If I could give only one piece of advice to novice hunters, it would be this: Prepare for failure. This is not the most uplifting way to start an article, I know. No one likes to fail. Indeed, most hunting articles, including those I write, focus on how to be successful. But coming home empty handed is inevitable in the pursuit of wild game. Keeping your spirits up through the process of trial an error is a vital, though often unspoken aspect of learning to hunt.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we hunt for mule deer out in the desert. It’s very open country. Being still-novice hunters, we probably couldn’t have picked a much more difficult first big game quarry. Mule deer are often called ‘grey ghosts’ for their elusive qualities, and attempting to hunt them in terrain that often has no more than knee-high brush — most often with a bow — makes getting one all the more challenging. You might even think, at first blush, that we’re trying to make it as hard as possible to get deer. That’s certainly not our intention, as we would really like to have the meat to eat. But given that we live in the desert Southwest, and given the seasons available to us, we’re left with a rather trying introduction to deer hunting. Fortunately, however, we aren’t starting from scratch. Last season I happened across a timeless and excellent introduction to hunting mule deer in the open expanses of the American West. Dwight Schuh’sHunting Open-Country Mule Deer, written almost twenty years ago, contains nearly all the pointers a budding mule deer hunter could want.
An assemblage of optics, some ideal, some less so.
Seeing well is vital to hunting well. If you can’t see it, you won’t kill it, and most importantly you won’t eat it. There are lots of variables that go into successfully spotting game animals, but one of the biggest sets of variables in this equation are the optical tools hunters use. Prescription eyewear, sunglasses, binoculars, spotting scopes, riflescopes, and rangefinders each enable (or disable) a successful hunt.1 In a earlier post I mentioned that the choice of optics for hunting is worth its own post. So, in this post I break down our experience with optics, what we wish we had known when we started, and what we think are the best strategies for purchasing optical equipment. The advice can be summed up succinctly: buy once, cry once.
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.
Welcome to Modern Hunters. We hope that this site will be a place for sharing stories and perspectives on wild eating. The plan is to feature articles covering every aspect of procuring wild food, from fitness training and outdoor gear, to cooking and eating your harvest. You’ll find detailed how-to’s, gear reviews, recipes, and advice from our own trials and tribulations as self-taught hunters.
Whether you’re an experienced hunter, a novice hunter, or just curious about the culture of modern hunting, we’re glad to have you.