Hunting is one of the most humbling activities you can participate in. Sometimes you spend hours looking at maps, talking to property owners, and your spare time is spent “boots on the ground.” You may spend your free time researching one area, learning how the thermals interact, where the animals move to and from for food, or when it’s time to bed down for the night. All of this to punch the trigger and completely miss when you had a good shot.
From learning how to control your nerves under pressure to understanding the dynamics of herd behavior, hunting offers endless amounts of opportunity to grow.
In this post I want to bring up five things you need to know BEFORE you harvest your first animal.
Make hunting work for you.
It’s important for me to make this the first point because I believe that everyone is entitled to make their hunting experiences work for THEM. Some women want to be in the woods every day before or after work, others may not. You do not need to be the female version of Remi Warren and spend over 300 days a year (that may be an exaggeration, but we all know Remi is out in the field more than not!) scouting or traveling to new hunting spots.
If you want to hunt, and all you get to hunt is waterfowl due to your budget and the fact that you don’t live close to a ton of public land, that’s okay. We do not “Keep Up With The Joneses” around here. So, whether you’re the gal who travels from state to state to hunt, or you can only hunt your private land part-time, you are still contributing to conservation in more ways than you may think. Explore all the different ways you can hunt, find what you like, and enjoy it.
One way is not the only way.
Save your money for quality pieces of gear.
I know from experience the temptation of rushing to buy gear because of how exciting it is to go on your first hunt but do not, I repeat, do NOT get too sucked in that you miss out on quality gear. You’re better off saving your money, trying a few brands to figure out what brand fits your body the best, and sticking with that! There are some things you can skimp on, but my recommendation is to ALWAYS go with quality puffy coats, pants, bibs, and boots. You can always take extra layers off, but if you buy low-quality gear and are underprepared you won’t only be freezing, you’re going to cut your hunt short.
The more time you spend shooting whatever method of take you are using, the less likely you are to punch the trigger when it’s “go time.”
Practice envisioning the animal you want in front of you, slow your breathing down, and slowly squeeze. Practice reloading immediately after shooting, that way if you miss during the game time shot, you’ve already practiced that scenario and you are confident in your ability to reload quickly and get back on target.
You may cry your eyes out after your first harvest. You may not.
Either way, if you did everything in your power to harvest your first animal legally and as ethically as possible, you did your job well. Hunting is emotional. You can go from sad to see an animal pass, to grateful they are feeding your family all in a matter of hours. All of those emotions are good, remembering and honoring the animal and what they gave you and your family is important.
Embrace whatever emotions come over you on your first harvest. It’s all a part of the experience.
If at any moment you have the chance to harvest an animal and decide you don’t want to, guess what? You don’t have to.
You can go through every step in your hunting prep and decide at the last minute that you just don’t want to harvest one; that’s okay. It’s always better to respect your intuition while hunting than ignore it. The only person that has to live with your decision of harvesting that animal is you. You are in complete control of your hunts, you decide if and when you take your harvests. You have every right to change your mind at any point in your hunt.
It’s important that you understand these points before your first hunt for many reasons. They will take some pressure off of you. They’ll remind you that there is more than one way to exist in the hunting space.
Maybe you decide halfway through your hunt that hunting just isn’t for you, maybe you aren’t comfortable with harvesting that particular species but you’re open to trying a different one. Maybe you prefer rifle over bow hunting. Whether you only love hunting with an outfitter, or your goal is to be a solo-hunting expert, at some point in your hunting journey, your values will be tested, and it will be emotional.
Don’t forget that your hunt is yours, practice your method of take, embody any and all emotions, save money for quality gear, and explore all the different ways to hunt. Happy hunting!