View Full Version : Learning to Hunt

nick k
07-16-2006, 01:50 AM

I live in Western California, and I want to go hunting. A little background, for your amusement. I grew up on the east coast, both my parents are immigrants who never hunted, all my family is back in the old country, and I've never hunted with them. Growing up, I always lived in places where hunting was frowned upon... I don't really understand why, but it never seemed like an opportunity in my life. I love backpacking, and I really love the idea of connecting myself to my food supply. Which brings me to:

How do I do it? Seriously. Try to imagine my scenario, I don't know the first thing. Where to go, what kind of rifles I can carry, how to skin an animal, what all the different hunting 'seasons' mean. I don't even know how to hold a rifle! Maybe this sounds absurd, but it's all true /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

Again, a little more about me. It seems to me as if some outdoorsmen love to go out to REI, buy all the cool gadgets they can find, and basically car camp with a couple of walking miles thrown in to impress their friends. You can probably guess that this is not my style. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I feel as if with all the equipment I have, I may need a couple of things, and I'd be good to go. Where do I start? Any good books? All suggestions welcome /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif


07-16-2006, 03:06 AM
First thing: Grab a copy of ' A Sand County Almanac' by Aldo Leopold. Read and enjoy.
Second: If you haven't the first idea about firearms, join the local branch of the NRA, or turn up to the local range. Get some basic tuition, it will payoff later.
Next: listen to what the people here (who live in the USA) will tell you, take it on board, perhaps it will help you to make those hard choices. Don't look at me, I live in OZ, where things re hunting are far different.
Also, don't neglect fishing, it's a bunch of fun (especially flyfishing), and could well be easier to get into (I don't know your personal circumstances) than hunting, with much the same payoff, fun wise.
I get out and hunt and fish at every opportunity (I don't do all that much backpacking anymore, being in a wheelchair will do that to you!), and just recently have started to teach my daughter the basics of hunting.
It's never too late, have fun learning!
All the best!

Cheers, Dave.

07-16-2006, 07:01 AM

Doc has some good points for starters. One thing you need for sure is a basic Hunter's Safety course. You should be able to get info at a local gun shop, range or online for your state. This will get you tuned in to local laws, seasons, regulations, firearm use and safety and perhaps find a mentor to help you get started.

Basic firearms courses through NRA Instructors will get you tuned up with basic rifle technique and safety.

The hunting part is just that...getting in the woods and learning about where the animals live, eat, sleep, travel, etc. There are tons of books and magazines with helpful info and of course this board has a ton of wisdom and expertise.

Welcome, and do not hesitate to ask questions, these guys are all very experienced, willing to share and happy to add to the hunting family.


07-16-2006, 07:21 AM
1. Gun safety course
2. Gun or hunting club (network with others)
3. Books (lots at the library and garage sale)
4. Try different types of hunting before buying all the equipment (network with the people at a gun or hunt club, they may take you out and loan you equipment)
5. Read your state hunting regulations and become very familiar with the rules and the lingo, this may save your butt in the long run. Ignorance is not an excuse to a Wildlife Cop.
6. Magazines (maybe, sometimes they are filled with crap)

Kevin B
07-16-2006, 08:19 AM
I learned hunting on my own. I was never taken hunting. I graduated college bought a little jeep cherokee and a rifle and started from scratch.

It's a process, not a result you are after. If you are focussed primarilly on killing deer in the beginning you'll be disappointed quickly. You need to love process and the reward of mastery of the system not just it's tangible end reward.

Get an inexpensive rifle with modest optics and find a good range with courses. Many will have the hunter ed there as well. Far too many people spend far too much money on zillion dollar rifle and scope combos that have no idea how to hunt. A gun seals the deal, you hunt. Either you put that tool where it can do it's work or you don't. the spectrum of weapons that will "work" is enormous. Buy a stock remington or winchester in an ordinary caliber(.308, .270, 30-06) and shoot it, a lot.

Commit to an area. Absolutely nothing you'll ever read will be as valuable as becoming intimately familiar with an area you want to hunt. Don't change this every season. After many days of crawling into each inch of it, things will begin to become apparent. It may be apparent that it's the wrong place! Regardless, the time in the field component of success is important. The more time you find to be there, the sooner you'll hit pay dirt.

See if you can find a small time butcher or gentleman farmer. Offer to pay him a couple bucks to get a once over on how an animal is put together and how to disassemble them. Looking at a deer on the ground having never seen one reduced to it's components can be daunting. You can read and look on the net for this but no set of net pictures and discriptions does justice to how it really looks and goes on the ground. Finding a hunt pard with some experience would also be quite handy.

As a general rule, there's not a very good nexus between the money you've spent on gadgets and gear and how successful you'll be though there is between money spent and how comfortable you are. Don't blow a massive wad of dough until you do some of the basics and come up with your own ideas, born of some experience, of what will work better. That being said, the most expensive gear in the world is cheap gear. Pay good money on a pack, boots, sleeping bag, pad and stuff that keeps you dry. Tent depending on how and where you hunt. Starting hunting as a packer is almost like starting 2 seperate things at once, if you have packing down, all the better.

Be safe. Safe with guns and safe with the elements and terrain. Get familiar with all the things you'll need to know and have to protect yourself.

Along the way you'll suffer, physical and mental set backs. That's good because nothing worth doing comes easy and there's no better reward than perseverance and overcoming. Venison is just a symbol, the reward for having mastered yourself as much as the game.

Last, after doing it all. Pass it on.

Dale Lindsley
07-16-2006, 04:03 PM
Read the essays by Patrick, Dick Blust and others on this website. Start now. Take the Hunter-safety class http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wmd/ take the shooting classes offered by Kyler Hamann <a href="http://www.boaring.com" target="_blank">http://www.boaring.com (http://www.boaring.com)</a> This guy knows shooting/hunting and is a great guy. Go on one of his guided pig hunts (offered year round). You can do all of this before the deer season 2007 rolls around. Start now. Backpack hunting is great, but you often don't have to walk very far to get away from all the hunters, especially if it's steep. Don't delay. This educational part that you need to start with should be lots of fun too. If it isn't, hunting may not be for you. Sign up for you hunter safety class tomorrow; this is required before you to get a hunting lisence n California.

07-16-2006, 04:50 PM
Go to a Kifaru rendezvous, you'll meet lots of very knowledgeable, skilled people there.

You've gotten a good bit of excellent advice already, follow it. The fellows here will NOT steer you wrong.

What are you interested in hunting, and where?

Congratulations on finding your way to this forum!

07-16-2006, 05:48 PM
1. Take a Colorado Hunter's Safety Course (essential and required)
2. Buy a decent .22 rifle and learn, or teach yourself, to shoot.
3. Use that .22 to hunt small game - rabbits, ground squirrels or prairie dogs - until you feel proficient.
4. Read all you can (magazines, books, etc.) on the subject.
4. Only then, apply or draw as many deer tags as you can - especially doe tags. Learn by doing - shoot those does and small bucks.
5. Graduate to cow elk tags.
6. Consider and sample as many types of hunting along the way as you can - shotguns for birds, predator hunting, big game with rifles and muzzleloaders, and bowhunting.
7. Have fun doing it all.

07-16-2006, 07:36 PM
nick, anthracitic had a good question, "what are you interested in hunting, and where?" I'd emphasize the "where" part of that, as in, where do you like to hang out when you go camping or just driving around? What type(s)of country are you drawn to? Mountains? Dense forests, or more open country? If it were me, I'd try to figure out where I like to spend time, and then the question would be, what's there to hunt?

For me, it's the mountains. I like to hike, camp, and fish there in the "off" seasons, and spend as much time as I can during the hunting seasons.

If you hunt in country you really enjoy, every trip is a success regardless of whether you fill your tag.

nick k
07-19-2006, 04:22 PM
Dear all, thank you for your replies. I'm not really sure as to what I'm interested in hunting. Never having eaten game (as an adult) there is no particular meat in mind. Rather, I like the idea of starting off small and working my way up. In particular, the low cost of learning on a .22 seems appealing to me: and it sounds like it limits me to small game. But now, how does one learn the technique of butchering and cooking small game.

[Edit: Are there some good reviews for hunting .22s? How does, say, a ruger 10/22 hold up for hunting? And I live in Santa Cruz, CA. It's near the SF Bay]


07-19-2006, 04:28 PM
Where do you live?


07-19-2006, 07:26 PM
Nick -

Your comment, "I like the idea of starting off small and working my way up" caught my attention. You've recieved some great advice here, but may I suggest that if you want to start small, start with bird hunting. You'll learn how to point and shoot instinctively, get to shoot a lot, and become confident with handling a long gun in short order. A shotgun won’t lift too much out of your wallet, and most game birds are easily hunted and are quite tasty. And loaded with slugs, your shotgun could also get you into deer hunting within certain limitations.

Also, I would think that you might be able to find a bird hunting club near you. Join it, and I think you’ll find someone who will “take you under wing” and help you learn to shoot and hunt. Bird clubs often have competitive shoots as well, so you’ll get to learn about shooting traps, skeet, sporting clays, and so on – all good practice, and a lot of fun.

--Montana Mike

07-20-2006, 07:38 AM
I have a photo of my paternal grandfather with a grizzly he hunted in Montana. I would guess the photo is from the late 1920's judging his age.

I have a photo of my maternal grandfather with a large group of deer hunters in Michigan. One of my uncles is a boy, so this is a photo from the late 1930's.

My father hunted a bit in Montana as a boy, but it wasn't his idea of fun. He had a sarcastic form of Montana redneck humor that involved stating how he'd solve whatever problem at hand with a .30-06. He was kidding of course, he never owned anything other than his grandfather's shotgun, given to him as a boy. After listening to the .30-06 retort so many times, and having finally gotten to a point where I had a bit of extra money, I purchased probably the cheapest and craeppiest one: an old Rem model 742 semi-automatic. It was and is a consumate piece of junk. I still have never shot a dang thing with it. I did learn how to clear all manner of jams. You could say it makes a fine one-shot semi. I got better equipment.

Once I owned the gun, just like owning some model of car where you begin to notice others of the same year and make, I began to hear and comprehend snippets of conversation about guns and hunting. I went on my first hunt the next fall.

It might seem strange advise to say to buy the gun first, but that is how I accomplished it. I have never been much for slow immersion learning. You'll have to make what is always a difficult self-assessment of your learning style and your mode of enjoyment. If you require more consistent levels of reward, bird hunting may be the way to go, for the reasons stated previously. If you prefer a methodical mode of introduction to things, the gradual approach recommended may be best. If you're like me, just go buy a big-game hunting caliber, tune your ears to conversations, and jump at the first opportunity.

07-20-2006, 08:18 AM
If you haven't eaten game meat, much or at all, consider picking up some game raised venison and or buffalo at a local market. Further, you could try some vacuum packed versions of Elk, Etc.

Make sure you can even enjoy such game before you commit to killing it.

If it turns out to be something that doesn't appeal in your kitchen, you may want to re-direct your efforts to backwoods survival, and solo woodsmanship; noble pursuits in themselves.

Dale Lindsley
07-20-2006, 09:33 AM
copper; A very good point to make to a beginner. At the same time, I didn't like venison much the first time I tried it (and my fist rabbit and grouse flat out disgusted me). I have grown to love venison. I'm not sure it's the taste I love as much as what the venison represents. My wife and daughter, bless their hearts, just love the taste. It takes practice to be able to gut and dress an animal and then eat the flesh. However, if you can't get to that point you should consider changing hobbies.I get annoyed at people who hunt and CLAIM to love the meat but ACT as if they don't much care what happens to it. The flip-side of "you can't eat the antlers" is "no matter how you mistreat the meat, the antlers are going to look the same".

Kevin B
07-20-2006, 10:07 AM
Dale, you up for some venison steak Friday night? I'm eating hard and fast on last year's freezer load and will be bringing some along.

07-20-2006, 10:48 AM
When you are ready for a center fire rifle don't forget to look at Savage - awesome accuracy for reasonable $.

Try shooting your new buddies' rifles at the hunt club/range so you can try some out without spending the $ on a Ruger, say, or a Remington (fill in the blank on company), that doesn't quite fit/feel right.

Generally, if you get a .30-06/.308 you will be able to use it for whatever kind of big game/coyote hunting you want in North America. Then as your tastes develop/you get experience, you can buy rifles chambered in a ***ier cartridge if you want.

A mentor will save you many $s in this arena. WRT being in the field, he can save your life - nature is rough and doesn't suffer fools well.



07-20-2006, 10:49 AM
And to add to what Copper and Dale said, if you don't like venison the first time, it's not necessarily the venison itself. I can't count the number of people who have told me they don't like venison becasue it tastes gamey or is tough, but wolfed down venison I cooked for them. Not that I'm a great cook but you just have to be careful how you cook venison and a lot of people don't know how to do it right.

A lot of variables go into whether venison or elk is tasty or not so tasty. The first being the condition of the animal, the second being how the meat is handled once the shot is taken. That's why I like to cut up my own meat, if I do that I'm 100% sure how the meat is handled from the shot to the freezer, and I think if you do this yourself you'll take extra care in making sure the meat is kept chilled, make sure it's wrapped to prevent freezer burn (vacuum packers are great for this) etc. This is half the battle.

The other half is how you prepare the meat. Venison and elk are not beef and need to be treated differently. They don't have the fat content so they are easier to overcook or dry out if you're not careful. The flavor can be stronger than beef, so sometimes a marinade or other flavorings help a lot. Also, for the most part venison and elk are not as tender as beef and the connective tissue is tougher so you need to select the cuts carefully and trim out all the connective tissue (gristle).

I think a lot of people have had venison they didn't like because the cook prepared it without these considerations and it didn't turn out so well.

Here are a two ways to cook it that we enjoy, these both use tender cuts such as backstraps, tenderloins, or steaks from the hind quarter, all cut perpendicular to the grain:

Slice steaks 3/4 inch thick, tenderize by scoring 1/4 inch deep on both sides, roll in flour, fry in 1/4 inch hot oil in an iron skillet with salt and pepper to taste. By frying in oil, the meat stays moist. If you don't have the iron skillet, use teflon, the venison will still taste great but not look nearly as cool cooking.


Slice steaks 3/4 inch thick, tenderize as above, and marinate overnight in 1 cup canola oil, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder, black pepper, and celery seed. Grill over a hot fire, making sure you don't overcook.

My kids love these recipes and will eat all that I cook. Sometimes I'm lucky to get a bite.

Dale Lindsley
07-20-2006, 11:11 AM
Kevin B; Always. Didn't know you were going to make it to the Rondy.

07-20-2006, 12:03 PM
Nick, lot's of good advice and point's made by all. Like other's I learned slowly through trial and error not having been raised by a hunter/backpacker/outdoorsman. Desire is the primary requisite.

However, I'd like to commend you for the humility and intelligence to ask for guidance!

A man's only as good as his question's...

07-20-2006, 02:15 PM
Nick, good advice from good folks here.

Let's start a bit with what you want to do. The Ruger 10-22 is excellent, and affordable. Plus, if you get into this, you can dress it up more than a Barbie doll. And you'll have to spend a fortune in ammo to wear one out.

I'd find a small mom and pop gunstore, and patronize them. And I'd go meet, in person, the district wildlife manager in an area where I could go hunt. You sound like you might be a young guy, so they may even have a mentor program. Colorado does, at least.

Keep us posted.

07-20-2006, 03:59 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by Kevin:
Nick, good advice from good folks here.

Let's start a bit with what you want to do. The Ruger 10-22 is excellent, and affordable. Plus, if you get into this, you can dress it up more than a Barbie doll. And you'll have to spend a fortune in ammo to wear one out.

I'd find a small mom and pop gunstore, and patronize them. And I'd go meet, in person, the district wildlife manager in an area where I could go hunt. You sound like you might be a young guy, so they may even have a mentor program. Colorado does, at least.

Keep us posted. </div></div>+1 on the ruger 10/22. I was handed down one from my fathers uncle and have been shooting it ever since. It had a scope on it when I got it, and since then I have put a heavy barrell and a synthetic stock on it. It's great to learn on, to get the hang of breathing correctly, trigger squeeze etc...Bi-Mart usually has them for relatively inexpensive as well. I got one of these as a gift from my father recently, and it shoots as good or better than the 10/22, and is a ton more fun to shoot:


07-21-2006, 06:41 AM

You've gotten great advice from all concerned. As a hunter education instructor, I heartily agree that you would really benefit from taking a local class, and it's probably required anyway. You won't necessarily learn HOW to hunt, but you'll learn how to be safe, and also learn about hunter ethics, wildlife management, and many other topics. It will also give you a great way to network with other aspiring hunters. Regarding birdhunting and the fact that it would be a great way to get started, the International Hunter Education Association's publication, "Hunter and Shooting Sports Education Journal" has a great article about Wingshooting USA. You can check out WSA at <a href="http://www.wingshootingusa.org." target="_blank">http://www.wingshootingusa.org (http://www.wingshootingusa.org.).</a> It provides information on bird hunting preserves on a state-by-state basis. I'm not much of a wingshooter, but if you live close to some of these preserves, it could be a great start. If you'd like a copy of the article, PM me and I'll mail it to you. Good luck to you!

07-22-2006, 05:26 AM

Lots of good information here. For me, I love to be in the high country of Colorado. I have found places that never get old. And find that hunting with a camera during off season is a great way to put all that information that you gather into use.

Just my 2 cents and good luck in your new endeavors.

07-22-2006, 05:32 AM
One other thing: Don't be surprised if it's hard.

Think of it like learning to be an NFL quarterback. The average learning curve is about 30 games before you start getting real good.

Won't take that long here, but you might not see much, or kill much in the beginning unless you go to a game-rich area. Don't be discouraged.

Yolla Bolly
07-28-2006, 08:53 PM
Nick---I live about 300 plus miles north of you, and there are several other hunters who frequent this site, that live down south more toward your way.
My sons are all grown and moved out, having grown up with bows, firearms and fishing rods from the start; so I sometimes have some time available---now I have started on my nephews and neices.

If, after starting out with all the good advice you have received from the others, you find some question or problem with which a more local person can help, give me a PM.

nick k
07-29-2006, 11:06 AM
Dear All -

Thank you for your help. I greatly appreciate it. You've all given me great ideas. So let me tell you some choices I've made (almost all based on advice given here.)

I plan to concentrate on the Sierra national forest. I love water, so I can do a kind of `one stop shopping': sailing (actually kayaking), fishing and hunting. Really, as I'm sure you all understand, these are excuses to get closer to nature.

The hunting will start small. A cheap 22 (not in terms of quality, just price), plenty of practice at the range, and then small game. Sad to say, but there will be a grossness factor which I will need to overcome, and for me at least, I imagine small game is the best way to start.

And I know how hard it is to learn how to do anything well. I'm sure we've all realized that people who are good at something are good at it because they keep practicing.

Again, thank you for all your advice.