This year is the year. Your friends have done it for a while now. You’ve seen enough pictures of others’ trophies. Maybe you even grew up with a member of the family who participates, but you just weren’t ever interested until now.You want to feel the anticipation and the passion that your grandpa talks about in his stories. You want to understand that feeling of “home” your friend talks about while sitting in a tree stand. You want to live in that moment of adrenaline, of a make-it-or-break-it shot.
You want to hunt.
So you’ll just go grab a bow or a gun and make your way out into the woods, right? I mean you know what days hunting season starts; you can just trek on out and join the other hundreds of hunters in the area. All hunting is, is pointing, aiming, and pulling a trigger.
Darling, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Hunting can be traced back as one of the most primitive activities humans do, going back to our “caveman” years where we hunted animals to simply survive. Considering you probably aren’t going out into the woods as a means to survive now, a lot has changed since these days including the process of going about it. Hunting is a love that is learned: a practice of patience, excitement and disappointment. The woods become a place that holds more heartbreak than a middle school hallway during homecoming week, and more intense feelings than two newlyweds in their honeymoon suite. We’ll get to that part of this experience though. There are couple things you have to do before you’re actually in the woods aiming at an animal.
1. Get a License
It’s free! Yes, that’s right. New York State is offering free hunting safety courses for us all to take. It’s illegal to be out in the woods with a firearm/bow or in a tree stand with the intent of even watching the animals, so you might as well get it if it costs nothing but your time. The lists are divided by what courses you want to take and by what county. These courses are generally only offered in August and September however since the season starts October 1st. There are a couple courses still offered through October and November, but you’ll already be missing part of the season so it’s best just to get them done earlier.
Search the sites early in the summer and plan out what day you want to get it done. Most dates you need to pre-register for which means calling and guaranteeing a seat in the class. Literally, guaranteeing a seat to sit in. The course I did was only supposed to have forty students that registered; over forty more showed up who didn’t call in and were actually standing around the room.
2. Join a Friend
Once you have your license, don’t immediately go out and buy any expensive hunting equipment. Ask a friend or family member who hunts if you can tag along. The most you’ll have to buy is camouflage, but maybe your buddy will be generous and give you some to wear if it’ll fit you.
Take this time to learn the tactics of walking out into the woods. You don’t want to walk over any deer trails. You don’t want to drag your feet. You don’t want to get to a tree and realize you’re afraid of heights halfway up. Trust me. One of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Once you’re in the spot you’ll be for the remainder of the hunt, relax. Look at the world around you. Listen to what the woods turn into when the animals think there aren’t any people around. This is where you’ll start to love hunting. It isn’t just about shooting anything. It’s about appreciating the natural world.
3. Get Your Equipment
So the trips with your hunting pals turned out better than you ever dreamed and you’re anxious to get your firearm, bow and attire.
If you decide you want to do archery season, you will need a separate license for that which you can find on the list above. It’s still free and the course goes more in-depth on how hunting with a bow is a lot different than hunting with a firearm.
Now when you’re shopping for your equipment it would be a smart idea for you to bring a friend who’s very accustomed to knowing what works best in the woods under all conditions. It also helps to know where to go. For bow hunting in and near Chautauqua County, Ravlin Hill Archery would be the most ideal place to get properly fitted for a bow.
As far as firearms go Tall Tales or Bill’s Gun and Saddle Shop would be a good place to start. However, you should consider doing your research on guns first before you spend a lot of money on buying one. Even finding someone who owns a firearm you’re interested in an test-shooting it would be a big help to find out what caliber is most comfortable for you to shoot.
You have until the day before hunting season starts (October 1st) to get your tags which are basically large tickets with each having a different animal that you are allowed to harvest. Each tag equals one animal and the tags are specific to certain areas. There are different packages you can buy depending on what you intend to hunt/fish and what season you will be hunting in.
You’ll learn about tree stands in your hunting courses, but you can also buy them from the stores mentioned above. One of the most important things to remember however is to always look for the TMA sticker when you go to buy a stand. This stands for “Treestand Manufacturers Association” which signifies that the stand was tested against high stress levels to guarantee how safe it is.
This is all about preference for the most part. Any of the stores mentioned above will carry hunting clothes for men and women of all sorts of brands. Walmart also carries a couple well known brands for really decent prices. The places in this area generally will have the type of camouflage you will need for the surrounding area, but if you go to bigger stores like Dicks or Gander Mountain, you should know what type of area to suit up for. These brands will definitely be more expensive though, although they’ll probably last longer and have better qualities like ScentLok.
4. Know the Area
Make sure you know the area you will be hunting in. Posted areas are off limits unless you get the land owner’s permission. Do this well before hunting season starts. The tags you’ll get to put on the animals you harvest are also specific to certain areas of the counties you hunt in. Be strategic about where you set up your tree stands or walk to. When you see the animal you’re going to shoot, pause. When you shoot it what way will it most likely run? Are you super close to a posted area? If the deer runs into that area and you don’t have permission to track it, guess what? That deer is going to die and you aren’t going to be able to get it for keeps.
Also, if you set up a tree stand on posted area that you have permission to be on: make sure you also ask permission to use tree stands and/or keep them on the property. If a land owner never granted you permission to set up a stand and you do damage to a tree, he can sue you for that damage. If there was no agreement to leave the stand overnight, when you leave that stand you are technically abondoning it and it becomes the landowner’s. He can take it down and keep it for himself legally.
5. Practice Practice Practice
One of the most important aspects of hunting is practicing. Whether it’s using calls to draw in the animals you plan to shoot or taking the time to practice aiming and shooting a bow or a firearm it has to be done. And consistently. Don’t expect to pick up a bow or gun a week before season and think you’ll be ready to make a kill shot on an animal. This is where a lot of patience comes in to play. You’ll have to take the time to make sure you can make a confident shot on an animal so that the shot will kill them. NOT long-termly wound them. This comes down to ethical hunting.
What every hunter lives by is having respect for the actual act of hunting. This means being respectful of the land around us when we’re in the woods: no littering, no damaging trees if it can be helped, no stealing other’s equipment, etc. It also means only taking shots you know you can make. We need to have an open lane of fire to the spot on the animal we intend on shooting knowing it will be a kill shot. Taking a shot that we aren’t confident in will more times than not result in a wounding of an animal. This animal will suffer until it eventually heals or suffer until it dies a painful death.
These types of unethical acts give hunters a bad name. We aren’t trash, we aren’t rednecks. Roughtly 10% of the population are hunters and 10% are strongly against hunting. The remaining 80% could care less either way, but these unethical acts will sway that 80% to be against us. We care about the world we live in and it’s up to us prove that what we do out in the woods is to the benefit of the natural world and isn’t cold-blooded at all.