It can be difficult to get into hunting as an adult, but it’s not impossible. And there are great resources available for anyone interested in procuring their own meat. If you want to start hunting, these tips will help you find your way afield.
As I move into my fourth fall as a big-game hunter, I recall the deer-in-the-headlights feeling of stepping into this new pursuit. (All puns intended.) It can seem daunting, expensive, and out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be.
Here, I break down some of the resources that can help you get as do-it-yourself as possible, without breaking the bank or your spirit.
Every state has a hunters’ ed program that’s usually legally required prior to hunting. It’s a great way jump in, but much of basic hunters ed revolves around gun safety, which — although deeply important — does not teach you much about hunting itself.
I 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 prior to 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 education program, and I recommend taking both to anyone who might ask.
Learn to Hunt: Reading List
And 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. 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.
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.
There aren’t a ton of women writing on hunting, but Lily Raff McCaulou’s transformation in Oregon is one that I personally identify with. For anyone coming from a city background and wondering how they might fit in, this is a great read.
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 following writing by Edward Abbey, Annie Proulx, and more is just awesome.
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. Put it on your list.
Hunt for the First Time: Online Tips and Other Resources
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. These guys helped me a lot before I found my hunting crew.
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. Super helpful and available on Netflix.
I met my hunting partners through volunteering for BHA in Bozeman, Mont. 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.
Getting Geared Up
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. But 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 FirstLite base layers for both men and women.
How to Get Started Hunting: Final Thoughts
Learning how to hunt 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 in order 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.