How to Prepare for Your First Hunting Trip

Hunting is the backbone of human civilization. We became experts at the hunt millions of years ago and have only gotten better with advancements in strategy and weaponry. Although hunting is no longer necessary for most people, it’s still an exhilarating activity. You’ll have a blast on your first hunting trip, but first you need to take these eight essential preparatory steps.

1. Get Your Hunting License

First and foremost, you need to get your hunting license. The license gives you legal permission to hunt on public land, collect tags, and enter local competitions. You will also be able to hunt throughout North America and other international hunting destinations. Most states require you to take a hunter safety course before you can buy a license.

The safety course will teach you a lot of basic fundamentals. You’ll learn how to handle a firearm, navigate the terrain, and safely interact with other hunters. However, these tasks are easier said than done. You need to get real practice under your belt before your first hunting trip.

2. Spend Time in the Field

The vast majority of your hunting trip will consist of walking and waiting. As such, you need to develop your patience and conditioning. Spend more time in nature and observe the behaviors of different animals. Go on a few hikes to polish your outdoorsman skills. Try to make as little noise as possible while you walk. Get used to moving with stealth.

You should also research the area of your hunting trip. Where are the trails? What are the major geographical features? What animals and plants live there? Knowing the environment will boost your confidence and help you outmaneuver your prey.

3. Practice With Your Weapon

Practicing with your weapon is non-negotiable. If you’re lucky enough to get a shooting opportunity, you need the skills to hit your target. Flinching and not following through are the most common mistakes beginners make. You need to hold your shooting position after each shot to strengthen your resistance to the recoil.

Beginners should always use basic scoped hunting rifles before trying more high-powered weapons. Make sure the scope is properly mounted and sighted. Do as much target practice as you can from standing and sitting positions. Learn how to clean the weapon in case it gets dirty on the trail.

4. Study Your Prey

Your first few hunting trips should focus on whitetail deer and small game. Only experienced hunters should go after elk, bears, and other large prey. If you’re hunting deer, you must know the difference between young bucks and mature bucks. Mature bucks have bigger antlers, squashed faces, and barrel chests. Immature bucks are thinner and long-legged.

You also need to know the best places you can shoot for an ethical kill. The goal of hunting is to kill the animal as quickly and painlessly as possible. The ideal spot is behind the deer’s shoulder and above the belly. This shot is guaranteed to penetrate the heart, lungs, or a major artery. It’s the cleanest death a mature buck can ask for.

5. Mask Your Scent

Animals can smell humans from miles away. You need to mask your scent if you want to get within range of your target. Keep these tips in mind before your first hunting trip:

  • Shower with scentless soap.
  • Wash your clothes with scentless detergent.
  • Remove any smelly items from your vehicle.
  • Don’t wear strong deodorant or cologne.
  • Don’t pack any pungent food.

The wind is another factor you need to consider. A strong gust can reveal your scent even if you took all of the above precautions. Avoid walking with the wind at your back so you don’t give away your position.

6. Plan to Hunt Early

Hunting trips are usually more productive early in the season for two reasons. For a start, you get first pickings of a fresh population. There will be fewer animals to shoot as the season progresses. Second, the animals won’t be as cautious around hunters early in the season. You can take advantage of unsuspecting prey and get an easier kill.

7. Dress for the Occasion

Camouflage requirements vary by state. Most places require 400 to 500 square inches of orange above the waist so other hunters can see you. You also need to dress warm, especially if you’re hunting in a tree stand. There’s nothing worse than being cold while you’re hunting. You can always take off a few layers if the temperature rises.

8. Go With an Experienced Hunter

Every beginner should accompany an experienced outdoorsman on their first hunt. Only experts should hunt alone, and even then it’s not very advisable. Go with a relative or trusted friend and try to soak up as much knowledge as you can. Follow all of their instructions and pay attention to their mannerisms. If you need to ask a question, speak in a whisper to avoid scaring off nearby animals.

Hunting Will Change Your Life

Hunting certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you like the outdoors, your first hunting trip will change your life. Even if you don’t get a kill, navigating nature and pursuing wild animals will give you a huge adrenaline rush. You’ll want to do it again and again. But don’t get ahead of yourself – remember these preparation steps to make your first trip a success.

Author Bio:

Jack Shaw is an avid outdoorsmen and national park lover. He works as a freelance writer in the men’s lifestyle niche.

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