Growth is exciting. Right now in hunting we are seeing growth among demographics in the 18- to 30-year-old range, folks who may have not been raised as hunters. Furthermore, women are the largest growing segment of hunters. Why is this exciting? While the times may look like they are crashing and burning to traditionally raised hunters, I find the growth of new hunters refreshing. With the rise in new hunters it is our responsibility as established members of the culture to help guide and nurture the interest of new hunters. Looking back on the skills I’ve been taught, I can easily understand how the expanse of ideas, skills and overall effort can be daunting to a new hunter.
It is now March and, believe it or not, hunting season will be here sooner than you think. In order to help provide some structure in preparation for the fall, here are my tips to help new hunters throughout the coming months.
• Investments: Look, gear can be a bit expensive, especially if you put off procuring the gear you will need. Spread out your purchases starting now in order to keep you bank account sane. It also helps me to look at gear as an investment, not just an expense. Good gear can last years and by thinking of it as an investment, you put a greater value on utilizing your gear and taking care of it.
• What To Get: Books have been written on this topic alone so I will make it easy. First, identify your target species. In New York your options are fairly simple. Whitetails or waterfowl will more than likely be your options. For deer, you must decide if you’re interested in trying your hand at bowhunting or want to ease into things by learning through gun hunting. Either way works and, yes, bowhunting is tougher, but it teaches you more.
• What Should I Get?: What you choose for a gun or bow will not be the same as me or even your best friend should they decide to try hunting. The good news is there are plenty of choices available to fit you. Picking a gun comes down to finding what you can shoot comfortably because comfort builds confidence. An old friend asked me to recommend two guns for him and his wife to purchase for the 2016 season. I’d recommend a shotgun for any new hunter for the simple reason you can use it for birds and deer, which opens up further adventures. The classic Remington 870 is a simple yet reliable gun for both ends of the spectrum and I recommend one to research this time-tested model. For rifles, hunters can debate this topic for days on end, especially when it comes to suggesting models for the new hunter. For portability, firepower and balance, a great gun to research would be a .35 caliber lever-action rifle. Especially for New York, this gun provides fantastic brush-busting power one will typically need.
• Archery: Find an archery shop in your area and set up an appointment to stop by. If you want to jump into archery, having a designated archery technician work with you should ensure total equipment comfort. Archery gear must be tailored to your personal specs to ensure maximum accuracy, since a bow is very much a custom reflection on who you are and your capabilities. New York did something right a few years ago which benefits the new hunter by allowing the use of crossbows. Don’t listen to the naysayers on crossbows; they are a great bridge between firearms and archery while teaching you the finite aspects of taking game with an arrow and broadhead.
• Table Fare: Finding a mentor is crucial. Since there is so much to learn, it is well worth having someone there to show you the ropes, especially when it comes to butchering and processing the meat. The end reason we hunt is for the meat. Many have turned to hunting purely for the meat and a desire to live healthier. If you don’t have a mentor, I suggest using a butcher at first in order to make sure the meat doesn't spoil and is processed properly. If you are going to try on your own, make sure to have a vacuum seal system to safely store the meat in your freezer.
To go through entire lists of what you need to know or how to do things in the wild can take up years of time to accurately capture. Well, I guess it’s what outdoor writing, filming and photography has worked to capture for so long. Hunting is a journey, with each lesson as the destination. You’ll find it is more than pulling the trigger. A lot more.