Hunting is a skill and hobby that all preppers should attempt to try. We can spend years stocking up on long-term storage food, but in a long term disaster scenario that food will run out at some point. Stockpiling can only be considered self-sufficient, while hunting truly can bring us closer to self-reliance.
Using hunting to put meat on the table is not only practical from a preparedness point of view, but it’s also one of my favorite hobbies. Lately I’ve been asked by several new hunters about how to get started or if there are any tips that we could share about hunting.
In today’s post we’ll go over 15 useful tips to help beginning hunters get started out in hunting and what they need to do to not only increase their chances of putting meat on the table, but to also stay safe.
Make sure someone knows where you are
It is vitally important that someone know where you are when you’re hunting. Every year, hundreds of hunters get lost in the woods. Exposure is the most common cause for hunting-related fatalities. Most of these fatalities could have been avoided had the hunter simply told someone where they were hunting or carried a GPS device.
Always carry a wilderness survival kit in the woods
It is extremely important to carry some sort of wilderness survival kit when out in the woods. No one ever thinks that they’ll get lost in the woods or suffer a hunting accident… until they do. Having a basic kit that can provide some food, water (and a way to sterilize water), tools to make fire, shelter material and a way to signal for help will significantly raise your odds for survival should the worst happen.
Game animals have an extremely keen sense of smell. In fact, masking your smell could be the difference between bringing home a hundred pounds of meat for the freezer and coming home with nothing.
You must keep this in mind, especially when hunting larger game like deer. Your scent can carry in the air for well over a mile, which will likely guarantee that you’ll come him empty-handed. There are hundreds of various scent control products on the market that can make your scent much harder to detect by animals.
Also, it should go without saying, but if you’re a smoker, don’t smoke while hunting. Cigarette smoke can travel for miles. If a game animal gets a sniff of smoke, not only will they avoid going into your area, but you are pretty much guaranteed to drive off every animal already in your area.
Don’t go overboard on gear
If you watch any of the popular hunting shows or visit nearly any hunting forum on the internet, you’re going to be bombarded with gear advertisements. Although having the right hunting gear is important, you don’t need to break the bank or carry things you don’t need. Keep your supplies limited to the essentials of what you need to bring back food and to stay safe.
Remember, hunting is something that has been done for thousands of years. We used to bring down big game animals that would make your 10 point buck look like a chicken wing in comparison….and we did it with sharpened sticks and stones. Find good deals on the bare necessities that you need to hunt and stay safe, but don’t go wild on the gear. You can always upgrade your gear later if you need to.
Safety is more important than meat
Most states offer some sort of hunters safety course that is ran by the Department of Natural Resources or Wildlife Service. It is a very good idea for new hunters to take this course before even thinking about picking up a weapon and going hunting.
The second most common reason for hunting fatalities is simple refusal to follow simple safety procedures. Most modern hunters use tree stands, which are great and will give you a huge advantage, especially if you’re bow hunting. These stands always come with a safety harness that’s used to prevent you from falling out of the tree.
Don’t be another statistic just because the safety gear is bulky or might get in your way. It may just save your life one day. Also be sure that you are wearing the appropriate clothing for hunting. If you’re unsure, go with blaze orange. It is the international color for hunters and in some areas blaze orange clothing is a requirement for hunting.
Triple-check local hunting laws
Hunting laws are no joke. Every year, thousands of hunters are successfully prosecuted for violating local game and wildlife laws. Be sure that you are you using the appropriate weapon and projectile. Be aware of your state or local area’s tag, licensing and game reporting laws. Nearly every state has an online hunters guide provided by the Department of Natural Resources that outlines (in painful detail) what is allowed and isn’t. Don’t take shortcuts and don’t assume that you won’t get caught. It’s not worth it.
Patience is the key to hunting success
There are never any guarantees when hunting. You can have the best gear money can buy, find the best possible hunting land and be the only person that’s ever carried a rifle into those woods, and you could still walk out at the end of the day with nothing but a runny nose.
On the other hand you could sit down in your stand and be presented with the shot of a lifetime on a trophy buck within a few minutes. You just never know. Be patient. It’s called “hunting” and not “killing” for a reason. A good chunk of hunting is simple luck; the only part you can control is your patience. The more patient you are, the better chances you’ll have at getting a good, clean shot and bringing home meat.
Find a mentor
For a beginning hunter, having someone that can show you the ropes is a very good idea. Obviously anyone can buy a weapon, get their hunting license and tags and try their luck on public land; but having a mentor can be a game-changer. A mentor can show you all the small, minute details that could be the difference in a successful hunt. A mentor may even be able to set you up with private land to hunt on, which will greatly increase your chances as well.
Your best bet for finding a mentor is finding someone you know. Aside from that, online hunting forums and social media sites like Facebook are also great places to get advice and to meet new hunters in your area.
Practice Practice Practice
During the off-season times it’s important to not let yourself become rusty. Marksmanship is a skill that must be regularly honed like a knife or it will become dull. The last thing you want is to be presented with the shot of a lifetime only to blow it because you’re out of practice.
Scouting is an extremely important part of hunting. Scouting is simply becoming familiar with the area you plan on hunting in. You’ll be able to pay more attention to game signs, potential spots to set up and being more familiar with the area you plan on hunting in will greatly decrease your chances of getting lost and will help avoid accidents. You may also find that specific animals stay in an area all year-round and scouting could give your invaluable intel on that animals habits and movements.
Have a plan for after the shot
A lot of beginning hunters are very quick to get some gear, get out there and get hunting. They’re looking forward to taking that shot so much that sometimes they forget about their responsibilities after the shot.
A lot of times animals can run a long way even after being fatally shot. This is where a many hunting accidents happen. Hunters scramble from their tree stands, miss a step and fall. Other times they are so focused on finding their fallen prey that they don’t pay attention to where they’re going or what’s around them. This is extremely dangerous.
In addition to safety, it’s very important to have a plan for your game after it’s been killed. You are going to have to have a plan to field dress, hauling the animal out of the woods, transporting it and processing the meat. Killing animal without having a clear plan for what to do with it afterwards is not only impractical, it’s also unethical and in some cases illegal.
Think like your prey when choosing an area to hunt
Hunting is all about giving yourself the best opportunity for a good shot. In order to do that you’re going to have to start thinking like the animals you’re hunting. Looking for animal signs is just the first step in finding a good spot to hunt. You have to know why animals are in certain areas, when they’re likely to be there and where they are going.
Make sure all your gear is in working order before opening day
20 feet up in a tree stand is not the place to do any final touches to your scope, or taking care of that squeaky hinge on your stand. Make sure all of your gear is in working order before you go out hunting. This means properly sighting in your weapon, making sure all your gear is not only in serviceable condition (but that you actually know how to use it) and completely testing out any new gear you have.
Even the slightest wrong move can mean the difference between bagging game and going home empty-handed. Make sure all your gear is tested beforehand so that you know you’ll be able to rely on it when the time comes.
Be aware of the weather
Hunting seasons usually aren’t in the best of weather times. Snow, high winds and storms often prevent hunters from getting out to the woods. Some hunters will cut corners and will go out even when the conditions are unfavorable or even dangerous. This is always a bad idea.
Be sure to research what the weather will be like during your hunt. If there is any chance that the weather could get bad, do yourself a favor and stay home. No deer in the world is worth getting stranded out in the woods or not coming home at all.
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