Photo credit: Lindsey Mulcare

How to Start Hunting as an Adult

It can be difficult to get into hunting as an adult, but it’s not impossible. If you want to start hunting, these tips will help you find your way afield.

As we turn the bend into a new year, it’s time to learn how to hunt. Adults have been coming to hunting in droves the past few years, with women coming to hunting as adults in higher numbers than ever before.

2019 was my fifth year hunting, and it’s been a life-changing decision that puts great food on the table and widens my experience with the outdoors each year.

With that in mind, I’ve collected these tips to start hunting as well as resources that can help you guide your hunting education.

Hunters’ Education

Every state has a hunters’ ed program that’s usually legally required before hunting. It’s a great way jump in, but much of basic hunters’ ed revolves around gun and hunter safety, which — although deeply important — doesn’t teach you much about hunting itself.

And it’s important to note that if you’ve aged out of hunters’ ed in your state, many states require hunters’ ed for all. So, if you plan on hunting, just take the time to complete the program. It’s worth it.

I also had a great experience in my bowhunters’ ed class, and I think it’s valuable for every hunter to learn the tools around bowhunting, like shot placement, blood trailing, woodsmanship, and much more. If I had taken the class before my first rifle hunt, I would have had a much better base of knowledge and could have saved myself some mistakes.

Even if you’re not going to pick up a bow, you can learn a lot through the archery education program, and I recommend taking both to anyone who might ask.

A Reading List for New Hunters

‘The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game’ (1 & 2)

I recommend the rest of Steve Rinella’s books, really. But the guides are so insanely thorough and great that they’re both worth having on hand.

Both books are field guides for the active hunter. I keep mine in my rig, and I’ve used the guides on multiple occasions, like field dressing a deer or better understanding the wind. If you’re interested in hunting in general, this is a great place to start.

Hank Shaw’s Cookbooks

Shaw is a master of detail when it comes to cooking and game. His book “Buck, Buck, Moose” has specifically helped me so much in understanding big game in new ways.

‘Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner’

There aren’t a ton of women writing on hunting, but Lily Raff McCaulou’s transformation in Oregon is one that I identify with. For anyone coming from a city background and wondering how they might fit in, this is a great read.

‘The Best of Outside: The First 20 Years’ 

A collection of writing via Outside Magazine? That’s weird. But when I still lived in the concrete pillars of downtown Denver, I read the opening essay, “The Heart of the Game” by Tom McGuane, and it gave me a new understanding of what hunting can be.

You can read the essay here, but you should also have the book on your shelf, as the writing by Edward Abbey, Annie Proulx, and more is just awesome.

‘Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley’

I found this book by John Rember at the Polebridge Mercantile on a trip to Glacier National Park. It’s a memoir of Stanley, Idaho, and it’s deeply informed by the landscape.

Rember talks honestly about what can go wrong, as well as telling the important story of the moneyed metamorphosis of a small Western town. Plus, it’s one of my favorite reads of all time, and I even featured it in a roundup of my favorite hunting books. Put it on your list.

Online Tips and Other Resources

Hunt Talk

This forum is moderated by one of my favorite educators in the hunting arena: Randy Newberg. It’s also chock full of passionate hunters willing to share their experiences and expertise on how to start hunting. These guys helped me a lot before I found my hunting crew.

MeatEater’s Processing Episode: Season 5, Episode 6

This show breaks down the realities of hunting. If the crew doesn’t take an animal, the show reflects it. If something goes wrong, the show reflects it. And when a tag is notched, amazing food happens.

But the most important episode is 22 minutes of Steve breaking down a deer. It’s super helpful and available on Netflix.

All Those Dang Podcasts

From Randy’s own Hunt Talk podcast to Mark Kenyon’s Wired to HuntSteven Rinella and the MeatEater crew, and Joe Rogan bringing the topic to the forefront so often on his expansive podcast, hunting has a wide array of voices talking through so much within the pursuit.

Find your favorite, download it, laugh a lot, and learn a lot. Kenyon even has a specific episode called “Beginner’s Guide to Deer Hunting.” Dig in.

Joining Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

I met my hunting partners through volunteering for BHA in Bozeman, Montana. BHA has chapters all around the country, full of people who welcome new hunters and curious people with open arms.

It’s a great community, and for $25 per year, you can get connected to local sportsmen and sportswomen in your community. And to be honest, $25 per year to meet hunting partners is way, way cheaper than hiring a guide. Get after it.

Figure Out Your Hunting Gear

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Photo credit: Lindsey Mulcare

Wear what you’ve got. I killed my first deer in yoga pants, trail-running shoes, and a J. Crew jacket. Camo is helpful, but the technical camo of today is expensive and out of reach for a lot of people just getting into it.

Stick to the rules of staying warm and dry, just like you would on a hike. Avoid bright clothes if possible, but don’t feel like clothing is your first buy.

Borrow gear if you can. If you jump into hunting communities, there are wonderful people out there that can lend you the gear necessary for the type of hunt you choose to take on.

Don’t forget pawn shops. You can get really nice rifles, bows, and shotguns at bargain deals at pawn shops, among other great equipment. Talk with the shop crew; there’s often someone in house that knows their stuff when it comes to guns.

Spend money where it counts. Boots that are comfortable and fit well are tough to get secondhand. But sale racks can often hold great deals. If you have to spend big money on any one item, make it your boots. You’ll never regret good footwear.

Merino wool is a great place to invest some cash as you build a more technical wardrobe. I really like First Lite base layers for both men and women.

How to Start Hunting: Final Thoughts

Being a first-time hunter doesn’t have to feel completely overwhelming. There’s a plethora of information beyond what I’ve shared.

Currently, the number of hunters is on the decline. But the industry is catching on, and there are whispers of programs and initiatives that are evolving to help new hunters overcome the barriers to entry.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas about new hunting resources, let us know in the comments below.

Nicole Qualtieri
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Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. When she's not writing or editing, she's likely hunting, fishing, or on the back of her little brown horse with a border collie named Butch Cassidy on heel in the mountains. Find her on Instagram at @nkqualtieri.

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