According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 38 million Americans hunt or fish every year, and if you are reading this, then you are probably not one those people. Hunting is a sport that people have done throughout time, and that tradition continues today with families of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ages.
If you are planning for your first hunting trip, are curious about going hunting for the first time, or have just heard about it from your friends, the following information will help you prepare both mentally and physically.
Every person who goes hunting has their own reason why they go. For most people, it is fun. Hunting is an all-day or even all weekend activity, and many hunters make an event out of it.
It is an opportunity to bond with friends or family doing something you enjoy. It is no different than spending a day watching football with your friends, except you are out in the wild.
Benefits of Hunting
Having fun and connecting with others is just one major reason people love to hunt. There are hundreds of other benefits to hunting as well. Listed below are just three of those other benefits that make people love and appreciate the sport of hunting.
The first humans who hunted, most likely hunted for food. That tradition continues today with the millions of subsistence hunters who hunt deer, turkeys, quail, etc. for their meat. The meat from wild game is fresh, healthy, and organic. One weekend of hunting can score you enough meat to freeze for a whole year and possibly more.
To Appreciate the Outdoors
We spend so much time inside that we forget to appreciate the outdoors. Hunting helps you escape the crazy and hectic city life and gets you outside where you can start to enjoy nature’s sights, sounds, and smells.
To Protect the Environment
In parts of the country like Wisconsin, there is a massive overpopulation of deer. State agencies try to manage and regulate the deer population problem by encouraging hunting. It might seem ironic that hunting helps protect species, but it is true that controlled and regulated hunting helps stabilize animal populations.
Contrary to what many non-hunters often think, hunting is not all about guns and killing. For the vast majority of hunters, hunting is about getting together with friends, appreciating the outdoors, and eating some great food.
If you are still curious about hunting or are ready to start preparing for your first trip, the following seven tips will prepare you for the experience.
Plan Your Trip
A good hunting spot can make all the difference in having a successful hunt. Unless you are accompanying friends or family who are experienced hunters, do not expect to drive around until you find the perfect spot. Research ahead of time using guides and satellite maps to pinpoint a precise location where you want to camp.
Planning your trip ahead of time will also help prevent you from accidentally camping out on somebody else’s property.
Before heading out, you are going to need to keep your expectations in check about the trip. There is never a guarantee when you go hunting that you will fire a shot or even see an animal after hours and even days of waiting.
Also, prepare to be awake very early in the morning, often in cold, wet weather.
Get Comfortable With Your Weapon
If you have never fired a gun before, you are going to want to get a feel for it before firing your first shot while out on the hunt. If you can, fire some shots at a local gun range, so you know how the gun feels when shooting and get the hang of it.
Some people do not like holding or shooting firearms. If that’s the case, but you still want to experience hunting, consider using a bow and arrow instead. Same with using a gun, you should learn to use a bow ahead of the trip and practice shooting before setting out on your first hunting trip.
Bring the Right Supplies
It can be easy to go overboard spending thousands of dollars on equipment that hunting shows or salespeople claim that you will need.
The truth is, humans have been hunting with far less for thousands of years. Be smart with what you decided to bring. You can only bring so much equipment, so focus on being sure you have the following essentials.
- Food and snacks
- 2 liters of water per person, per day
- Weapon and plenty of ammunition
- All-purpose knife and axe
- Rope and tarp for animal field dressing
- Changes of clothes
If you have extra money or carrying capacity, consider bringing more food, water, or clothes for your first trip instead of an expensive, high tech piece of equipment.
Know All Laws, Licenses, and Regulations
Not following all state and local hunting laws can get you in a lot of legal trouble. Most states during open hunting season have game wardens and state troopers patrolling popular hunting areas, making sure all hunters have their licenses and comply with all laws.
Before your hunt, familiarize yourself with all the rules by researching all state laws where you are going to hunt. Do not assume that all laws across different states are the same. Some jurisdictions are stricter than others are.
Related reading: 10 Survival Hunting Essentials
For example, New York prohibits the use of larger .556 mags when hunting with rifles like the AR-15, whereas Wyoming does not.
After learning all the rules, be sure you have a legal and valid hunting license and the right tags for the animals you are hunting. Once you have all the necessary paperwork, be sure to bring it along with you. If you forget your license, you cannot legally fire a shot.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Right until you leave for your hunting trip, you will need to be aware of the weather conditions at your campsite. Even if the forecast does not call for cold or wet weather, you should still have a plan in the unlucky event inclement weather does pop up.
Packing waterproof jackets along with a sweater, warm coat, gloves, and a blanket (if you have room) will have you prepared for any unfortunate weather changes.
Make Safety a Priority
Safety should be your number one importance when out hunting. Consider taking a hunter’s safety course online.
Hunter’s safety courses teach you proper gun safety, hunting ethics, and all the safety rules and regulations hunters must legally follow. As stated above, part of being safe is learning how to handle your weapon and choosing the correct gear to bring.
Above all else, when you’re on the range, protect your eyes and ears. Most earplugs and hearing protection gear you can find on the market is more than sufficient to prevent shooting-related hearing loss. Eye protection is also key. I recommend investing in a pair of strong, reflective shooting glasses. At the very least, wear sunglasses to the range to avoid eye injuries from flash or errant casings.
At home, keep guns locked away in a quality gun safe (I suggest one of these), far out of the reach of children.
One last word
The last tip to remember is to have fun. Never think that because you did not land a massive deer on your first trip that the hunt was a failure. Experienced hunters can go trip after trip without scoring a kill.
The ultimate goal of hunting should be having a great time outdoors with others and learning to become a more experienced hunter in the process and following the above seven tips beforehand will help you do just that.
Article written by Sam Bocetta for Prepper’s Will.