Hunting is a pasttime, hobby, purpose in life and means of survival for millions of people world wide. It can easily be defined as an activity that uses tools to aide in the entrapment and/or smiting of animals for food or trophy (note: this definition does not include profit; hunting for profit is poaching and is VERY wrong). In western cultures, hunting has become almost as modernized as anything else, equipping calls, scents, decoys, baits, covers, tree stands, night vision goggles, silencers, semi-automatic guns, camouflage, and weather proof clothes that would make the Navy Seals jealous. Nearly all of this is unnecessary, in the sense of hunter/gatherer survival, but nevertheless the hunting equipment industry is a multi-million dollar industry (if not billion, no figures could be found). The joy of hunting can easily be enjoyed by anyone with the patience to do so, except possibly PETA people; they might have a problem with putting half starved and overpopulated animals out of their misery. The first thing you need to go hunting is the equipment. For the basics, I recommend any camoflage that covers your entire body, a gun, proper ammunition for said gun, and a tree stand.
Here in the United States, gun laws vary from state to state, and you should become well versed in the proper rules and regulations of the area you will decide to be hunting in. For example, Maryland has made hunting with rifles illegal in most areas because of their long range, and the fact that most of Maryland is rather densely populated. Michigan, however, has no restrictions about what guns you can use, as long as you are well outside of a city's limits. You should probably go to a sporting goods store that specializes in hunting equipment to ensure that you get the right kind of gun for the hunting you'll be doing (I hope you don't plan on gunning down a grizzly bear with a 9mm pistol). Sporting good stores are always great places to seek answers about hunting and fishing.
After you obtain your gun, you will probably want to practice shooting it. Most states nowadays require you to go to Hunter's Safety Courses to help you learn how to properly use and maintain a fire arm. If they are available in your area, you should attend one. If you choose not to, then DO NOT GO TO ANYWHERE POPULATED TO PRACTICE. Target practice should be done in an open area away from houses or other populated areas. Make sure you bring and use proper safety equipment (goggles, ear plugs). To transport a gun, you should use the following instructions:
- Make sure the gun is unloaded by checking the chamber (use the owners manual to find out how to do this).
- Check the safety on the gun; it should be on. Usually the safety is a button near the trigger of the gun. If this button is showing red, the safety is OFF and can be shot.
- Place the gun in carrying case or, if using a shoulder strap, across your back, the butt of the gun should be down.
Once you arrive to the area you will be practicing, set up a target. It is ideal you use a circular target if it is a brand new gun, so that you can adjust the sights of the gun (again, check the owner's manual, each gun is different). To shoot the gun:
- Load the gun with proper ammunition (check the owner's manual).
- Aim the gun at your target with a steady hand, the less your gun wobbles and moves the better your shot will be (probably). If you are using a shot gun or rifle, push the butt of the gun into your shoulder, HARD. This will minimize the effects of the kick of the gun when you shoot. You can also use things to help steady the gun, like holding the gun up against a tree or resting your elbow (this is for rifles or shot guns again) of the arm that is not attached to your trigger finger on you knee while sitting down.
- Next you have to pull the trigger; but you shouldn't be trigger happy about it. Once you have minimalized the movement of the gun, or at least become accustomed to sway, you have to focus. Pulling the trigger is hard, especially the first time you shoot a gun. What helps is taking a deep breath and releasing half of it, and then "pulling" the trigger. You really want to just squeeeeeeze the trigger ever so gently. In the brief moment between initial 'pull' and the firing of the gun, it is very important that you do not flinch. Flinching can ruin any good shot. Be prepared for the kick of the gun when you pull the trigger. It can hurt if you aren't handling the gun properly, and can really ruin your aim.
Once you accustom yourself to the kick of the gun and become a decent shot, you may notice yourself not hitting the target. If your shots are clustered around one area, then it may be because your sights are misaligned, and they need to be adjusted. The owners manual can show you how to do this, it is different for each type of gun, and some guns come pre-sighted, but are that does not mean they are sighted for you. If your shots are spread out over a large area, then you are a poor shot and will need to keep practicing.
All the states in the U.S. require you to obtain a Hunting License to legally hunt in most areas within that state. This license is not transferable from state to state, you will have to obtain a new license for whichever state you are hunting in. In some states, if you are hunting on your own property, or if you have written permission from the owner of the property, a license may not necessary to legally hunt. Hunter's Safety Courses certification may be required for any licensees of a certain age. To obtain a license, just apply for one within the same store you purchased your gun at; 99.9% of the time you will be able to do this. My license (for the one year I had one) was obtained at a local Wal-Mart.
Again, at the same sporting goods store you purchased your gun at, you can also probably buy camouflage for concealing yourself from your 'prey'. The type of camouflage you get should be suitable for the climate, weather conditions, and animal you are hunting. For example, if you are hunting deer in Maine during a nor'easter (there is something mentally wrong with you) then you should get the warmest, driest camouflage suit available. In this case the color of the camo does not matter, since deer are color blind. Usually, states require you to have an article of clothing that is bright orange so that other hunters may identify you as a human, and not shoot you.
Other equipment you may want to invest in that I highly recommend are scents. Scents can both hide your human stench and attract your prey. Fox urine is recommended for use of covering up your smell. Green apple is recommended for baiting deer. Various forms of musk can also be used to lure animals to you. Be advised not to put the musk scent on yourself, because then the animals will think you are a possible mate. That is not always a good thing.
I also suggest you get yourself a tree stand for use of hunting. The tree stand allows you to be above the line of sight of your prey, safely out of view. Allowing you to be more mobile, incase you have ADHD or something. The tree stand has many advantages over being on the ground, another reason is because you can see more, and see in more directions. A tree stand does require you to climb up a tree anywhere from 10 to 30 feet high. Step ladders can be used, and so can tree pegs, to help you do this. Make sure your tree stand is securely fastened to the tree and will not fall (don't jump on it, just stand for a while). I advise you not to fall asleep in your tree stand, you can easily fall, risking injury from hitting the ground is worse enough, but you're usually holding a loaded gun when you fall too, and it can accidentally go off with unforeseen consequences; and a hole in your stomach is never a good thing, let alone all the ridicule you'll receive for doing it to yourself for falling asleep and falling. IF you survive.
Location, location, location. A good hunting spot can make a large difference between a good and bad hunt. Selecting the perfect spot is a simple matter of where your prey is. You should usually go spot searching a few weeks prior to the opening of hunting season, so you can refine the area to optimize it for hunting. When searching for a spot, look for physical evidence of your prey. Tracks, rubbings and scrapes (these are done by bucks, or male deer, to mark territory and attract females. I assume other species do similar things, I know Siberean tigers do), droppings, and bedding can all be used to identify the habits of your prey. Deer for example, are usually dormant in their bedding area during the middle of the day and very early morning hours. They are most active, usually, in the predawn and dusk hours. Try to centralize the location of your stand based on what you find where. And remember that when you hunt is important to; know your prey's behavior.
After you find a location and set up your tree stand, stand in it and look around. You'll probably notice two things immediately; 1) "Gee, I really don't feel too safe on this tiny little platform." and 2) "There are a lot of tree branches in the way." The first problem cannot be dealt with; you will have to deal with that to best suit your needs. But as long as you stay mostly motionless, and keep your balance, chances are you will not fall. The second problem can be dealt with. You should remove brush and branches (and sometimes entire trees) to create 'firing lanes' as necessary. Usually, you should have two or three firing lanes, depending on how desnely wooded the area you are hunting is. If you set up your tree stand so it's overlooking a field, then you don't need to remove much, if anything.
When you have done all of the above, and it is hunting season, then it is time to go hunting, but first you must prepare to do so. You cannot devote a few hours in a day to go hunting, nay, 6 hours at least are necessary to hunt properly. Prepare a time of day which you would like to be at your stand by. My father and I always tried to be at our stands (in our back yard) by 3 p.m. To do this we had to start getting ready to leave around 1:30 p.m.
- The first thing you want to do is to take a shower. Even if you took one earlier, take another. DO NOT use fruity smelling soaps and shampoos unless they specifically smell like a fruit you would use for bait (green apple for deer, for example). Use a neutral soap that has no deodorizers. After you take a shower, do not put on antiperspirant or deodorizers. They will make you smell 'human' and will scare away the animals you wish to hunt.
- Next put on some old, smelly clothes. Ideally they should be worn only when hunting. For years we kept clothes in a duffle bag with dried pine needles to help cover our human scents. After you put on the clothes, put on your camouflage. Also, boots should be worn while hunting; forests can be rather muddy. But on any other articles of clothing (gloves, hats, ect.) that you wish. Make sure some bright orange is showing somewhere.
- Next, load your gun. Make sure the safety is on first. Normally, guns should not be transported loaded, but when going hunting, cutting down on noise is essential. Loading your gun prior to leaving will dramatically reduce the noise you have to make while in the wild.
- Leave about 45 minutes to an hour before you planned on arriving at your tree stand (add onto that 45 minutes whatever traveling time there is). Arriving at your stand early is key, because humans tend to be noisy creatures when doing anything, and easily scare off prey when simply walking. Arriving at your stand early will allow the animals around you to grow used to your prescence, increasing the chances of your prey coming by.
All right, you're in your tree stand, your gun is loaded, you're ready to kill some furry woodland creatures. Well, then all you have to do is wait. Be quiet while you wait, and move as little as possible. This is hunting. Hunting is not about killing things. It is about being one with nature, and at peace with yourself. The whole experience is rather relaxing, kind of like a meditation session; with a gun.
Seeing animals to shoot is rare. Of all the hunting trips I have been on, I have only seen a total of 5 deer shot and killed out of 7 seen on at least 15 hunting trips (and in the fall, deer travel in herds of 2 to 13 deer). In the off chance you do shoot and kill an animal, you have to decide what to do with it. Bears and anything with antlers should be considered for taxidermy and trophy use, while everything else should be considered for food. If you do choose food, you may want to know how to field dress the animal. Which is an entirely separate subject that has already been noded.