It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or an experienced hunter. Every day you try to learn something new to be a better hunter than yesterday.
We asked the best hunting experts to share their experience with us. The questions were:
- If there would be only ONE advice you can give to newbie hunters, what would it be?
- If there would be only ONE mistake to avoid, you can warn newbie hunters about, what would it be?
We hope these tips will be useful for you.
Sten (Suburban Bushwacker)
Boots and jacket – you can save money on everything else.
Sitting still is an underrated virtue.
Ike Eulitt (Ike’s Outdoors)
The best experience you can get is the real-world experience. So get out there and do it. Learn from your mistakes and your victories and keep in mind that every animal you kill is a trophy.
The biggest mistake I think new hunters make is not practicing enough. Especially with a bow. Having an animal in front of you gives you a surge of adrenaline. Adrenaline causes motor skills to virtually disappear in some people. When you experience that surge muscle memory is the key to making a good shot. You develop that with a lot of practice.
Barbara Baird (Women’s Outdoor News)
Find a mentor.
Get boots that fit so you can avoid blisters.
Women’s Outdoor News
Brad Smith (Senior Writer at Wide Open Spaces)
When hunting pressured deer, it’s more important to know the patterns of the neighboring hunters than the patterns of the deer. Hunt when they aren’t and you will see more and bigger deer.
Do no not hunt the same times of the day everyone else does. Be out there about a 30 to 45 minutes earlier than everyone else and give yourself plenty of time to get situated for both the morning and afternoon hunts. You will see the deer all the other hunters are scaring up. Also, always pay attention to the wind.
Senior Writer at Wide Open Spaces
Scott Haugen (Author, TV host, co-founder of Outdoors Now)
Spend as much time in the field as you can, observing wildlife. Knowing an animal’s behavior is critical in thoroughly understanding them, how they live, where they live and why they do what they do. Being a former science teacher with a biology background, and spending so much time in the field as I do, nothing will teach you more about the animals we pursue better than the animals, themselves.
Don’t be afraid to take chances. I see so many hunters every year who are afraid to make a move on an animal for fear of spooking it. When the cards are stacked against you, making something happen is the only option. If you blow it, learn from the experience and remember it for next time. You never know what will happen unless you try.
Author, TV host, co-founder of www.OutdoorsNow.com
Bill Howard (Bill Howard Outdoors)
Ask questions. Most (not all) experienced hunters are willing to share information on how to hunt or fish a particular species. They may not tell you exactly where to go to target your prey, but they will tell you how you can be successful. Game wardens are also useful in this regards.
Do not get so obsessed with the kill that it forces you to work around ethics and morals. It is easy for a new hunter to become so enamored with getting a big deer that shooting times or even boundary lines become blurred. It is not worth it. Enjoy the hunt for the hunt, not the end result. Too many times a new hunter will skirt the laws in order to prove they belong and it always comes back to bite them.
Bill Howard Outdoors
Dr. Ken Nordberg
Be at your stand site, alert, silent and relatively motionless with your silhouette well hidden (not sky-lighted), one half-hour before first light in the morning.
Waste no time stand hunting anywhere not within easy shooting range downwind or crosswind of very fresh tracks made by one or more unalarmed, mature (big) whitetails (tracks discovered before or while hunting).
Dr. Ken Nordberg
The number one piece of advice that I can offer new hunters is to be patient. Today we were hunting turkey’s and they hung up at 80 yards. Instead of being patient when they did not come and sit tight for another half hour, we got up and they spooked. No Turkey nuggets for dinner tonight. Patience is the key to success in the woods while hunting. It is not an easy lesson to learn but it will pay dividends over and over in the quest to fill your freezer.
Follow the rules and laws of the state that you are hunting. Hunting is all about self-discipline and personal ethics and making the right decision even when no one is looking. If hunting is to survive for generations to come it is up to each and every one of us to do the right thing every time we are in the field. As well it is up to us to continue to fund the organizations that support the conservation of the species we hunt like Ducks Unlimited, Pheasant Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Foundation.
Dr. Grant Woods (Wildlife biologist and host of Growing Deer)
Keep hunting fun! An important step in this process is to set realistic harvest goals for the area to be hunted and your experience level.
Don’t ignore the wind direction. Deer survive daily by using their sense of smell. Don’t be complacent and believe deer won’t react to smelling you!
Dr. Grant Woods,
Wildlife biologist and host of www.GrowingDeer.com
Neil Beltran (AKA “Zenhunter”)
Join an online forum that focuses on the type of hunting you want to do or the game you’re after. It’s the best way to shrink the learning curve and benefit from the knowledge of experienced hunters. You’ll soon see which posters are respected by others on the forum, and those are the ones you should listen to, about their successes, their mistakes, their strategies, and their equipment. Ask them for advice – NEVER for their secret spot – and more often than not they’ll be happy to share their wisdom. Partnering up for hunts with experienced hunters you meet on the forums can yield big rewards. Offer to share a reservation at a hunting refuge, to bring lunch, or to drive. Chances are good you’ll find mentors and future hunting partners.
Not realizing that proficiency with your weapon of choice – rifle, shotgun, bow – is the first and foremost thing. Too many times I’ve seen someone treat their weapon like just another piece of equipment in the rush to “go hunting.” So they head on out, get an opportunity, take a shot…and miss. If you don’t want to waste a lot of time, money, and effort, practice with your weapon, checks that the sights are dialed in, that you’re proficient from different distances, angles, positions. THEN start planning your hunting trip.
Neil Beltran AKA “Zenhunter”
Tony Caggiano (Owner, World Slam Adventures)
No matter what game you are hunting, turkey, duck, deer etc…when you are first starting out as a hunter, it is so important never give up, you gotta stick with it, no matter how hard it may seem at the start.
I am asked all the time for “Tips” from new hunters. Often time, these hunters start out very excited, but when they get out there and begin to realize how difficult some of this can be, they get discouraged.
When I started out turkey hunting, back in 1992, I was determined to call in my first gobbler myself.
I headed out to the woods on May 1st, got in position near a roasted flock, and started making mistakes right off the bat. It happens, that is how you learn what DOESN’T work.
I came back the next day, and the one after that…long story short, I hunt every single morning of that season, and didn’t bag call in a turkey until May 21st.
I wanted it BAD, and I think that is key to success in any game, but especially hunting.
One of the biggest mistakes I see new hunters make is not being patient. Patience is key to being a successful hunter.
Wild game is not on YOUR clock, heck, it isn’t on any human’s clock. Whether it be turkey, deer or waterfowl, wild animals take their time going through their daily routine.
It is a dangerous world for them, they take their time, with just about everything they do.
Just last week, while turkey hunting in the Ozarks, I had a gobbler hang up and go quiet on his way in.
First, it took him over an hour to close the 100-yard distance between us, as I called.
Finally, he came to 30 yards away, but I could not see him.
I sat, with my gun shouldered, for 55 minutes before he budged, and came into view.
Be patient, slow down, learn to appreciate the entirety of the hunt, not just the kill, and you will be more successful, and more importantly, you will have more FUN…which is what it is really all about!
Owner, World Slam Adventures
Timothy Brass (Backcountry Hunters & Anglers)
Start small. If you start with smaller, more common animals like ducks, rabbits, doves, pheasants, etc., you’ll have a chance to experience the entire hunt: the set-up; the chase; the kill; and the meat right off the bat. This approach will give you a chance to feel comfortable with all that’s involved with a hunt right off the bat, before diving head first into an archery bow hunt. It will also provide a good opportunity to hunt with a friend or mentor in a low-stress environment, which I believe is key to learning the tricks of the trade.
Don’t go alone. Hitting the field alone can be overwhelming and lead to disappointing. Go with someone who can show you the ropes and ensure that your first experiences are positive.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Hank Forester (QDMA’s Hunting Heritage Programs Manager)
Find a Mentor. More experienced hunters are realizing their most rewarding hunts are when they take someone new so find a mentor. Start with your local Branches of sportsmen’s groups like QDMA, NWTF or shooting clubs. Sporting goods stores may also help and will usually know who’s active where you live. Having a mentor will be invaluable while providing resources to get you started including knowledge, gear and possibly access.
Avoid the gimmicks! Today’s hunting industry sells everything they can dream up. Some works, some doesn’t and lots of it sells either way. Give hunting a try and collect the gear as your hunting adventures progress. Depending on the type of hunting, you might not need much additional gear.
QDMA’s Hunting Heritage Programs Manager
Mike Hanback (Big Deer Blog)
To any guy or gal just starting out as a deer hunter, go out, have fun and shoot the first deer that gives you a safe, ethical shot, whether it’s a doe or a young buck. Don’t let what you see on TV shows–hunters passing up small bucks and waiting for bigger ones–cloud your judgment. As a newbie, you need to shoot a few deer, regardless of size and have success so you can experience it all, from finding the deer, to shooting it, to gutting it and dragging it out of the woods. Once you’ve shot a few deer and learned the basics, then you can start looking for bigger bucks if you want.
The biggest mistake many new hunters make is to hunt too fast and too aggressively. You’re excited to go and shoot a deer, I get that, but you’ll hunt better if you slow down, think and attune to the woods around you. Put the wind in your face, move with stealth, look, listen… You’ll see and shoot more deer, or any animal you hunt for that matter.
Big Deer Blog
Shawn Luchtel (Co-Host, Heartland Bowhunter)
Hunt smart. Study the animal you are hunting more with scouting techniques rather than hunting. Scouting tends to pay off more than just hunting.
Avoid giving up, as soon as you think it’s over or the hunt isn’t going to come together, you are wrong. Persistence pays off so make sure you have given it everything you’ve got until the end.
Co-Host, Heartland Bowhunter
Michael Hunsucker (Heartland Bowhunter)
Scouting is key. With the advancement in trail camera technology over the past 10 years, we are able to really get a feel for what the animals that we are hunting are doing on a day-to-day basis without intruding on the property. Additionally, glassing from vantage points and hunting from the outside, in on properties can help you narrow down patterns and eventually put you in a position for success.
Assuming your equipment works. Test it, shoot it, try it out and make sure that everything is performing as expected. This is especially true with bowhunting and broadheads. Too many times people just screw them on and assume they will hit in the same spot as field points. Depending on the head and how the bow is tuned, there’s a good chance they may not. Always check!
Brady Smith (The DIY Hunter)
Slow down. Have a good location picked out to hunt and stay the course. Find good vantage points and use your optics. You will be surprised what may be in, or show up in a canyon that you find an hour or more into glassing it.
Leaving too early. You’re out in beautiful country, stay and enjoy it.
The DIY Hunter
Petrus Geldenhuys (Professional Hunter and Outfitter)
Doesn’t matter what caliber or rifle you have, make sure you know that rifle well! Practice is key to successful hunting! If you practice enough and know your rifle and know what it is capable of you will never have issues hunting.
Don’t hunt with a rifle you don’t know.
Professional Hunter and Outfitter
Sam Schiwart (Saltitude Outfitters)
Find a good mentor to learn from and to help you. Dramatically increase you’re learn curve with results in less frustrating hunts and more productive outing.
Know the laws of the of the area your hunting and make sure you have scouted the land you hunt prior to your trip.
Apply for as many western states as possible and start building points. That way will give you the best chance of drawing premium hunts throughout your hunting career. Can be spendy and maybe you can only afford a few states but if you want a quality hunt it’s the game you have to play. On the flip side waiting until you’re in your 40’s-50’s to start applying for these draws would be a mistake as depending on what you are trying to draw it could take 15-20 years. Again if you can afford it in your younger years all the better as you may draw some states several times in your lifetime and these should be incredible hunts.
Prepare for your hunt and know your weapon.
Go on a hunt unprepared without knowing your weapon.
Greg Galli – Owner (River Valley Outfitters, LLC)
Take advice from everyone that will give it to you and form your own opinion. You never stop learning.
Don’t give up, do your research and spend as much time in the field as possible. It will hone your skills. Books, magazines and TV shows are great, but being in the field will make you a better hunter always.
Greg Galli – Owner
River Valley Outfitters, LLC
Ryan Bassham (Drake Clothing Company)
Hunt for the right reasons. Today’s society and social media have started to shape the hunting world around us unlike we have seen before. Remember, you are representing hunters everywhere. Abide by the rules and regulations of where you are hunting, be respectful of the quarry you hunt and the land you hunt on and maintain a conservation through hunting mindset. Hunting is not a popularity contest or fast track to becoming well known. It is a lifestyle that demands respect. Through hunting, we can spend time in the outdoors, enjoy camaraderie with friends and family, obtain lean meat for the table, and be active participants in conservation efforts.
You can never scout too much. Just when you think you have done enough scouting, go ahead and scout some more. This will provide several contingency plans should you not be successful in the game you are pursuing. This can be applicable to all game hunting; big game, waterfowl, turkey, etc.
Drake Clothing Company
Joshua Stafford (Owner, Blackland Outfitters Guide Service)
When scouting make sure to scout hard, scout daily, and put in the appropriate amount of scouting time. This will help you pattern the game that you are hunting and will greatly increase your chances of a successful hunt.
Some advice for hunters is to be still, silent, and scent free. A lot of game animals that we hunt have very keen senses that include keen hearing, a strong sense of smell, and a very sharp eyesight. Keep this all in mind when in the stand or your blind!
Owner, Blackland Outfitters Guide Service
Patrick Tabor Jr. (General Manager Swan Mountain Outfitters)
Focus your energy on enjoying a sport which gives you an excuse to be in the great outdoors. If you have fun each and every time you go out because you have a respect for nature than when you do harvest an animal it will just be an added bonus.
It’s a privilege to hunt. Don’t get caught up in getting the biggest animal or the size of the antlers. Instead have appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to hunt. If or when you do harvest you should feel grateful to the animal for giving its life to feed you.
Patrick Tabor Jr.
Swan Mountain Outfitters
Scouting your game is the most important part of hunting anything! Spend as much time scouting as you do hunting to be successful.
Shoot your firearm you are hunting with and be confident when you pull the trigger at your game.
Always unload when done hunting. Always handle every gun as if it is loaded.
Cable Smith (Owner/Host Lone Star Outdoors Show)
You are going to miss and it’s even more likely as a new hunter. I miss, professional hunters miss and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest. So, don’t get discouraged, the longer you hunt – the less frequent those misses will occur. But don’t give up. It took me 3 seasons to kill my first buck with a bow, two-week long backcountry hunts (and a miss) before I arrowed my first bull elk. So keep after it and don’t beat yourself up.
Pertaining to big game hunting, whether you’re after deer, elk, bear, hogs etc – give the animal time to expire. Unless you pull the trigger or let an arrow fly and can see the lifeless quarry piled up in plain view, then don’t make a move towards that animal for at least 30 minutes and preferably an hour. It’s possible you made a great shot and the animal ran 30-yds into cover and expired immediately- but too many times a marginal (yet lethal) shots is made and the animal ends up getting bumped by the hunter. When this happens you’ve made your job infinitely tougher. Animals hit in the gut or high will take longer to die, and they don’t bleed very much. So, give them time and always go to the point of impact to look for clues about your shot rather than immediately heading in the direction you saw the animal run.
Owner/Host Lone Star Outdoors Show
Robby Denning (Mule Deer Editor/Business Manager)
When in mule deer country, move slower than you think is necessary. Big mule deer hear and see far better than we humans believe they can. The only consistent way to overcome their keen senses is to move slowly anytime you’re potentially near deer. Ignore this tenet of mule deer hunting and you’ll see and kill far less big mule deer than the hunter who chooses to move slowly.
Jumping around too much. By that, I mean covering too much country too quickly in your search for a big buck. Big mule deer in hunted units during open season rarely venture far from the protection of cover during daylight hours. It’s the norm not to see a big buck the very first time you visit a new area. Some hunters falsely conclude that if they don’t see a big buck, one doesn’t live there and they move on to other areas too soon. You need to thoroughly hunt an area searching for big tracks, rubs, game trails, and buck beds before moving on to another country. This can take several or more days depending on the size of the area.
Mule Deer Editor/Business Manager
Norm Douglas (Owner Supplies 4 Working Dogs)
For new hunters, the best advice I could give would be to seek out all available information from the state agency that issues Hunting Licenses. Then find and experienced hunter and see if you can hunt with them the first few times you go out. But no matter what you do NEVER hunt alone because even with experience things can go wrong, and you don’t want to be in the woods alone. Always tell somebody where you will be hunting and when you plan on getting back.
Always plan for the worst, and hope for the best. A little extra gear won’t hurt (lighter, flashlight, poncho, food, water, and a fully charged battery on you cell phone). Never get in a hurry, SAFETY FIRST there will always be another day to hunt if you and your team come today.
Trenton Lewis (Black Tine Outfitters)
Spend the time doing the homework. The amount of effort and time you put into scouting, locating feed patterns, locating bedding areas, and stand location with wind direction; all these steps will determine the greatness of success. The hunt begins way before the time comes to sit in a treestand. Be sure to set up multiple locations to compete with the wind change. Never over pressure your hunting areas, if conditions are not right, don’t hunt, sometimes staying home due to bad wind is still hunting. Play it smart.
Don’t get caught up in the commercialization of the hunting industry. It’s not about fame, popularity, and most of all it’s not about inches. Stay passionate, stay humble, and hunt from the heart.
Black Tine Outfitters
Randy J Dudley (Hunting Guide)
Do non-typical things if you want to experience non-typical outcomes. For example: Spend all day hunting, not just a few hours then go back to camp. Use old barns or houses, bunk feed troughs, hay stacks, oil well locations, junk cars, dang near any existing structure you can find as a blind or stand. Hunt the spots no one else wants to, the naturally pressure will move things your way. Don’t discount small parcels of land for big deer. Try vanilla as a cover scent & attractant, deer love it. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and use non-conventional hunting methods.
Don’t fall for gadgetry. Your grandfather killed a many a good buck in a flannel shirt and work pants while smoking a pipe. You don’t need a thousand dollars in scent preventing clothing . Nor do you need a magical machine hanging from your tree that soaks up your scent and spits it out as something else. You don’t need a special caping knife with a heated handle, solar panel and flashing LED’s to skin a deer. That same old folding hunter knife your grandad gave you is still better than most anything made today. Nothing will take the place of just being afield. Lastly, of all things put your phone down and pay attention. You can’t kill squat staring at your crotch.
Randy J Dudley – Hunting Guide
Many mistakes newbies make is not practicing with their rifle which proves for poor shots or misses on the hunt.
Another mistake many make is not the taking proper scent precautions. You should not hunt any animal with clothes that have been subjected to many different smells. Animals live by their nose and you must take all measures to stay scent free especially when bear hunting.
Use enough gun! Larger bore rifles are not necessary for the perfect shot but in the woods how ofter do we make the perfect shot! Larger calibers are insurance for marginal shots! and keep shooting until the animal is down i have seen a bunch of shooters look and admire their “perfect shot” rather than reloading and missing the opportunity to finish the animal!
Do your research on trophy hunts, check hunt reports and chase down old clients. There is no such thing as a cheap hunt, there are plenty of unscrupulous outfitters that will take your money and offer the world. It is much cheaper to pay the initial higher price of a repeated outfitter than go on multiple unsuccessful hunts with a dodgy operator!!
Cousin Lisa (Reservation Specialist/Avid Huntress)
Don’t be disappointed if you miss a shot. Hunting requires a lot of patience, focus, and instinct – but in a way that is very specific to hunting. Be patient with yourself, nobody is perfect when it comes to their first hunt and taking that first shot, focus on your target and your goal, and use your instinct to determine when to shoot.
Don’t use a weapon that is too powerful or too weak for their game, and making sure to use proper ammo. It sounds simple and silly but I know a lot of first and second-time hunters who will come with a rifle or ammo that is inappropriate for what they are hunting. The last thing you want is to blow your game to smithereens!
Reservation Specialist/Avid Huntress
We are grateful to every great hunter who gave us their precious tips. If you have more questions feel free to contact hunters directly or ask in comments below.
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