So, You Want to Start Hunting – Now What?
Has the idea of getting into hunting peaked your curiosity? Have you been studying up on it, reading articles, watching videos and imaging what it would be like? Are you becoming more environmentally and health conscious about the quality of your food? Is taking responsibility for your own food by harvesting in a sustainable and ethical way from the wild something that interests you? As we wrote in the article, Is Wild Game Meat Still a Health Choice?, we know the quality of wild game meat is a healthy choice. So, you are probably thinking, yes, I want to get into hunting.
It seems that an increasing number of Canadians are becoming interested in hunting but have not taken the steps needed to become a hunter. If you were raised in a hunting family, there likely wasn’t many barriers to getting started. I was born Christmas eve and before Christmas day was over my Grandfather had gifted me a toy hunting rifle. I was well on my way to becoming a hunter at 1 day old.
For many Canadians who are interested in getting into hunting, they might not have this level of family hunting heritage to guide them. Without family to pass on the knowledge about hunting, people may feel there are insurmountable barriers to getting started in hunting. Does this sound like you?
If it does, let’s explore the basic steps to get you headed in the right direction to becoming a Hunter Conservationist.
Start with the Why
Leadership and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, in his Ted Talk where he explains how to accomplish great things, says always start with the why.
Following this advice, ask yourself why you want to hunt? What is your purpose? What are your personal beliefs about how your food ends up on your plate? Your motives for hunting are like the foundation of your house. They become the base for your choices and behaviours, and they will give you the peace of mind that you are doing something that you truly believe in.
Maybe you want to hunt because you want the best-quality protein you can get in your diet so you stay healthy and live longer. Maybe you want a new way of gaining deep knowledge about wildlife to be a better conservationist and hunting will help give you that knowledge. You may believe that, in this time of mass factory farming, taking responsibility for providing your own ethically-sourced meat is your small way of helping society be more sustainable.
Journaling is a good way to explore your reasons why you want to hunt. Consider documenting your answers to the question why you hunt. Think of this question as a journey of self-exploration and something that you will contemplate your entire life.
After you understand why you want to hunt, you need to figure out how to hunt. This may seem like the most daunting of all the steps, but really, it’s not as bad as you think. First off, everything about hunting and learning to hunt should be fun. Your attitude is what will make learning to hunt and hunting an awesome and rewarding part of your life.
Many folks tend to fail at achieving their goals because they see the gap between where they are now and where they want to get to as too big of a step, so they give up often before they even start.
So, the trick is to break down the big steps into bite-sized mini-steps. The smaller the steps, the easier it will be to move forward towards your first hunting trip!
4 Basic Steps to Get Started
Here are 4 basic steps to get started,
- Get a hunting license
- Get your Canadian firearms license
- Get some hunting gear
- Practice hunting
Those seem like big steps, right? Too big? Yes, they are big steps. So, let’s break them down into smaller little chunks so we can get you moving forward. We can break down the get a hunting license step into these mini-steps:
- Research where to take an approved hunter training course (online or classroom)
- Register for a hunter training course
- Complete the hunter training course (day 1, day 2, module 1 module 2 etc)
- Research if you need a hunter number in your province or territory and find out how to apply for it
- Apply for a hunter number
- Go buy a hunting license with your new hunter number
If you want, you can even break down these steps in more detail especially depending on if you are prone to procrastination. For example, Monday night do the online research and Tuesday register etc. Make yourself a plan – a road map to becoming a hunter.
Getting Your Canadian Firearms License
You can break this step down like we did earlier – research, register, complete the course etc. In fact, many face-to-face hunter training instructors in Canada will combine getting your hunter training course and firearms license into one program because you must have both to go hunting.
Get Some Hunting Gear
This is a really fun step! The basic gear you need includes a rifle or shotgun, depending on what you want to hunt. As well, you will need outdoor clothing and footwear, a big backpack, survival gear and maybe some binoculars. Don’t worry about camouflage clothing; just get stuff that will keep you dry and warm. Once again, break down this step in to mini steps – research firearms, talk to people about firearms, test out different firearms, acquire a firearm etc.
Big caveat here. There is no need to spend a lot of money on gear (I can’t believe I said that). You can because it is fun, but it’s not essential! Used, second hand gear works just fine. When I was younger, my brother-in-law liked to wear wool when he went deer hunting. So, he would buy second hand men’s wool suit jackets from the used clothing store for $5 each. Yah, he looked like dork in the woods, but he was warm and dry, and his deer tasted just as good as mine.
Choosing a firearm can seem complicated. One of your best options is to talk to your hunting course instructor or the people at a local sports shop. If you know what game you want to hunt, these folks will give you great advice. Some hunting course instructors will take you to a gun range and let you try different types of guns so you can decide which one feels the best and is appropriate for the game you plan to hunt.
Developing marksmanship with your firearm is an essential part of being a responsible hunter. However, the most overlooked advice for new hunters is “go practice hunting.” By this I mean go out and look for game animals. Get to know the lay of the land. Study how animals use the land at different times of the year and different times of the day. Study them and see how they watch for danger and how they react to you sneaking around. Learn to sneak and stay hidden. Learn to be aware of wind direction and how to move about the land while staying downwind of wildlife. Next to learning how to handle a firearm safely, knowing where to find game and learning their behavior is the single most important aspect of harvesting game animals.
Decide What to Hunt
Canada is one the richest places on earth for wildlife, and thankfully Canadians can still hunt for food in every province and territory. No matter where you live in Canada, you will can still decide what you would like to hunt. There are many options available to you. The idea of filling your freezer with a moose or buffalo sounds like a great goal, but don’t overlook the abundant opportunities in Canada to hunt small game and waterfowl.
As a first-time hunter, starting out with hunting small game is a great approach. In fact, some hunters only hunt small game and do quite well in filling their freezer with wild meat for the year. One of the great things about small game hunting is that you can typically harvest more game, which will give you more days to hunt, more days to learn and more opportunities to get better at finding, harvesting and processing wild game.
Canadian Hunters Helping Canadian Hunters
If you want to do any of the following things – attend an excellent hands-on hunter and firearms training course, try out firearms, learn how to process your own game, make game sausage, backpack hunt in the mountains or practice hunting in the field with a community of new hunters – check out the fantastic workshops Dylan and the crew at Eat Wild BC provide. I recommend Eat Wild BC so much in fact that if I were just starting out, I would save up some dollars and fly to Vancouver to attend Eat Wild BC’s hunter training programs!
If you like learning by listening to podcasts, I highly recommend following Mike and Kelly, hosts of the Rookie Hunter Podcast on their journey into the world of hunting and conservation. Mike and Kelly started hunting as adults and are documenting their foray into the hunting lifestyle through their podcasts.
The Rookie Hunters and the Eat Wild BC crew will inspire you because they represent what responsible hunting in Canada is about.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and take that first bite-sized step to becoming a hunter right now!
Online Hunter Training Course
Nine provinces/territories in Canada have approved this online hunter course as the first step to getting a hunting license. After the online learning module, you will need to follow up with a classroom session with an approved instructor, but online learning is a comfortable way to start your learning.
These organizations will help you figure out everything you need to do become a license hunter in Canada! Many of the provincial federations are the agents that certify new hunters after completing an approved hunter training course.
Cover Image: © kaninstudio / Adobe Stock