Your hunting story resonates with me, but how exactly did you do it? What was your process for learning on your own without a mentor? Over the past few months, I’ve received these questions from a number of readers. So, here it is. The story of how we taught ourselves to hunt from scratch.
Growing up in suburban Massachusetts, I had never touched a bow or gun until I was in my early 20s. My knowledge of hunting weapons was extremely limited. When I became serious about learning how to hunt, I quickly discovered that I had to make a choice — was I going to learn to hunt with a gun or with a bow? Was one type of weapon going to be more effective for a new hunter like me?
What do skunk-scented body spray, an ozone machine, and activated charcoal have in common? I’ll give you three guesses. Strange as it may seem, all of these items can be used as hunting gear. Add chlorophyll tablets and scent-elimination chewing gum to the list and things start to sound downright weird. Why do hunters use these things? Do I need to use them too?
Welcome to the world of scent control. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you stink. Worse still, your scent matters for hunting — a lot.
So you want to — or might want to — learn to hunt? That’s great! I applaud your curiosity and gumption. Getting to the point of even searching out information to learn to hunt is something that most Americans (or people in other developed nations if you aren’t American) will never do in their lifetime. We created Modern Hunters for you and the thousands of others just like you.
I bet I look ridiculous right now, I thought to myself. Nick and I were sitting in full camouflage in the middle of an open pasture of National Forest. A herd of cows was approaching from the west, and they didn’t seem to see us. Eventually, the cows started to surround the rocks we were sitting on top of, just ten yards away, many of them looking straight at us. They must see us, I reasoned. We stayed still and they carried on with their grazing. Were they indifferent, or just unaware? To find out, Nick stood up. The cows immediately reacted with mild panic, scattering away with great haste.
Was it the brand new camo I was wearing? Had my new outfit turned me into a backcountry ninja? Or just a (much less impressive) cow ninja?
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about hunting camouflage over the last few years. I’ll examine how animal vision and perception inform camo selection, outline the pros and cons of different camo styles, and share my favorite camo tips.
Fresh meat, field to table: this is the dream of meat lovers, hunters, and locavores alike. But for anyone who didn’t grow up around hunting, farming, or butcher shops, knowledge of how to turn a whole animal into an individual meal is usually missing. It certainly was for me for most of my life.
Three years into my hunting journey, I am by no means an expert in wild game processing or butchery — I still consider myself a novice — but I do have expertise in the art of being a self-taught hunter. Everything I know about animal processing I have taught myself through the use of mostly free and widely accessible resources. It is not only possible to do, but a lot easier than you might think. So, for the new hunters and the do-it-yourselfers, I’ve compiled a compendium of videos and instructionals to help you break down whole animals in the field without an in-person mentor. You can teach yourself to process wild game!
Small game hunting most commonly refers to the pursuit of animals the size of rabbits or squirrels. And while bringing home a cottontail for dinner isn’t as noteworthy as hauling back a deer, small game hunting can be rewarding and delicious. In addition, small game hunting can be a good place for a first timer to begin their journey toward becoming a competent hunter. Small game tends to be relatively plentiful, easy to find, and require very little specialized gear, thus providing excellent opportunities to hone skills without having to make a huge investment in equipment or travel. Small game hunting is where Robyn and I started when we decided to learn to hunt, and we’re glad that we did.
The one piece of gear that is not optional in small game hunting is some sort of weapon. For new hunters like us, this meant either a rifle or shotgun. After Robyn and I learned basic gun safety and how to use a rifle, we faced the hurdle of figuring out what guns we should buy. We quickly found dizzying array of small game gun options to choose from. The wide selection was intimidating at first — we simply had too many choices.
If you’ve been following Modern Hunters on Facebook or Twitter, you are likely aware that I punched my first deer tag on Saturday during the last weekend of rifle season. To any hunter, that sentence right there makes perfect sense. But relaying the same news to some of my non-hunter friends produced some looks of confusion and a wave of curious question-asking. What is a tag? How many do you get? What do you mean by rifle season? Why are there so many regulations? It’s easy to forget just how much jargon there is in the hunting community. So for the new hunters or hunting-curious folks out there, here’s a primer on understanding hunting seasons and tags in the United States.
The first time I ever went to a shooting range my excitement was overshadowed by my nervousness. I had shot guns once before but had never been to an official range. So many thoughts and unpleasant predictions were churning in my mind: Everyone will know that I’m a newbie… I won’t know what to do… What if I make a mistake? Am I going to accidentally break some rule or norm that I don’t know about? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has had these thoughts before their first trip to the range. Shooting ranges can be quite intimidating. It’s normal to feel like your inexperience is going to doom you and it’s normal to worry about doing something wrong.
Anxiety thrives on a lack of information. In this article I will discuss how to prepare for your first trip at the shooting range and what to expect when you get there. With preparation and experience, these “first time jitters” quickly fade.
There are so many skills that go into hunting. But marksmanship is one that can truly make or break a hunt. You can do everything else right, but a missed shot, or worse — a marginal shot — is the kind of mistake that can keep a hunter up at night. In this article I will cover beginner rifle marksmanship. The tips and resources I share have helped me enormously in improving my shooting comfort and accuracy.
E-scouting tools for hunters provide the roots of a successful hunt.
Just because you know where you can hunt doesn’t mean that the area will have animals living in it. So, once you have figured out where you are allowed to legally hunt near you, the next step is to learn what areas are more and less likely to produce a successful hunt. I’m a firm believer in efficiency, and I think there’s a clear progression of scouting techniques — scaling from least to most time intensive — that can be used to find where the animals are living. These techniques include e-scouting, making use of wildlife officers’ knowledge, car-scouting for sign, intensive glassing, and backpacking in, among other strategies. A lot of time can be wasted by inefficiently scouting new terrain for animals. We learned that costly lesson last year. If you have a general idea of where you’re allowed to hunt, but don’t know how to efficiently select a specific area, this e-scouting tools for hunters post is definitely for you. And, if you’re a seasoned scouter you may still stand to gain a tip or two. Read on!
When I first reveal to people that I am a hunter, far and away their first question tends to be “But where do you go?” They aren’t asking because they’re trying to cajole me into giving away my favorite deer spots. They’re asking because they are genuinely puzzled by the notion that there could be quality hunting a reasonable distance from our metropolitan area. As city dwellers, hunting can feel far removed. And for city dwellers who don’t spend their weekend galavanting around the backcountry, the wilderness can feel downright mysterious. Now, I don’t know where you live, so I can’t tell you where exactly you can hunt. But I can help you figure it out. Fantastic hunting could be closer to your home than you realize.
The 4 Rules of Safe Gun Handling. The 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety. The 3 NRA Rules. A quick internet search yields lots of firearm safety lists. And if you’ve started your journey toward becoming a hunter by taking a hunter education class, you’ve surely encountered and been drilled on some version of these. I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, I wanted to share some of the resources on basic gun safety for hunters that have helped me over the past few years to transition from a nervous newbie to a knowledgeable gun handler. I will also discuss how to put these safety tenets into action on the hunt.
So, you want to become a hunter. The only problem is that you aren’t close with anyone who hunts who could mentor you. Hunting wasn’t a part of your upbringing. You feel like you are starting from square one (maybe square zero?). This is where I was when I started and I’ll admit it can be an intimidating place to be. The goal of this multipart series is to provide the type of guidance my former self would have loved to have had. It is my hope that these posts will be straightforward, accessible, and ultimately helpful.