Aaron Spuler is a firearms enthusiast and recreational shooter. Follow more or his work at The Weapon Blog
Once you’ve made the decision to begin hunting, you’ll be full of questions like:
The best way to get answers to questions, and hunt in the safest manner is to take a hunting course. Some states even require it before they’ll issue hunting license (more on that below).
A Hunter Course, will answer these questions for you, and additional will address firearms maintenance and safety, hunting ethics and safety, hunting techniques, basic shooting skills, state-specific regulations, and much more.
Taking a course like this isn’t just smart, it’s the responsible thing to do, and will keep you from making dangerous mistakes.
A hunting license is required in all states, and can be obtained from your state wildlife agency. State agencies are also the “go to” resource for understanding state regulations, hunting seasons, hunting locations, limits, and any state specific requirements.
Hunting regulations can change often, so be sure and check your state agency website often. Many sites offer the ability to sign up for email updates so you don’t miss out on any changes or new hunting regulations.
If you are planning to travel to another state, you’ll not only need to obtain a license for that state, but also make sure you understand the regulations for that specific state, as they can often be very different from the state you normally hunt in.
Match your gear to your game
One really important aspect of successful hunting and one that will save you money as well is matching your hunting gear to the game you are hunting. Before buying any hunting gear, decide on the following:
Understanding the answers to these questions will guide you in not only your hunting education, but also the type of gear you’ll need to purchase. For example, if you’ll primarily be hunting in the summer, there is really no sense in buying a bunch of winter hunting gear.
Some hunters like to use urine as cover scents or to attract game, while others prefer decoys or calls. Various combinations of these strategies work better for various games as well.
Then there are best rimfire scopes, game cameras, ATVs, cameras (some with night vision), red dot sites, and a million other hunting gear items. All of these are really dependent on what, where and when you’ll be hunting, which is why it’s critical to answer these questions before you start hunting and before you purchase your gear.
A common mistake with new hunters is purchasing or using the wrong weapon.
For example, for hunting white tail during rut season, a .308 Winchester or good hunting bow work great, however on a dove hunt, neither of these will work well at all. A 20 gauge shot-gun is a much better choice for hitting small flying birds.
This applies to both the game you hunt, and the gear you buy. When you first begin hunting, hunt smaller game to learn. This will teach you how to use your weapon and gear, and also allow you to practice skinning and preparation on smaller game.
Once you have smaller game down pat, you can begin hunting larger game.
This applies to your gear as well. As you become a more experienced hunter, you’ll begin to learn more about what gear you need and how you use it.
Some hunting gear works great for some hunters and others not so much. This really applies to clothing, as each person’s style and comfort needs differ.
We recommend just buying the basic necessities (discussed below) at first, then branch out to other gear over time. Trust us, there is more hunting gear out there than any reasonable person could ever own!
While much of it certainly is helpful, you don’t need it to be a good hunter and enjoy your time outdoors.
Weapons and Ammo
The first real gear item you should purchase is your weapon and its associated Ammo. To do that, you’ll need to decide if you want hunt using a gun or bow.
Why not use both?
You can, and many experienced hunters do. The key word there though is experienced. Becoming proficient and competent at both one takes time, practice and a good amount of trial-and-error. As a new hunter, picking one will allow you to become competent in that weapon more quickly.
A bow or gun isn’t better than the other, but most will agree the bow hunting requires more skill and practice. Some key factors to consider:
The purpose of wearing camouflage (often called Camo) is the conceal yourself from the game. There are many different patterns, and new ones coming out all the time.
The most important thing is the match your camo pattern to the area you’ll be hunting in.
Also, there are two primary types of camo gear, lightweight or regular Camo and cold weather Camo. Which to get will depend on when you’ll be hunting.
Initially, we would recommend:
Hunter Orange is the bright glowing orange color that most people are familiar with. The color is intended to allow other hunters to see you, and distinguish you from wildlife.
Different states have different regulations on hunter orange requirements. So you’ll want to consult your state wildlife agency and be sure you understand them. Based on that, you’ll want to purchase the right hunter orange gear.
For example, in North Carolina, where we live, a hunter orange hat is generally required. Thus a hunter orange hat instead of a camo hat should be purchased.
Always wear your required hunter orange gear, as it could very well save your life.
One of the most important hunter gear purchases you’ll be making next to your weapon is hunting boots. Hunting boots can literally make or break a day out hunting. You don’t want to skimp on cost here. A quality set of boots is very important.
While hunting, you’ll often walk in dry flat areas, on rock, in muddy areas, through water, and maybe even do a little climbing.
You’ll want to get a waterproof set of lug sole boots. Make sure they’re light, and reach above your angles.
Pro Tip – When trying on your boots, make sure you wear your hunting socks for a proper fit.
Once you’ve found your game, and killed it, it’s time to clean it. A good sized, sharp and durable knife is critical for this process. You’ll want a fixed blade sheaf knife with about a 4″ blade.
Two very important characteristics for a skinning/cleaning knife are strength and good grip. You want a knife that can really take a beating and one that won’t slip out of your hands when they’re covered with blood.
You’ll also want to bring a good sharpening/honing stone with you as well, so you can sharpen your knife in the field when needed.
We highly recommend you carry some lightweight but strong hunting rope along with you. The uses for rope while out in the field is nearly endless, but here are the top reasons for bringing it along:
We recommend bringing along a 10mm climbing rope in a 20 – 30 foot length. You’ll also want to learn a few basic hunting knots as well, along with learning when and how to use them.
A good hunting bag or backpack will solve your problem of how to carry all of this gear we’re recommending. Having a good backpack or hunting bag along with you is really important. Not only do they allow you to carry your equipment and hunting gear safely, a hunting bag or backpack will add additional camouflage and provide a comfortable and easy to access weapon holster as well.
A few things to look for in a good hunting bag/backpack:
GPS units have many uses when hunting, and while not necessary, they are a really nice tool to have with you. Hunting GPS units:
For us, carrying and using a GPS device is for peace of mind. We like to focus on hunting, not navigating. The GPS does the navigating so we can focus on the game.
A good set of binoculars can really make a huge difference in your ability to spot game. This includes using lower magnification for scanning the scenery, to higher magnification for zooming in on and watching particular game.
When purchasing hunting binoculars, here are few things to look for:
Other helpful gear
A few other hunting gear items, that while definitely not necessary, are really useful to have when hunting:
Whew, so that was a lot of go through, but hopefully we’ve given you a good overview of what you’ll need, and additional hunting gear items you should consider investing in.
Remember though, you don’t need to spend a ton of money on fancy gear to be a good hunter. A decent gun or bow, some basic camo, and a good set of boots is all you really need. The other items just tend to make things easier and more enjoyable.