I hear people say they want to be a hunter all the time,
but I’ve never found a one-size fits all response. When we hunters tell non-hunters about everything they’re going to have to do, they can get pretty discouraged. Maybe it’s impossible to be both encouraging and direct. But for better or for worse, here are five steps you can take to make hunting a reality for you.
The Hunter Safety Course
In order to buy a hunting license (yes, it’s required), you must take a hunter’s safety course. What is it? A weekend long course organized by the state. They vary in length depending on where you’re at, but they always cover safety as the most basic and important part of hunting. Prospective hunters must understand that if there is only constant in this sport, it’s safety.
The course also teaches the ethical obligation you have to your prey. You will learn some rudimentary hunting skills, like locating the vitals (or killzone) of your game. For the most part, you will spend hours listening to elementary survival tactics, weapon safety, game laws, and regulation. Completing a hunter safety course shows you are committed to cutting off your business with the local butcher.
Simply google search your local hunter’s safety course and sign up. Do you want to know the best part? It won’t cost you anything but your time. Note that there are two types of safety courses: archery and firearms. The weapon you plan on using to harvest determines the course you’ll take.
The Right Gear
Instead of lecturing you about what you should wear when hunting, do this. Go to your local sporting goods store and check out the hunting apparel. These stores have entire departments dedicated to outfitting hunters. Their retail associates should be extremely knowledgeable about the basics you’ll need. Of course you never know—maybe your North Face gear will suffice. Just keep in mind that staying still and moving can change the effectiveness of clothing. You will quickly learn the difference.
Hunting is not the same as going on a camping trip or hanging out in your yard. You could be in wet or cold or windy weather or any other mess Mother Nature sees fit to throw at you. Trust me when I say that, once you become a hunter, you will never look at weather the same way again.
You have to understand your weapon. You have to be able to shoot your weapon. I’ll be honest with you, I hunt with a bow. But just because I am an archer does not mean that I am an expert on archery. Archery shops are called pro shops for a reason. They don’t just sell bows, they take care of the people who own them. I have a professional who tunes my bow and sets it up to fit me.
Buying a bow is like buying a car. If you haven’t already figured this out, bows are custom fit to the buyer. They come in all different sizes and can be fast or smooth, expensive or cheap. Regardless of the bow you choose, you must learn to master it. Pro shops usually offer lessons to teach you how to shoot straight. I guarantee that you will not at first.
After that, you need to practice, practice, practice. You have taken on the moral responsibility for your food source and you owe the animal on the other end of your bow a clean and ethical harvest.
By this point, you should be ready to venture into the woods and hunt your game. The best teacher in the world will accompany you: failure. Hunting is not easy, despite what preconceived notions mainstream America has about it.
And let’s get something straight right now. Hunting is about being part of a sustainable ecosystem. Hunters go home more often without a harvest than they do with one. The hunt itself entices hunters to continually go out and try to harvest something. It’s a life-changing thing, hunting. Your perspective on food and nature will be forever altered. If you think it’s only about killing, you’re doing it wrong.
So learn how to enjoy the hours spent in fresh air and the silence of nature. There will be many.
Never Stop Learning
The final step? Become good at hunting. A million moments of hard work will culminate in one second, a second that reaffirms your desire to hunt in the first place. The harvest. The 100% organic and sustainable meat that cost you blood, sweat, and tears. There is already a name for green and sustainable living. It’s called hunting.
There are plenty of hunters in the woods that will help you and banter about hunting theory with you. Hunters have passed down centuries of tradition, though they are often unfairly framed as hicks with little education. They are good, down-to-earth people and—as long as you don’t talk about politics—safe and friendly.
You will be able to find answers, theories, and ideas on the internet. One great site is Basic Huntsman, whose title gets the point across well. It’s no different than learning anything else. I suggest you strive to find out new angles. Learn about new tactics like hunting the wind, scent control, blood tracking, still hunting and many others on an endless list.
You could also help support me and get a head start on all of this by buying my book, The Urban Deer Complex. Each and every person that has over the years told me they want to go hunting was in my mind when I wrote that back.
Above all, have fun—and be safe. Go and find yourself in the wilderness.
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.