As an avid outdoorsman, I am always looking to take our sport to as many people as I can. I try to infect my friends and family with the same buck fever or duck madness that overtook me at a young age. Every year I try to find a friend or maybe a niece or nephew and introduce them to hunting and the great outdoors. It is an important part of preserving our legacy and introducing new and younger generations to our sport.
I was blessed to be born into a hunting family. Not everyone is as lucky as many of us who have grown up and all we have known was hunting. I have found that throughout my years there are certain ways to go about introducing newcomers to the great outdoors and that not everyone will love it as much as you and that is ok.
First off, I try to find someone that is curious about hunting. I have found that a lot of my friends were not as fortunate as I was growing up in a hunting family and have always wanted to try it but have never had anyone to show them the ropes. Usually, I like to pique their interest by starting with the basics; I usually like to take someone out to range in the summer and see how comfortable they are with a firearm. If they do well, then I will start by telling them they should take the hunter safety course either online or through the state-run courses.
Once they have committed to a hunter safety course, I will always offer to bring them on a hunt. Since I have been hunting since I was a child, I have accumulated a great deal of gear, or as my wife would call it, crap in the hunting closet.
As we all know hunting is an expensive hobby, so it is nice to be able to lend some gear to your friend before they jump all the way in and commit their wallets to hunting. This helps take the early stress off a hunter and allow them to get a feel for what they will want to purchase on their own. Below I have labeled a few different steps we as outdoorsmen can take to introduce new generations of hunters.
As all of us remember from our childhood, we had to sit through the class and learn about the importance of weapon safety and how to cross a fence with a firearm. It is important that a new hunter also learns these important lessons as well. I always encourage my friends to take a hunter safety course provided by the state. Personally, I learn from watching, and I enjoy the camaraderie that comes with a hunter safety course.
While hunter safety courses usually take place on the weekend and not everyone can get off for something like that, there is also the option of an online course. This is a quick and easy way to take the course from the convenience of your living room. While not every state offers the online option, most states do, and this is what most of the older people I have introduced have completed. For my nieces and nephews, I still push the in-class hunter safety course, because it is an excellent learning experience.
Outside of the hunter safety course, many states now also have a journeyman’s license, that allows you to hunt with any hunter who has completed the hunter safety course and is over the age of 21. This allows a hunter to try the sport out, before fully committing to the hunter safety course and all the time that it entails. These are excellent programs to get started, but it is important that you guide your new hunter in a direction that they will be hunting legally.
As I have touched on earlier and like many of us know, hunting can be expensive. Gathering all of the right gear over the years has caused plenty of fights between me and the misses. She just can’t come to terms with the fact that every duck season, I am going to need a new set of decoys. That is beyond the point, but many new hunting enthusiasts are worried about the upfront costs of getting into the sport.
To get started I usually try to lend them as much gear that I have available. This could be anything from extra waders to some old jumpsuits and warming layers. Also, I try to lend firearms to my friends as well if they don’t already have their own. Usually, after a couple times of lending equipment, I will always try to keep my eye out for any gear that I may find that is on sale. The big stores like Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas generally have the black Friday sales, and I try to show my friends the best deals I can find on gear so they can purchase their own.
I think a big thing about introducing a hunter is helping them pick out a firearm if they don’t already have one. I try to look at the quality brands that generally offer the best bang for their buck. I usually try to encourage my friends to look at Savage Arms. That may be a completely personal opinion, but I like their quality gear for the lower prices. Either way, it is important to help the new hunter pick a firearm that will be reliable and will last. They can worry about the expensive gear once they have a few seasons under their belts first, and know that they want to commit to hunting.
What to Hunt
This is a big question that I often receive, what should we hunt? Well, that is the beauty of hunting, and it is completely up to you. I have hunted deer, ducks, dove, and a number of other upland game with new hunters and each one has different pros and cons. I know for many of us, we can sit in a tree stand all day in every single kind of condition and not complain. For many new hunters, they may not have the same stamina as a seasoned hunter. I try to introduce deer hunting at a later stage because for many they can find it boring and can a turn off for new hunters.
I like to introduce them to small game or waterfowl. I recently took my friend on a dove hunt, and he loved it. It was relatively cheap, and there was almost constant action. This had him fiending for more, and he went ahead and purchased a shotgun and waders to accompany me on duck hunts this year as well. The quick action of small game hunting has him hooked on hunting, and next year he wants to try deer hunting with me as well.
It is important to work people into hunting and helping them develop their niche. Not everyone is going to love duck hunting as much as they love deer hunting and that is OK. As hunters guiding hunters, it is important that we help the new hunters make their own decisions in hunting.
Hunting is something that many of us are extremely passionate about. It is a great experience to share that passion with someone else. The legacy and the longevity of our sport requires us to help expand hunting for future generations. Taking a new hunter out is rewarding and who knows maybe you will find a new hunting buddy and friendship that lasts a lifetime. It is also important to remember that not everyone may be as passionate as us and that is OK.
It takes a certain kind of person to wake up at 3 am on the weekend to get out and hunt. If they love it, hopefully it sticks and they gain the knowledge and experience to pass it along to their friends and family as well. If they don’t like it and it's not their thing then that is completely OK. Either way get out and take our sport to as many people as you can.