I think a lot of hunting-curious adults might turn away from it, especially if they’re trying to get into the sport on their own.

As a relatively new hunter, I have a new perspective on things I wish I had known when I started. These are things that I have learned on my own and had the good fortune to learn from some amazing mentors. While some of these tips apply to hunters around the world, most of the hunting I do is big game hunting in the western United States.

Find a hunting mentor

If you didn’t grow up in a hunting family, hunting can be one of the hardest things to do as an adult. From observing with a rifle to understanding animal behavior and habitats, there is a lot to learn. And if you haven’t learned since you were 5, there’s a lot to catch up on.

A hunting mentor can flatten the learning curve. Cavan Images via Getty Images

I got lucky when I started hunting – my best friend pestered me to join him on a turkey hunt one year and finally convinced me to enter the big game raffle from New Mexico. He assured me I would love it, and when I drew an elk and mule deer tag that fall, he let me use his gun and guided me on both hunts. He taught me how to shoot a rifle over the summer and took a week off to teach me the ins and outs of elk hunting. The following year he gave me his old bow hunting system and also taught me how to shoot an archery.

In addition to my buddy, I found an amazing community of like-minded hunters where I live in Santa Fe, all of whom were extremely helpful and willing to share their knowledge of various units, hunting strategies, and gear recommendations. Without them, I might have tried to learn to hunt on my own, but there’s no way I would have learned as much or had the same success in the field that I have. had so far. You can read all the articles and listen to all the podcasts you want, but there’s no substitute for finding a mentor willing to help you figure things out.

Spend your money on good drink

An invaluable piece of advice given to me before my first hunt was to spend the money on good drink. My mentor told me that I should expect to spend almost as much or more on my rifle scope and binoculars than on my rifle or bow, and when it comes to hunting in the West he had it all quite right.

For spot and rod hunting, a good quality lens is essential. It can be the difference between finding legal money to hunt or coming home empty-handed after days without a deer lying down. For the type of hunting I do, my favorite binoculars are Maven 10×42 B.1s (which have since been replaced by the B1.2s). They’re wonderful in low light, extremely clear from edge to edge, and feel incredibly solid. At $1000 they aren’t cheap, but they are a good investment. If you have more than one budget, the Maven C.1s are a good buy at around $400.

On hunts in the high desert where I can see a lot of open ground, I also carry a set of Maven 15×56 B.5s in my bag these days instead of a spotting scope. I find them much easier to walk around for long periods of time, and have even found that unless you’re using a really really nice spotting scope, the clarity of the big binos works better for separating hills and spotting spikes distant woods.

Bowhunter sits on a mountain peak and looks through binoculars while tracking wild game in the wooded wilderness of Washington State.  A crossbow is lying on the ground behind the man.
If you want to chase the West, it’s worth investing in some good glass. Fly See productions via Getty Images

Your clothes matter more than you think

Your equipment makes a big difference. I’m going to caution this by saying that people have been hunting without expensive and sophisticated ultralight and camo mountain guns for thousands of years, and you certainly don’t need spend a ton of money on gear to start hunting. But investing in a few key pieces of equipment upfront will make your experience in the field much more enjoyable.

What you wear while hunting is arguably more important than in any other sport, and I’m not talking about the camouflage pattern you choose. Of all the outdoor sports I do, from bikepacking to cross-country skiing, nothing is harder on my clothes than hunting, at least hunting out west. If you do it right, much of your hike is off trail. You often go through thick brush and even crawl over rough and rocky terrain. It’s tough on clothes, so you need something that lasts.

There are many good brands out there these days like Kuiu, First Lite and Forlough, but Sitka makes some of the best outdoor gear I’ve ever used. I have a ton of their diapers now and have been impressed with every piece I own – they fit well, work as well if not better than other high end outdoor gear like ArcTeryx or Patagonia, and also handle abuse better than anything I’ve used. Their mountain pants have built-in removable knee pads (which look fancy until you use them for the first time), fit better than most other pairs of pants I own, and have lasted over 4 years of hunting more than 20 days a year in them without a loose thread.

The Apex Hoody is another one of my favorite pieces. It’s a blend of merino and nylon, which keeps you warm when wet and smells great longer than pure synthetic layers. It also has an integrated hood and mask for added warmth and concealment and is just one of those incredibly versatile layers that work for a wide variety of hunts.

I would suggest starting with pants, a mid layer and an outer jacket. Again, you need fancy gear for going hunting, but it makes your life much more enjoyable when you’re out in the field. The beauty of good gear is that it disappears while you’re using it, and if you’re not overheating, soaking wet, or worried about ripping a hole in your jacket, you’ll be more focused on the hunt.

Study the hunt

Although not required for an adult in my state, I took a hunter’s education course before my first big game hunt and found it incredibly helpful in understanding the basics. It’s a great place to start, but as I got more interested in hunting I discovered a ton of other resources that I wish I had known about before that first hunt.

Podcasts like Elk Talk with Randy Newberg and Corey Jacobsen, and Cutting the Distance with Remi Warren have been invaluable in learning everything from gun caliber choices to end-of-season elk behavior, calling strategies, and more. Books like Hank Shaw’s Hunt, gather, cook: in search of the forgotten feast, will help you figure out what to do once you have an animal down and in your kitchen. And for an aspiring elk hunter, Corey Jacobsen’s Elk 101 is probably the most comprehensive and detailed resource there is.

If you want to hunt big game in the West, a Top Rut subscription is also a great help in determining draw odds, and an onX Hunt subscription is absolutely essential in helping you know exactly where the draw limits are. private/public land. It also lets you e-scout from your home computer and navigate in the field.

Be prepared to hurt an animal

Bowhunter elk hunting in the mountains.
Be prepared to hurt an animal, especially if you are learning to hunt with a bow. Mitch Kezar via Getty Images

All of the resources I just mentioned will help you build a knowledge base before you even set foot in the woods, but I don’t think any study can prepare you for the realities of hurting an animal. I had practiced shooting for months before my first elk hunt, but ended up getting a bad shot at a bull we called on the second night of my hunt. Instead of finding it piled up a few feet away in the woods as we had expected, we spent seven hours following a thin trail of blood for 3 miles until it dried up. When we returned to camp at 3 am empty-handed, I was devastated. We spent the next two days looking for this bull and never found it.

I had mentally prepared myself to kill an animal for the first time, but hadn’t thought about the very real risk of hurting something and not getting it back. I now understand that despite practicing with your rifle or bow and being as prepared as possible, injuring game and not retrieving it is simply an unfortunate part of hunting. You could hit a branch with an arrow that you couldn’t see through your sight or the buck you were shooting at could be angled towards or away from you harder than you thought, providing the wrong angle for the arrow to hit its targets. vital signs. Strange things happen, and chances are that at some point in your hunting career, they will.

Read Next: How to Shoot a Compound Bow: Archery Tips for Beginners and Beyond

To slow down

When I mentioned this item to a good hunting friend and mentor, he said “the only thing I would add to all of this is slow the hell down”. He couldn’t be more right – that’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and go too fast when hunting, whether you’re chasing bugles in September or trying to call a gobbler in the spring. New hunters, myself included, often get impatient and want to immediately move on or change the game plan when things aren’t working out quickly enough, but this is often a terrible strategy and you’ll end up scaring whatever you’re chasing. .

Whenever I hunt with someone who has been doing it for a long time and doing it successfully, I am always struck by their patience, slowness and method of moving through the woods and how slowing down almost always leads to success . .