Girlfriend's Guide to Big Game Hunting
Ok ladies, I know many of you are curious about this whole hunting thing and want to know what’s so great about it. Maybe your husband or boyfriend is a hunter and you see how passionate he is about hunting, but you just don’t understand why he thinks it’s so wonderful. Perhaps you love the outdoors and want a hobby that will challenge you. The biggest hang-up keeping you from indulging in the sport is that you are intimidated by the entire concept and you have no idea where to start.
I know because I was once there. I was very curious about hunting and wondered if it would be something I would like. I wondered how I would react to shooting an animal. What if I wounded it? What kind of gun would I shoot? What “gear” did I need? Luckily for me my husband, Robert, was great about getting me started. I want to help you get started, too! Following is a step-by-step guide.
Take Hunter’s Safety: Hunting is not some covert operation that only the elite can accomplish. I mean, seriously, just look at all of the old, overweight men who are out there enjoying the sport - they are even successful at times. Your first step is to take a Hunter’s Safety course through your resident state. This class will teach you about gun safety, animal identification and wildlife conservation, taking care of your harvest, tracking, and much more. Here is a link to sign up for an online course in your state http://www.hunter-ed.com/. Trust me, this class will help build your confidence in handling a gun and understanding all that is involved in the hunt.
Shoot, shoot and shoot some more! If you don’t have a rifle yet, find someone who does and borrow it. Talk to someone knowledgeable about what gun is going to be the best for you. If you are afraid of guns, then start out with a rifle with less “kick” like a .243. The first year I hunted I used Robert’s .243 rifle and I shot two deer with it. Once I decided I liked hunting I received a Tika .270 short mag for my birthday (it sure beat getting a vacuum!). Now I mostly hunt with a 300 Ultra mag, but the bottom line is that all you really need is a big enough caliber gun to get the job done.
Once you have selected a gun (or bow for that matter), figure out where your local shooting range is and become a member. Use your membership a lot! Take someone along who knows about shooting that can offer you good advice on technique. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Stick with shooting from a bench-rest until you are confident with the rifle at typical hunting ranges, then learn how to shoot off of a bipod lying down (prone) and sitting up. Once the bipod is mastered, learn to shoot-off hand. You should get so comfortable with your gun that it feels like a part of you. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be confident in your shooting skills. You owe it to the animal to make a clean and ethical shot.
Learn basic survival skills: This can be fun! Learn how to build a fire from scratch and how to construct a shelter using only what is in your immediate environment. Know the signs and symptoms of hypo/hyperthermia and their prevention and treatment. Learn how to splint a broken bone and how to render basic first aid. There are all kinds of resources available. One book that I like is “Camping and Survival” by Paul Tawrell. I am not trying to overwhelm anyone, but if you are going into the wilderness, you should have some basic knowledge of what to do if disaster strikes. This is just part of being a responsible hunter and outdoorsman. You also want to be an asset and not a hindrance to the person you are with.
Get your hunting license and tags: Next, you’ll want to find out what your hunting options are for your state. Some states are draw-only which means you’ll need to apply in order to draw a tag in late winter or early spring. Other states sell tags over-the-counter which means exactly that – you can buy a tag at a store or fish & game office without having to draw it. Look at your state’s website to find out how they distribute tags. I recommend asking someone how it works and pick their brain on what type of hunt would best suit you. Outfitted hunts can also be a great option for your first hunt. If you would like professional help, try http://www.huntinfool.com/index.php. For a reasonable fee, they can help you apply in any state and find an outfitter if you want to go guided.
Choose your hunt and your partner: Hunting, especially when you are learning, is more fun if shared with someone else. Find a seasoned hunter who is willing to offer guidance and ask them to accompany you on your hunt. Glean from him or her as much as possible. Some of the greatest friendships are forged between hunting partners and if you happen to be married to yours then that’s an added bonus!
There are so many women that have taken up hunting that you may already have a couple of girl-friends who hunt. Organize a hunt with them. You could go to Texas on a pig hunt or a turkey hunt. It could be an incredible girl’s trip. I have gone coyote, bear, and deer hunting with my girl friends. We’ve had the greatest times together!
When choosing your first hunt, be aware of your personal preferences and limitations. If you despise cold weather, then opt for an earlier hunt August - October, before winter sets in. Or if you are a restless person, don’t go sit in a tree stand. I personally think a deer or antelope hunt is a great way to break into big game hunting. The start of the season is generally mild which can help make your first experience more enjoyable.
Gear up: Having the right hunting equipment is important, but if you are purchasing it all at once you may find yourself taking out a second mortgage. It can get really expensive, really fast. I recommend borrowing gear like binoculars, range finder, rifle, backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. Most seasoned hunters you meet will have spare gear they’re willing to loan or even give away. If you want to purchase your own camouflage clothing, I recommend looking at http://proishunting.com/ for a huge selection. Once you decide hunting is something you enjoy, then gradually add items to your collection, just don’t go broke over it.
I don’t recommend borrowing boots. Your hiking boots need to be broken in to fit your foot well before you head for the hills or your feet will pay the price! I once wore a brand new pair of running shoes on a cross-country run for track practice and I had a blister that spanned the entire arch of my left foot. Not fun! Buy your boots early and break them in well on training hikes!
My personal favorite boot is Kenetrek’s Women’s Mountain Extreme since it is a boot that can be worn on both warm and cold weather hunts. Ask the professional shoe sales representatives at places like Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cabela’s or Lathrop & Sons http://www.lathropandsons.com/ to find the right boot for you. Schnee’s makes reliable boots as well. You can check them out at http://www.schnees.com/.
Get into shape: Preparing for a hunt can be great motivation for getting off the couch and getting fit. Hunting can stretch you to your limits both physically and mentally so it is important to train for it. When my boys were little, I didn’t have the time or money for a gym membership, so I strapped my 9 month old in a pack on my chest and put my 2 year old in a pack on my back and started climbing one of the local mountains. I did this religiously to get ready for a backcountry Mule deer hunt at over 10,000 feet. I also climbed Mt. Borah, Idaho’s tallest peak at 12,662 feet, so that I would know how my body handled high elevation. Your hunting experiences will be so much more enjoyable if you are in good physical condition.
Don’t force yourself to do something you absolutely hate. If you despise running, then ride a bike or hit the stair-stepper instead. Just do something to get a decent cardio workout. Train your entire body and don’t neglect your core. Having a strong core will help protect your back when you are wearing a heavy pack. Hiking should be a major part of your workout routine. Work up to doing it with a weighted backpack. I like to pack water bottles for extra weight. Once I am at the top, I can dump the water and spare the extra weight on my knees for the trip down.
By all means, relax and have fun! The last and most important thing is to have fun! Hunting is just another excuse to revel in nature and it shouldn’t be a source of stress. A hunt is successful if you grew as a person and made memories that will stay with you forever. I also want to remind you that you can always ask questions here at the women’s forum on Rokslide http://www.rokslide.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?81-The-Ladies-Forum. There are no stupid questions. The only way to learn is by asking. Now get out there and hunt!