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New Hunters: Where Do You Begin?

By: Tom Claycomb

I’m super blessed. I had the best mom and dad in the world. Dad always took us hunting and fishing with him. We got BB guns when we were six years old, pellet guns at nine years old, and shotguns at 10 years old. When I started dove hunting, I couldn’t even reach the trigger. I had to hold the butt under my arm like granny on the Beverly Hillbillies. But what if you didn’t come from a hunting family? How would you get into it? It’s almost like a family inheritance or something!

Here in Idaho, it is said that 47 people per day are moving into the valley that I live in, most of them being from California. I talk to a lot of them who want to jump into the Idaho outdoors but don’t have a clue as to how to get into it.

Then I also talk to a lot of people who, at one point in their life, enjoyed hunting, but got busy with college, getting married, raising kids, and maybe moved a couple of times and no longer know where to go hunting.

If you’re in one of the above situations, how do you learn how to fish, hunt, and backpack? How do you even get into it? It’s tough if you didn’t have a dad and uncles to teach you the ropes. But while it can seem overwhelming and insurmountable, it’s not.

So how do you change your situation and turn yourself into the next up and coming Davey Crockett? It’ll vary according to your individual circumstances, but I’ll list out some tips. Apply what works in your scenario.

You need someone to take you under their wing. I meet nearly all of my new hunting buddies at Church or work. As you make new friends, if they’re outdoorsmen, they’ll probably take you with them, or else you won’t have much in common with them.

The above paragraph is also true even if you’re an avid outdoorsman and move. You have to find new spots. I’m obviously a hardcore outdoorsman, but anytime I move to a new locale, it’s the same on me. I have to learn new hotspots to hunt/fish. Church and work are where I meet 99% of my new friends. So, whether you’re new to the outdoors or an old timer, meeting new friends is the key.

YOU’RE A KID

The best way, of course, is to have your family raise you up in the ways of a hunter. But as a kid, I took all of my city friends camping, fishing, and hunting. The now defunct Kay Kimbell ranch owned all of the country up by our place. As an eight year old, the ranch foreman, Clarence Skaggs, let me have the run of his ranch. I took a lot of buddies up there. So, meet some farm and ranch kids.

Attend youth hunting events. Some 4-H clubs have shooting events. A lot of people help kids. Here’s an article on a youth hunting camp that I work with:

https://www.nrahlf.org/articles/2018/11/28/youth-hunting-camp-promotes-fun-and-adventure/

If you're a kid wanting to get into hunting, that is probably the toughest scenario. See if there are any youth hunting camps around like the Scooter's Youth Hunting Camp.

YOU’RE A YOUNG LADY

There are a lot of women groups now. If you’re a girl, it has never been easier to get into the outdoors. My daughter started a Sisters Before Misters shooting club. My wife and her buddies shoot every Tuesday at a local indoor range.

As a kid, I only remember a couple of outdoor shows. There were no YouTubes, podcast, blogs, websites, seminars etc. Now? Ha, there’s a million! There’s no reason you can’t have a sharper learning curve than we had in the old days due to all of the available helps. (And duh! Obviously check out gunpowdermagazine.com).

Hit all of the outdoor seminars you can. I never heard of an outdoor seminar until I was in my 30s. Now I conduct 50-60 seminars a year. The first of the year I’ll be conducting two seminars at the Dallas Safari Club Conv. & Expo, five at the SHOT Show in Vegas, and four at the SCI Conv., plus at multiple retail stores (Now cancelled). But I still attend as many seminars as I can to keep on top and learn new tricks.

One disclaimer: It used to be that all articles were edited by a knowledgeable editor. Now, anyone can start a blog with no reality filters.

Join local clubs, the gun range, archery clubs, shooting range events, local DU club, NRA, and so forth. You’ll meet people there.

One complicated topic you will encounter is, what rifle do you need? As a kid, people only had a deer rifle. You’d use it to hunt deer, predators, and prairie dogs. Now, we’re led to believe we need a different rifle/caliber for every species. I’ve shot antelope, deer, bears, and moose on down to coyotes and prairie dogs with my old Remington 742 semi-auto 30-06. Don’t start off thinking you need 20 different rifles to be able to hunt.

And the offering of gear is unlimited. No doubt, there is specialized gear that helps you be successful, but don’t feel like you have to be geared up to the max to have fun. Slick advertising would try to convince you otherwise. See what your buddies use in your locale. Trust them more than some celebrity that is paid big bucks to use brand X gear on their TV show. Of course they say brand X gear is the best. They pay for their hunt!

So on your first few hunts, go with an experienced hunter. He can show you how to hunt. How to gut your animal. How to set up a camp. I still learn new camping tricks every time I go camping with someone new.

Don’t make a big investment like on a boat until you’ve had time to check out a few and see what features you like. Don’t go on a 14-mile backpacking trip the first time. Just go on a short 1-mile hike and discover what gear you’re missing. If you have good hiking boots, etc.

Applying for tags in some states can be confusing. When I moved to Colorado, I met a few hunters at Church who invited me to go with them. Colorado’s regs are confusing. All of them said, "Let Bruce fill out your tags. He’s the camp scribe." I’ve lived in Idaho for over 20 years and am still discovering new regs that I didn’t know about.

So yes, it’s tough getting into the outdoor world if you weren’t raised in it, but it’s not impossible. Imagine you just moved to a new country and don’t know the customs or the language? Jump in with both feet. Good luck!

Do you think that my Nephew Will Statton will ever forget getting his first deer with Uncle Eddy and Uncle Tom? Or that we will ever forget his excitement? Make memories and take your nephews, nieces, and kids hunting.

Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.

 
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