The reasons hunters take to the woods and fields are many — the thrill of the chase, to experience nature, for the fresh wild game meat, to bag a trophy, to share the family tradition, to travel the world, and the list goes on. Many of us were born into hunting families, others pulled in by passionate friends or partners; but what about those on the unlucky fringes looking into our world of the outdoors?
Here are five ways to introduce our hunting passion and create lifelong outdoorsmen and women.
Invite Friends to the Range
The first and best place to start is the range. If rimfires are how they want to begin, let them try a smattering of rifles and handguns. Ease them into bigger bores with clear explanations. Quality ear protection helps as many first-timers fear the noise as much as the recoil.
Most importantly, never ask someone new to shooting to do something they’re not comfortable with and always be mindful of safety. Let them experiment and provide a healthy mix of targets on the range, from paper to reactive. If shotgunning and bird hunting is an interest, try the sporting clays range for realistic practice in a fun, lighthearted environment. Demonstrate how you do things but allow them to find what works best for them.
A positive attitude and approach to their range time is a must! Make it enjoyable and there’s little doubt they’ll want to plan the return trip before the first is over.
Become a Mentor
Before any new hunter goes into the field — youth or adult — they should first begin with a Hunter’s Safety program. Every state offers some kind of training and it’s a necessary first step for any hunting lifestyle. In most cases, it is mandatory to purchase a harvest tag. With a sound base in safe firearms handling and woodsmanship, the canvas is ready for the new hunter to begin a lifelong love affair with the outdoors.
Get involved by accompanying friends to the class or, better yet, become an assistant or mentor. After basic training, most states and several outside organizations offer Learn to Hunt Programs. There are specific wild turkey, deer, and bear courses in some areas that culminate with a mentored hunt before the actual season. If the newbie is a youngster or woman, specific options are available to help them learn the hunting lifestyle.
Teach Field to Table
The reason many non-hunters are approaching the sport today is due to the rising focus on healthy eating and locally sourced food. This is a great entry point into the whys and endgame of the chase. If you’re able to take the new hunter with you on a hunt, and if there’s a successful harvest, guide them through the entire process from gutting to butchery to the frying pan. Share wild game recipes and allow them to revel in the fruits of their outdoor labors as well as the respect shared by utilizing the entire animal.
More and more folks are opting to take on the personal responsibly of feeding their families — not from mystery grocery store meats, but responsibly harvested local, organic wild game. This is also a good time to discuss why we harvest certain animals as part of the cycle of conservation. Hunters’ dollars help fund most major conservation efforts, and because of that, we’re all able to continue harvesting bountiful wild game in the U.S.
Take Walks in the Woods
One of my first introductions to the outdoors was the walks I took with both my grandfather and great-grandmother. They’d teach me about the wild plants, how to walk quietly and stalk game, which trees and bushes offered the best browse for deer, where squirrels hid in the widest oaks. I was a hunter in training without even knowing it and I loved every moment.
Share these same things with the folks you wish to get interested in hunting. Show them where and why you place your stands in the locations you do. Ask them where they’d like to hunt and why. Pick ramps, gather black walnuts, search for mushrooms, and show them how much hunters benefit from nature even beyond the hunt. Heck, they’ll even come to appreciate that hunters have the best views when they witness the early sunrises and closing sunsets on a day well spent.
Find and Fit the Right Firearm
While a new hunter, youth or adult, does not need a specific weapon to be successful, ensuring the firearm fits them will create a more comfortable and confident hunter. Compact guns fit some better, while large-frame hunters may need an extended stock.
The choice of caliber should depend on the game you seek — be that small game, big game, waterfowl, or upland birds. Let the length of pull work in their favor, as well as the caliber and scope setup. Further, if your hunting buddy already has a firearm, knife, or sentimental gear passed on to them, celebrate that! Encourage them to use and appreciate it. Few things build a bond with hunting like the sentimental pieces.
Sharing the Passion
No matter the route, let the passion for the outdoors and the hunting lifestyle shine through. Illustrate the whys and hows of hunters as respectful conservationists and lovers of the land. If you do that, the rest will fall into place. We’ll soon have folks with a new appreciation for hunting and, at best, a generation of new hunters eager to share their newfound enthusiasm.
Need guns, gear, or ammo to get started? Head to Guns.com for all your hunting needs.