A new shooter can often wonder where to begin in hunting. First off they need to attend a hunter education course to learn safety, responsibility and ethics. After completing a certification course, they are free to hunt, but where do they start?
Over the years, new hunters have gotten a start in hunting through a variety of means. I learned hunting practices from my father and his friends. Many of us get our start with the help of our family. It is great to have a family that hunts and passes its tradition down to children.
Last winter I was at a convention where I spoke in a hunting forum. While I was there I met an inspiring young lady whose father had passed away. No one else in her family hunted so she took it upon herself to take hunters education. She wanted to be a part of another family; the family of hunters. I offered my help.
- Other hunters - There is a vast family of hunters in our nation. Many of them have topped the “five stages of hunting” and moved on to what my husband calls the “sixth stage of hunting.” It is the mentor stage and comes when you have exceeded the five stages of hunter development. Hunters who reach this stage have accepted hunting for all it is worth and want to share the passion with others. A new hunter can look to another accomplished hunter as a mentor and ask for guidance.
- Neighbors - There may be people in your area who are willing to help you learn to hunt. The young lady I mentioned meeting at the convention did not know many people in the area where she lived. In her hunter education course, she learned to ask landowners for permission to hunt. She passed a property on her way to work each day and saw a pond where she wanted to duck hunt. She asked the land owner for permission to hunt his property and was granted permission. She received advice and instruction from the land owner and was able to shoot her very first duck.
- Hunting clubs - Hunting clubs are a safe way to get a start with hunting. They typically promote responsible hunting and have a focus on safety. A hunt club may offer a variety of scheduled hunts for various species. They are capable of offering solo or group hunts. You may be teamed up with other hunters which gives you the chance to network and make new friends. For a free listing service of private and commercial hunting clubs across the United States visit http://www.huntclublisting.com/.
- Group and outfitted hunts - There are a number of groups that organize hunts with outfitters. You can do the research and book a hunt directly with an outfitter, or you can join a group hunt. Always be sure to verify what is included in the hunt and ask if it will be a good circumstance for a first time hunter. An outfitter may recommend that you come on a hunt independently so they can give you their undivided attention. Do not be afraid to ask questions. A group hunt is another hunting situation where you will have the opportunity to meet new mentors and possibly new hunting buddies.
- Hunter outreach - Check with your state’s fish and wildlife department. They may offer a hunter outreach program. Colorado offers a program teaching safe, ethical, and responsible hunting to those who have never before hunted or have limited experience. Hunt with screened and qualified volunteers who assist with planning hunts. Click the following link to see a description and example of Colorado’s Hunter Outreach Program.
- Conservation organizations - Conservation organizations are a great place to meet hunting gurus. Contact a local organization to see what they offer in the way of mentored hunts. Some organizations that donate or plan these hunts are: Safari Club International National Wild Turkey Foundation Mule Deer Foundation Ducks Unlimited Pheasants Forever.
When you are exploring avenues to get your introduction to hunting always make sure to have an open discussion about the hunt. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do your best to meet face to face, or at the very least pick up the phone and talk directly to your mentor or guide. During a conversation, unlike email, you are able to get a feel for what you are signing up for. You want to be sure that your first hunting experience is a safe and positive one.