Continue reading to find out how to introduce new hunters to the hunting family.
Just a few minutes after starting the hunt, our dogs picked up the scent of a pheasant. “We’ve got a runner!” our guide shouted as the pheasant bolted from the knee-high grass, running away from us. My wife and I followed behind the dogs as they tracked him up the hill. “He’s going to find some cover and hold up there, thinking we won’t be able to find him” said Joe, our guide.
Sure enough, the pheasant disappeared into a clump of thick grass surrounding a three foot tall pine tree in the middle of the field we were hunting. The dogs stopped a few feet short and pointed at the tree. My wife and I approached the tree carefully, our shotguns held at the ready. I carefully searched the grass behind the tree for signs of the pheasant, but he stayed still and well hidden.
Just as I was starting to think that the pheasant might not actually be there, he exploded out of the cover with an angry squawk and a vigorous flapping of his wings. My wife tracked the pheasant and fired a single shot as the bird flew in front of her. The pheasant disappeared in a puff of feathers and dropped into the grass. My wife just shot her first pheasant on the first hunt she had ever been on.Training new hunters is an important task and one that all hunters should take seriously. Expanding our ranks by introducing family members and friends to hunting not only provides us an opportunity to enjoy something that we love with those who are important to us, but also helps to secure the future of the sport. More hunters means more money spent on licenses and hunting equipment, which means more money directed towards conservation efforts.
Unfortunately, becoming a new hunter is not always an easy task. The barriers to entry into the sport can be high and it is increasingly difficult to become a successful hunter unless you have someone to guide you along the way. The very nature of the sport means that there can be long periods where hunting can be cold, boring, and frustrating. When faced with these challenges, it’s easy to understand why many people give up learning to become a hunter after a few rough experiences.
When initially introducing a person to hunting, regardless of if that person is an adult or a child, it is very important to have their first hunt be an enjoyable, safe, and ethical experience that they can look back upon fondly. Success, especially on a person’s first few hunts, should be defined as having fun, not necessarily by having bagged game on the hunt, though that certainly doesn’t hurt. Having a fun first hunt is important because the person is much more likely to have a positive view of the hunting along with a continued interest in hunting than someone with a terrible first experience. Even if that person does not ever go hunting again, if they have a favorable view of hunting and hunters, they can still act as a valuable ambassador for the sport.
The Right Hunt for New Hunters
Deer are one of the most popular animals to hunt in the United States, but that does not necessarily mean they are the best quarry to chase on a first hunt. With a few exceptions, deer hunting often involves sitting very still and being quiet for hours at a time waiting for a deer to show itself. Unless there are a lot of deer in the area, a deer hunt can quickly turn into a very cold and boring day, especially for an inexperienced hunter. I personally have no problem sitting in a deer stand for hours at a time, but care must be taken to ensure that you don’t push new hunters too hard and burn them out.
In my opinion, pursuing small or upland game is ideal for a first hunt. Both hunts typically combine many shooting opportunities with an upbeat but relaxed pace. Neither hunt involves much sitting around waiting for game to appear. Additionally, there is usually something interesting going on, whether that is searching for a well camouflaged rabbit in a thick brush pile, or watching a bird dog attempt to pick up the scent of a pheasant or grouse in the grass.
Not sure what sort of game is available to hunt near where you live? Check out this cool infographic that shows what species of small game, waterfowl, upland game, and big game may be hunted in each state.
The Right Equipment for New Hunters
It is not essential for new hunters to break the bank buying all of the latest and greatest equipment. However, it is important for them to be properly outfitted. Perhaps the two most important areas to focus on for the new hunter are using the appropriate firearm and wearing the right clothing, to include footwear.
Especially when the hunter is of slight stature, such as a child or a woman, it is very important for them to use a firearm that fits them properly and does not have excessive recoil. The last thing that you want is for them to be afraid of their rifle or shotgun and develop a flinch. Fortunately, most of the major firearms manufacturers make a “youth” line of their popular models that are designed to comfortably fit most small framed shooters.
The .22 Long Rifle is great for small game such as rabbits and squirrels. A 20 gauge shotgun is also an excellent option for small game, but also does very well on upland birds like pheasant, quail, and grouse. Both of these recommendations offer a balance between adequate power to ethically kill game with mild recoil that is acceptable for a new, or small framed hunter. Both are great gifts for hunters just getting started.
For a more detailed discussion on the different shotgun gauges and various firearms that are great for hunters, read the articles below:
Wearing appropriate clothing for the hunt is also important to prevent the hunter from becoming too wet or cold, because that is another thing that can quickly ruin a hunt or even be a safety issue. While it is not always essential to wear camouflaged hunting clothes, it is advisable to wear durable clothing designed for outdoor use that is preferably of a dark color such as dark green, brown, or black. In cold weather, the hunter should dress in layers and stay away from cotton fabrics to avoid hypothermia. Good fitting boots with high quality, wool or synthetic socks are also essential to prevent cold feet and blisters. If there is a possibility of getting the feet wet, such as walking through mud or through tall, dew covered grass, then water resistant footwear should be worn.
Finally, don’t neglect proper safety equipment: an orange vest, ear protection, eye protection, and gloves.
When all was said and done, my wife and I had a great time on her first hunt. We bagged 12 pheasant between the two of us, but more importantly, we had a lot of fun and made some great memories. We are already looking forward to our next hunt together. Hopefully, you can use the tips above to help introduce one of your family members or friends to hunting and gain another lifelong hunting partner.