We always hear that with age comes wisdom. While this isn’t always the case, it’s generally true for hunters who have spent many years chasing all kinds of critters through the woods. I’ve been hunting for more than two decades, and after plenty of stupid mistakes, I’ve learned lots along the way. These are the things I wish I had caught on to earlier, but now I know are true.
Success is so much more than filled tags.
Especially when you’re a young hunter or have yet to take your first animal, it’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that the only successful hunt is one where you fill a tag. This can not only lead to newbies growing discouraged after a few outings, but it also takes away from the overall experience. Spending time in the great outdoors is a blessing in and of itself. Getting to watch wildlife interact with each other is an added bonus. Shooting a deer, duck, or other animal is the cherry on top. It’s important to recognize that there is so much more to hunting than killing.
There’s a lot to learn, and there’s no shame in asking questions.
I know of at least two hunters who didn’t take a shot at what would have been their first turkeys because all they could see were the gobblers’ heads. Their parents and mentors never told them that’s exactly where they should be aiming! In truth, it’s always better to ask about anything you’re unsure of than to blow a shot opportunity or risk wounding an animal. Whether that’s where to aim, when to call, how to operate your weapon, or how to clean an animal, there are no dumb questions in hunting. And sometimes just logging lots of hours in the woods can help you learn things you didn’t even know you didn’t know. You’ll get to see how animals behave and respond with more time spent in the stand or the blind. It takes years to become “proficient,” and there’s always something new to learn.
Hunting is the perfect pastime to share with friends and family.
One of my favorite parts of hunting is sharing camp, a blind, or a pack out job with loved ones. The camaraderie of the sport is unlike anything else I’ve experienced, and it makes any outing that much more enjoyable. It’s also incredibly rewarding to introduce new outdoorsmen to hunting and create new hunting buddies. While I still hunt alone occasionally, I’d pick hitting the field with family any day over going out by myself.
Everyone makes mistakes.
I don’t know a single hunter who doesn’t have a moment from the field that still haunts them, even as much as 20 years later. Do it long enough, and you’re bound to make a bad shot, spook a bunch of deer, or botch some other aspect of the hunt. The important thing is to learn from those mistakes, continue to practice as much as possible, and avoid making the same errors again in the future. We owe that to the animals we pursue!
Wild game is delicious if you prepare it correctly.
I’m a big proponent of eating everything I kill and not wasting any wild game. But that often meant I was choking down gamey steaks or overcooked burgers. Then I dove deep into the right ways to cook deer, turkey, and other game. Now I enjoy the cooking almost as much as the rest of the experience. Wild game can be the basis of some incredible meals as long as you handle and prepare it correctly.
Hunting isn’t something to be ashamed of–it’s something to be proud of.
I was a bit of a tomboy growing up and loved to hunt, but I didn’t love everyone thinking I was a redneck girl. As a result, I didn’t share that part of my life with everyone. But I now know that possessing the skills to arrow an animal and put food on the table is something to be proud of–not something I need to hide. If you’re an ethical hunter who shows animals respect and eats everything you kill, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
…but you don’t have to put every aspect of every hunt on full display.
This one didn’t affect me so much as a teen before the time of social media, but it’s something I’ve discovered that every young hunter should learn. Sometimes it’s best to just keep your phone away. You don’t have to take selfies from the stand and potentially miss out on an opportunity. Everything you share with the world should be respectful of your quarry. Avoid suggestive pics with carcasses or overly gory images that could turn people off to hunting. Just use common sense and enjoy being in the moment.
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