I will never forget the first time I stepped foot in the woods in the pursuit of game. I was 12, and my best friend had invited me to come out with him and his family. I dressed in surplus army green and carried the .22 that my Dad kept in his closet for varmints. I had just recently completed my hunter safety course and I was chomping at the bit to get in the woods. I didn’t have to wait long.
As I remember, our hunt started around mid-morning. The day was overcast and cold, as many fall days are in the flat farm country of Western New York State on the Niagara Plateau. The woods we hunted that day were a mixture of northeastern hardwoods and pine situated between several corn fields. The harvest was in full swing then as well and squirrel season had just started as well. It was that first hunt where I learned to walk stealthily through the woods, how to field dress harvested game, and how to handle a firearm outside of a shooting range.
I can say with complete honesty that I have never felt more alive, than when I am in the outdoors.
Why We Hunt
Hunting is so much more than harvesting an animal with a firearm, or bow. It is an escape, a piece of grand adventure, and the best way to fully experience the great outdoors. Your senses are never more alert than on a hunt, and you see things that you will never see on an unarmed nature stroll through the woods. It is also truly one of the only ways (along with fishing and farming), to truly partake of the bounty of nature.
When I say the bounty of nature, I’m not talking like a hippie here; I am talking about the wonderful food that is available to us. Wild game is some of the most nutritious, safe to eat, and “organic” meats and fowl that you can ever partake of. The taste of the game, in my opinion, is so much richer than that T-Bone you bought at Kroger or Wal-Mart. Eating wild game is better for your health and that of your families. In addition, is also a much deeper satisfaction knowing that you harvested, dressed, butchered and prepared the meal with no help from a store other than the purchase of ammunition.
Hunters also do far more than any environmentalist has ever, or will ever do to preserve wildlife and habitat and restore species extirpated from a region. For example, the Elk reintroductions in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina were not the result of PETA’s efforts, nor the Green Party of the USA. It was Hunters and Sportsmen, who put their money and time into that effort. In fact when you purchase and hunting license, or buy a box or cartridges for granddad’s old hammer gun, in many locations a percentage of that goes into conservation. Hunters are also much more likely to write a check for conservation, restoration and outdoor education.
What exactly do environmentalist and animal rights activists do for the outdoors?
Well gee wiz, they will smear fake blood on themselves and scream at how hunters are killing all the game and destroying land. Or they will chase hunters around banging on pots and pans to frighten game. That is until a very angry game warden comes around and packs them off in the back of a squad car, hopefully to a padded room and a straight jacket.
If you want to truly protect the great outdoors, hunt in it.
Getting Started Hunting
The first step one needs to take to begin hunting here in the USA is to take a Hunter Safety Course. These are like all the best things in life, free. The course usually last 2-3 days for 4 hours each day. Most US states now require new hunters to take a hunter safety course.
After your have completed your course, I strongly recommend hunting a few times with an experienced hunter. This is not always possible, I know, but it often is. Pay close attention, there is so much more to learn about hunting that they just don’t teach in the hunter safety course. How to track game, where to hang a tree stand, how to ambush an animal, game trails, shot placement, field dressing, these are all thing you learn by doing.
I also recommend you try to get as much gear as you can your first year. I strongly recommend you purchase a light set of camouflage for warmer weather hunting and a cold weather set for colder weather. Purchase a good pair of boots, because one thing is for sure you will be doing plenty of walking.
Firearms are next. I’d say make it your goal to have at least 3 firearms to cover any type of hunting.
First, purchase a rifle chambered in .22 long rifle. This will be your small game firearm, you can use it to harvest squirrel, rabbit, woodchuck, and other smaller game animal and varmints.
Next a shotgun with a bird barrel, and perhaps a slug barrel. A pump action Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 in either .12 or 20 gauge are your best bets here. A shotgun is what you will use to hunt waterfowl and upland game birds, and with a slug barrel can be used as a powerful firearm for deer, wild boar, and bear within 75 yards. Many folks take them out west or to Alaska and use shotgun and slugs for protection from Grizzly and Brown bears. In some states the use of shotguns and slugs are the only firearm allowed for big game in some locations. This is because a shotgun is short ranged, and in an urban area you don’t want to fire a rifle round that can travel 5-700 yards.
Last, but not least is a big game rifle. This is the firearm you will use to harvest larger game such as deer, elk and moose. There are most choices than Carter has liver pills, but I will suggest a rifle in .30-30, .270 or .308 is ideal for a first game rifle.
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