by Johnny Mack
Once you make the decision to start hunting, it is easy to focus on just one animal as your target goal. Before you get locked in to any specific target animal, there are a few things you might want to consider. More often than not, new hunters focus on hunting one target species, rather than the art of hunting itself.
Different species of animals require different hunting methods. Identifying what you want out of your hunt is going to impact how and what you do. There are a few things to reflect upon to help you reach a conclusion. What style of hunting do you want to do? Would you prefer to ambush your prey? Are you good at sitting still and being quiet? Would sitting in a blind or tree stand appeal to you? Would you rather be on the move? Are you hunting to fulfill your need for food, adventure, activity or a combination of the three? How much time do you have to dedicate to the pursuit? These are all questions that need to be thought about once you make the decision to hunt.
Learning how to hunt takes time. Learning how to be a good hunter takes even more time. Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to reach a level of mastery of any given subject. This is not meant to scare you. Rather it is meant give you a clear picture that successfully killing an animal is a process. It took me 4 years to kill my first big game animal. Hopefully after reading this series it you can shorten your curve.
Still-hunting is the art of slowly and stealthily moving through thicker terrain and brush to sneak within an animals habitat or bedroom, and where glassing from a distance is not an option. It requires patience, time and is used often when visibility is restricted and or where fresh sign has been seen and tracked. Still-hunting is a skill that requires time in the field to master.
Ambush hunting is a very effective method and requires A LOT of patience. It requires you to wait and not move locations for an extended period of time. Types of ambush hunting includes: tree stands, blinds, sitting and waiting near or on a game trail and can be used in combination with calling for animals.
Spot & Stalk Hunting
Spot and stalk hunting is my personal favorite and one that also requires a lot of patience and persistence. It requires good optics and the ability to view a large expanse of terrain. It also allows the opportunity to shoot from far distances or the time to make a game plan for a stalk.
SPECIES & Weapons
Most big game animals can be referred to and categorized as ungulates. Ungulates are hoofed animals and include deer, elk, moose, antelope, etc. Depending on what state you are hunting, seasons are typically broken down into 3 categories: Modern Rifle, Muzzleloader and Archery seasons. Each weapon type has its advantages and disadvantages and requires a different level of experience and confidence to ethically kill an animal. Big game hunting can be very gear intensive as well as expensive.
- Can be used at longer ranges and doesn’t require stalking skills to close the distance.
- Ease of use and quick learning curve.
- Accessibility | A majority of center fire rifle calibers are legal for hunting and can be found readily available. (Check state regulations for specifics)
- Higher competition in hunter numbers and densities.
- Requires access to places where you can legally shoot for practice and to hunt.
- Hunting seasons can be limited in length and opportunity.
- Nostalgic feeling and sense of accomplishment.
- Wider opportunities to hunt the rut without special permits.
- Depending upon the model or type, muzzleloaders can be considered antiques and therefor not considered firearms. (Check state and federal interpretation of laws)
- Lower hunter numbers and densities.
- Slow follow up shots.
- Requires getting closer to animals.
- Weather can play a role. (Check state regulations for requirement of exposed primers)
- Fun and fulfillment factor is multiplied.
- A wide range of season dates and opportunities exist.
- You can hunt the rut.
- Practicing and learning can be done relatively anywhere.
- High level of skill and practice required for efficiency.
- Requires close encounters for shot opportunities.
- Can get expensive.
- High learning curve to be able to service your weapon.
Predator hunting is a debated topic not only with non-hunters but also within the hunting community. It is also a great way to educate yourself on the importance of conservation and game management. Hunting predators is how I got my start and there is a sense of accomplishment when you kill an animal that is at the top of the food chain. Predatory animals include: fox, coyotes, bear, cougars, etc.
- Predators can be found almost anywhere.
- Bear & Cougar meat is considered some of the best to eat.
- Relatively cheap to get started.
- Longer hunting seasons and opportunities with less competition.
- Hides and skulls make beautiful art pieces to add to your home or office.
- Variety of hunting styles and weapons can be used.
- Can be a controversial topic.
- Requires a lot of patience.
- Smaller targets require better weapon efficiency.
Small game is a fun and inexpensive way to get started into hunting. You can use a multitude of weapons and they can be found in a wide variety of environments. Examples of small game animals are: raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, etc.
- Relatively inexpensive to start.
- Can be done with a dog.
- Longer seasons.
- Not a lot of meat.
Upland bird hunting is an absolute blast and is pretty cheap to get into. Upland birds can be found in a variety of environments, ranging from heavy woods, mountains, deserts and everywhere in between. Types of upland birds include: grouse, chukar, quail, pheasant, dove, turkey, etc.
- Only requires a shotgun.
- Long hunting seasons.
- Provides exercise opportunities.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Hunting with a dog adds to the excitement and enjoyment.
- Certain species can be difficult to hunt without a dog.
- The amount of meat you get vs. time spent afield is something to consider.
- Can compete with big game hunters for certain seasons and locations.
Waterfowl hunting is a blast and at the same time you get to shoot your weapon a lot. Hunting can be done near or on salt water, corn fields, ponds, or ditches. And you can choose between geese or ducks.
- Walking ditches and jumping ducks only requires a shotgun.
- Opportunities for a lot of shooting.
- Large harvest limits.
- Can be very gear intensive.
- Limited public land can get crowded.
As you work through your decision of what type of hunting you want to pursue, remember that you can incorporate multiple styles of hunting and target species into one hunt. The willingness and desire to pursue multiple game animals only increases your skill set and helps you reach a level of mastery quicker. Refer to your state’s game regulations for season dates and requirements as you can have the ability to make your hunting season last as long or short as you desire.