Hunting is one of the best ways to experience nature and maintain that bond between man and the land we live on. It’s not just about harvesting the game either. Through hunting, we’re making sure that various species have a sustainable future.
Experiencing the hunt for the first time is exhilarating, but there are 8 written and unwritten rules you need to learn before you set off on your first hunting adventure. We’ve put them all on a list for your convenience.
Get Your License and Your Tags
There is a lot to hunting. We can discuss the gear and different types of hunting all day long, but first thing first — get a hunting license from your state and get your tags. If you’re hunting, that means you’re doing it legally. Harvesting an animal without a license is called poaching, and not only is that illegal, it goes against everything hunting stands for.
Depending on where you live, getting a license and tags can be a chore, but there is a perfectly good reason why all of this bureaucracy exists. Without tags, game wardens and wildlife preservation specialists can’t keep track of the local game population.
If you take too many animals within an area, you’re risking severely damaging the entire ecosystem. Tags introduce a simple way of tracking how many animals are harvested each year, and you need to be a part of that system.
A steel gong or a paper target fixed downrange can take all kinds of shenanigans (not that you should “play” with firearms). You can challenge yourself with time trialed shots, long-range engagements, and more. These targets won’t mind. However, an animal will.
Long-range hunting is a thing, but people who engage in such hunts have years of trigger time, experience, and the right kind of equipment. If you’re out there hunting whitetail deer with your .223, don’t go for 600-yard shots unless you’re absolutely certain you can down that animal. As a hunter, you have an obligation to be as ethical with your kills as possible.
Besides, there’s no better way to ruin a good stalk than to score a non-lethal shot on a buck, and then spend hours tracking it through heavy brush.
Choose Your Equipment Wisely
Most hunting isn’t demanding when it comes to equipment and firearms. You’ll want to consult your local and state laws to find out what calibers are legal for a specific type of game. Other than that, it’s your call. That being said, you should put together a kit that you’re consistent with, and one that you’re comfortable using.
Similarly, if you have any medical conditions, make sure that your equipment is suitable for your specific case. Finding a good red dot for astigmatism can relieve eye strain and let you be more accurate with your rig. Likewise, an LPVO can help you get that variable zoom if you’re having trouble identifying targets further out.
As far as firearms go, make sure that you have the right tool for the job. This doesn’t only apply to calibers either. If you’re going for a stalk, a thin, hunting profile barrel mounted in a polymer stock will always outperform a bull barrel sitting in a heavy chassis. The latter is a more accurate firearm, but you’ll be all kinds of fatigued carrying that weight as you stalk your game.
Always Positively ID Your Targets
A bullet can’t be un-fired. The moment you fire a shot, you’re responsible for that projectile and the damage it does downrange. New hunters are often excited to score their first tag. Some of them are so excited that they’ll shoot at a fleeting sight of an animal.
That’s how people end up hurt, or worse. The basic rules of firearm safety apply during hunts as well. Always establish a positive ID of your target before you squeeze the trigger. Always be aware of what’s in front and behind your target.
Understand Different Types of Hunting
Not all hunting is the same. Understanding the difference between different types of hunting can greatly affect your experience. Some hunters prefer to be out in the wilderness hiking all day while stalking their prey, others prefer waiting for it in strategically positioned blinds.
Some hunt big game, some hunt small game. Others only do bird hunting. Understanding the difference between different types of hunts will allow you to properly prepare for your adventure.
Learn To Read Wind
As you probably know, some animals have a few advantages over us humans. While we are the apex predator, our senses are fairly tame compared to those of different animals.
Deer is a good example of this. They may not be able to see you all that well, but deer will smell you from a long distance away if the wind is blowing towards them. Learning how to read the wind is essential if you don’t want to run in circles all day.
Work Your Way Up To Big Game
Elk hunting in the Pacific Northwest is a dream come true for many newbies, but it’s also too big of a bite for many. Most of the pros in the industry started small and worked their way up to the big game. By going from small game to varmint, to big game, you learn the ropes and more importantly recognize your strong and weak sides.
That big game hunt isn’t going anywhere. There’s no need to rush into it. Figure out where you stand first, gain the necessary experience, and then enjoy a hunt of a lifetime up north.
Maintain Your Proficiency
Hunting is a skill. Just like any other, you need to constantly do it in order to get better, but also to retain your level of proficiency. The same applies to marksmanship, which is arguably an important part of hunting. Make sure that you always on top of your game, and you’ll progress as a hunter.
Treat Hunting With The Respect It Deserves
Hunting is an activity that has been around since the dawn of time. Even back then, humans understood the relationship between hunting and survival. Our predecessors respected their prey to a point of deifying it. While we’re not dependent on hunting for food these days, it’s still an activity that should be enjoyed with a certain level of respect.