Hunting used to be necessary in order to sustain life. However, in modern times it is truly a choice. Just as raising farm animals and then butchering those animals is not for everyone, the same is true for hunting. Additionally, many avid hunters learned those skills from their early childhood years. However, the simple fact is that in our present culture many people reach adult years and have never shot an animal for food.
This article is intended to address that very issue. Learning these skills can be intimidating. Consequently, I suggest that you take your time. Find what interests you and do one thing at a time. It will not happen over night. But, these are valuable skills that will serve you for a lifetime. So, let’s address one thing at a time.
How to Learn to Hunt
There are numerous publications on hunting skills, enough to fill several large books. There are also numerous weapons you can use for hunting. In such a short presentation, it is difficult to address the mountain of material that is available on this topic. The purpose of this article is to steer you in the right direction. It is then up to you to follow through with these steps and learn a new skill.
1) Decide on what you would like to learn
Just as deep sea fishing is very different from quietly sitting on a lakeshore and waiting for a bite, the same is true for hunting. There are many different types of hunting to enjoy. Pheasant hunting is very different from hunting a turkey. Hunting a buck in the fields of Kanas is very different than hunting big horn sheep high in the Colorado Rockies. Not only that, different types of hunting takes different types of weapons. Hunting with a rifle is much different than archery.
It is important to put some thought into this. If you are unsure, then spend some time with different types of hunters. Join a local hunting club. Spend some time getting to know people in your local sporting goods shop. Most hunters are more than willing to share their knowledge with newbies.
2) Learn about the animal you would like to hunt.
Conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Whitetail Unlimited, as well as others, can teach you all you need to know about the animal you are interested in hunting. Get to know their habitat, grazing habits, tracks, diet, movements, and anything else you can learn. Knowing your prey will go far to assure a successful hunt.
Additionally, learn the migration habits of the local wildlife, their preferred food sources, places where they wallow in the mud, as well as where they tend to bed down and rest.
Besides online learning, get to know the local wildlife biologist, game wardens, even Forest Service personal. They can be an amazing resource.
3) Take a hunter’s safety course and/or a gun safety course
Every state has a hunter’s education program. The requirements vary from state to state so it is important to do some investigation. Typically there is an online portion and an in person portion for the course. Although a hunter’s education course does little to prepare you for actual hunting, it does introduce you to important safety skills. The safety course also teaches you about local game laws and how to conduct a safe and ethical hunt.
Hunter-ed.com has a state by state list of hunter safety courses. Also, the NRA does a lot to support hunters. In fact they have several free online courses.
4) Go outside
Online learning and YouTube University is not going to get you the hands on experience that is needed to be an effective hunter. You need to get out into the field. See the animals in their natural environment. Purchase a guide that illustrates the tracks of common animals. Practice searching for those foot prints and practice tracking techniques. The important thing here is that you have to get outside.
There are numerous game, wildlife, and conservation organizations that utilize volunteers. This is a great way to learn about the outdoors, learn about wildlife, as well as make new friends.
6) Shadow other hunters
Most hunters are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Shadowing other hunters is a great way to learn. For me, it was my Grandfather and Father that taught me the basics and I started hunting at a young age. If that is not an option, joining a hunting club or other organization is a great way to make new friends. Simply ask if you can come along. If that hunter bags an animal, then pitch in and help with the processing. Assisting with the work load is a great way to make a good impression.
Experienced hunters can also share with you what did not work for them. They can teach you valuable tips and tricks that will make you more successful.
7) Purchase quality gear
It is possible to spend thousands of dollars on hunting and outdoor gear. Make sure you enjoy your new sport before investing a ton of money. Set a realistic budget. That said, if you purchase high quality gear, it will be worth the extra money spent. Not only will it last much longer but it will also not fail you in time of an emergency.
8) Know your territory
It is important to scout a hunting area prior to your first hunt. If your scouting turns up little sign of your intended prey, it may be necessary to pick another location.
9) Safety first
Personal safety comes first. This is part of knowing the hunting territory where you will be spending time. Take survival gear. Plan for the unexpected. Have an exit strategy. Make a plan if the weather turns bad. Also, always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.
Outdoor skills are a vital part of hunting. Learning some basic skills will help you deal with adverse weather, keep you warm and dry, and help to make sure you return home safely. So, do not take this lightly.
KNOW YOUR TARGET. Never pull the trigger unless you have a clear view of your target and a clean shot. Many hunters have been unintentionally shot or killed by careless people.
10) Be ethical
If you shoot an animal it is your responsibility to take care of business. If it is only wounded, you need to track it down and finish the job. This goes along with always making sure you have a clear shot.
Never shoot an animal just for the trophy. It is unethical and just plain wasteful to shoot a large, edible game animal, cut off the rack and leave the meat to rot.
11) Never do anything illegal.
Never hunt without obtaining a proper license. Never hunt on private property without asking permission. Furthermore, do not spend time with hunters that are unethical. Hunting is supposed to be a fun, safe, and enjoyable activity. Unethical hunters will get caught sooner or later and will drag you down with them. Do not risk incurring a heavy fine for doing something stupid.
12) Keep yourself healthy and physically fit.
Spending time in the outdoors, hiking, hunting, and dressing out a large game animal can be very strenuous. If you are physically fit, it will make your adventure much more enjoyable.
13) Learn how to process you own game.
It is always possible to pay someone to process your game for you. However, they usually charge a nice fee to do so. This first step in this process is field dressing the animal. This is necessary to cool down the meat as soon as possible to minimize any contamination. The added benefit is that you have much less weight to haul back to your vehicle. It is ideal to learn this from a fellow hunter.
As far as butchering, there are plenty of resources with diagrams that show how to properly butcher an animal. Ideally, you should purchase a set of butchering knives, a meat slicer, meat grinder, and even a sausage stuffer if you want. This may sound like a lot of equipment and expense. However, there is a quick return on investment. If you bag a large animal, the fee for processing will easily exceed the amount of money you will spend on processing tools and equipment.
Additionally, you must realize the work involved in processing your own meat. It is a lot of work to butcher a large game animal, package it, label it, and get it ready for the freezer. If needed, enlist the assistants of some friends and pay them back with a large roast of fresh meat.
14) Never stop learning
No matter how experienced you are, never stop reading hunting articles and learning as much as you can. There is an amazing amount of information on the internet as well as numerous really good books on hunting. With today’s technology, you have unlimited resources at your fingertips.
Hunting is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and feed the family with good quality organic meat. All you really need is a passion for the outdoors, an open mind, a little patience, and a willingness to learn. This is a valuable skill that will serve you well. Depending on the size of your family, bagging one large game animal could supply you with meat for over a year. Additionally, with a combination of hunting and raising small backyard farm animals, you can easily provide yourself with a significant food source.
On top of that, there are numerous ways to preserve your excess bounty.
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