The decision to hunt can come before or after you learn how to shoot. Regardless of when that decision takes place, once you’ve made it—and before you step foot into the pheasant field or take a seat in the duck blind or whitetail stand—you need to become extremely accurate with the particular firearm you intend to take along with you. The NSSF’s website, www.nssf.org, is the perfect place to help you find ranges where you can practice, and it also lists dozens of training programs, all so that you can be assured your shot will fall where intended. But aside from practice, what else do you need to get out there and hunting as soon as possible? Let’s take a look at five things that should be at the top of your preparation list.
No.1—Get Hunter Education
Now’s the time to get that all-important hunter education certificate, either for yourself or for your child, whoever’s the first-time hunter. Most if not every state requires that you complete this course successfully before obtaining your license. The NSSF’s www.huntinfo.org is an online resource that provides links to each state’s wildlife agency and class listing. If a particular class is full or held on date when you cannot attend, check out Hunter-Ed.com, where 35 states have sanctioned online courses, complete with in-state field testing.
No. 2—Discover the Seasons
What do you want to hunt and where? Always check the latest updates from the state’s wildlife agency where you want to hunt. You may need to apply for a lottery drawing for particular permits. Also, don’t forget that most states offer special youth hunts, usually held a weekend or two before the actual season begins. These opportunities give youth time afield with mentorship and less pressure. Many states also offer special hunts for veterans, women, seniors, and physically challenged hunters.
The following organizations offer mentored and beginner hunting opportunities:
- National Wild Turkey Federation
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Quality Deer Management Association
- Pheasants Forever
- Ducks Unlimited
- Delta Waterfowl
- Quail Forever
- Becoming an Outdoors-Woman
- Blaze orange— where do I need to wear it on my body and what seasons require it?
- Base layers—will I need to purchase these and for what temperature ranges?
- Boots—what type of footwear do I need to ensure to hike, climb a treestand, etc.?
- Camo choice—where will I be hunting and what type of camo pattern do I need?
- Scent control—what type of system do I want (or need) to use on my hunting clothes?
When it comes to your firearm, make sure you are fully aware of the legalities involved with each type you might choose, including the following items:
- What calibers and gauges are legal, including minimal caliber size?
- Are electronic optics allowed?
- Are electronic calls allowed?
- How many rounds of ammunition are allowed to be loaded in your gun?
- How must you transport your gun to and from hunting site?
No doubt, you’ll want some extras for hunting, too, those things that make going afield a little more comfortable and easy:
- GPS—there’s no reason to get lost out there
- Binocular/monocular—better than the naked eye for finding game
- Rangefinder—One of the keys to making a successful shot is knowing how far away your animal is from where you sit with your gun
- Topo map—great backup for your GPS, it also allows you to see the type of terrain that lies ahead of you.
- Daypack—these come in all shapes and sizes, so pick one that fits the type of hunting you’re doing to carry all your essentials
- Sling— know how to use this with your firearm. It’s not just for carrying that long gun!
- Eye protection—always wear clear, fog-free shooting glasses while afield
- Hearing protection—invest in some game ear-type protection that protects your ears from the noise of the shot, yet allows you to hear game movement around you
Remember that the nssf.org is your best choice for beginning your hunting research. Check out the “Where to Hunt” tab under the Hunting heading at the top of the page for information regarding hunting license and permit info, where to hunt, hunter education classes, laws and regulations and more. You’ll even find links for a outfitters and taxidermists, as well as links to game recipes and how to share your harvest with others.