5 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Hunting Trip

Hunting trips are replete with fresh air and adventure. Naturally, it’s best to set off on the right foot, so here are five important things you need to know before your first hunting trip.

If you will be taking a guided hunting trip be sure to discuss any area-specific needs and recommendations with them.

Get your License

The most obvious thing you need before your first hunting trip is your hunting license. However, less obvious in getting hunting license is the importance of planning for your hunting trip well ahead of time so you have enough time to complete any prerequisites.

  • Many states require hunting education as a condition of getting a hunting license, so you need to include some time to register and complete the right course.
  • You may also want to consider taking a hunter safety course before heading out, even if it’s not required.
  • There are different licenses for youth, seniors, disabled hunters, and members of the military and veterans. Check what kind of license applies to you.
  • It matters whether you’re applying for a hunting license for the state you live in or for a different state, so you’ll need to check up on the residency requirements.
  • You may also need additional licenses or permits for specific kinds of game.
  • There are also different licenses for different kinds of gear.
    • For example, you may need a specific bowhunter license if you’re planning to hunt with a bow.

In all states, information and applications for the various kind of hunting licenses are available online. Well ahead of time, check to see what you need for the location where you’re planning your hunt.

Check the Regulations

Once you have acquired your proper hunting licenses, you’re still not in the clear to head out into the woods just yet. You need to read up on the specific hunting regulations for

  1. the game you’re hunting,
  2. in the season in which you want to hunt, and
  3. the area in which you want to hunt.

These regulations lay out rules about everything from how much bright orange or bright pink you are required to wear, to rules surrounding private land use, to distances you can be to roads.

For example, if you are planning your first hunt in Washington State, you must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange, and it must be worn above the waist in a way that’s visible from all sides, such as a shirt or a vest. An orange hat on its own is not enough and does not meet the hunting requirements.

If you’re planning to hunt migratory birds such as duck or geese, you will likely need a federal migratory bird stamp unless you’re under the age of 16.

There are also rules and regulations about issues like drone usage, night vision goggles, length of arrows, and times when you can and can’t be accompanied by hunting dogs.

Be sure you closely check ALL the specific regulations for the exact area and season in which you plan to go hunting, and make sure you’ve read up on the proper hunting method, time of year, and species.

Not paying attention to these regulations can net you serious fines and even prison time.

Shop Early

You don’t want to wait until the last minute to get all your hunting equipment. Hunting seasons across the country are short and specific, so hunting equipment can be harder to find as you get closer to the start of the season.

Some states even have reported shortages in common items like ammo from time to time. Since you have to match your ammo to your rifle, you wouldn’t want to get everything ready just to learn at the last minute that there’s no ammo available in your area.

Keep in mind that getting ready for your first hunting trip can be costly as well. The price of all the clothing, equipment, and licenses you’ll need adds up. It’s much better to spread this cost over the weeks and months prior.

Pack Properly

If you spend so much time arranging your license and reading up on all the rules, you may run the risk of forgetting about the most obvious impediment to hunting: the weather.

Along with packing your rifle or bow, think about packing hand warmers, a rain jacket, good waterproof hunting boots, and any other item you might need to handle the elements during your hunt. Check the weather for your hunting season and pack appropriately.

If you are buying new clothing and new gear, take it all out of the bags well ahead of time. Try it on to ensure everything fits well. Hang it outside to air it out. You may even want to rub it against some leaves and earth beforehand to get out all the new-clothes smell so you smell more like your hunting surroundings.

Lastly, remember to forget to pack a lot of water, any hot liquids or soups in a thermos to keep you warm, some easy snacks, a first aid kid, and fresh batteries.

Prepare for the Kill

This last tip may seem obvious, but preparing for the kill is something most first-time hunters actually don’t think about enough. Between the courses, licenses, regulations, gear, and other preparations, a lot of new hunters put so much time into planning the hunt that they forget to plan out what to do if they actually bag something.

  • Do your research to learn and know how you will process your deer, grouse, or goose.
  • You need a plan of what to do immediately after the kill.
  • Most importantly, you need to know what to do to avoid injury by making sure the animal is dead before you approach.
  • You’ll need to field dress your kill immediately, and for that, you’ll need a sharp knife or two.
  • You must plan how you will transport the carcass to the camp.
  • You must plan what to do with it when you get back to camp.
  • You must plan for how you will get it home.

In many places, you can bring your kill to a game shop to be processed for you. In other areas, you will want to know how to hang and cure the animal.

Before heading out on your first hunting trip, the most important thing to do is your research and proper planning. Whether you are researching and planning your hunting licenses, regulations, or just trip arrangements, hunting isn’t something you can simply rush into. Make sure you plan well in advance, and once the time comes around for your first hunt, you will enjoy it much more because you have everything taken care of.

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