Seven years ago I went on my first hunt with a rifle with directions from an experienced hunter…or so I thought. As a new hunter, I have made a few mistakes along the way, but I have learned so much since then. You can learn from these nine novice hunting mistakes and how to avoid them as a new hunter.
New Hunter Mistakes
Expecting to harvest an animal every hunt.
Even if you just read this first paragraph without reading the whole article, do not make this mistake. The most experienced hunters have times when they eat “tag soup” (that’s a term used when you don’t fill a specific tag). I promise everyone who has tasted the burn of that soup has excellent stories to tell and learned so much from their hunt.
Not buying a license.
Looking back on that first whitetail hunt that took place in southern Georgia on a small piece of private land, my mentor did not really teach me anything other than how to aim and pull the trigger. I didn’t even purchase a hunting license. It was during hunting season but this person felt that because the deer would be harvested on private property I didn’t need a license. Shame on me! The Georgia opportunity has come and gone and now that I work as a travel nurse everything I do to hunt is researched, scouted, and by questioning any of the locals I might meet. Always purchase a hunting license.
Looking for the same answers from experienced hunters.
When you ask the question, you will never get the same answer from experienced hunters about how to hunt any given game animal. For whitetail deer, some will suggest watching the phases of the moon, some the weather, some the time of day. Some will suggest you use calls, some say find converging trails, and others will say just go and hunt! Not to mention the different phases whitetail goes through during the hunting season! This same principle can be applied to buying firearms, ammunition, hunting clothing/footwear, and the list goes on. Everyone you ask will have a personal opinion.
Not doing your own research.
Initially, I started with the state regulations handbooks and that state's fish and game website. You can get into some big trouble not knowing the hunting regulations! Most of them offer online interactive maps so you can find public lands easily for that state or region. This step can be extremely intimidating for solo female hunters. Looking back, I didn’t do enough research or scouting. I was scared to venture out too far from the roads.
Assuming locals will help you with your target game.
On my assignment in eastern North Carolina, I met some locals at the gun range. I paid to sit on some plotted lands and missed my mark so I ate tag soup that year. I learned that even though bait is laid out you should always target practice and have options for stabilizing your rifle while hunting. I sat some public lands that were close by and recommended. North Carolina is where I also learned that some states run dogs for deer hunting and while that is fine for them, it wasn’t helpful for me as a “still hunter” (no stand, just sitting on the ground).
Not being fully prepared.
My next hunting experience was in North Dakota, and again whitetail deer was my game of choice but this time, archery only. I went out into the freezing cold with winds that were nothing I’d ever experienced before and practiced at the archery range. I read the state's hunting handbook, asked locals, and went out onto public lands as a “still hunter”. Another hunting season passed and more tag soup. I could have done more to be successful. I didn’t put in much scouting time as I arrived right at the beginning of the season.
Using social media.
While in North Dakota I found a Facebook group, The Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Becoming part of that group propelled my success and confidence to where I am today. But this was also the beginning of where I began to get overwhelmed. The Sisterhood offered excellent answers to so many of my novice questions, but not all had the same response.
I honed in on a few “experts” and I’m no longer overwhelmed, I’m more educated. They offer guided hunts and I decided to place a deposit for a horseback pack trip for cow elk in Wyoming for that October 2019. I would have 9 months to prepare for a hunt that I had no idea was going to challenge every aspect of my limited hunting experience. Why a guided hunt? Why pay to hunt? Well, when you hunt a new game animal in the mountain range of Wyoming, you’ll understand every bit why people pay for guided hunts. They should be EPIC.
Not target practicing.
You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect”! You MUST ensure you are fully on point when you head into the woods hunting your intended game. The worst feeling in the world is missing. But even worse is missing your shot and injuring an animal that you cannot locate. Ask how a hunter feels when they've made that mistake and I bet they will all answer “It sucks!”. Unfortunately, missing your mark happens even when you feel the moon and stars have aligned and you made an amazing shot. Wild game move sometimes a small variation from when you release/pull the trigger. Remember, they are wild and usually on high alert, all the time.
Letting others intimidate you or tell you that you cannot do something.
The more I hear someone tell me “You can’t do that”, the more I have to prove them wrong. I rely heavily on certain people in my life who are like-minded and supportive. But I didn’t always have them in my life; that small group has slowly evolved. If you currently do not have a support group encouraging you to get out there, well, you are in the right place here at Miss Pursuit. There are more women out there hunting than EVER BEFORE. You will find your group!
Don't be afraid to make mistakes! That is how we learn. There is nothing better than a beautiful day outdoors, sitting/walking/stalking, listening to the sounds of nature, and placing pins or crosshairs on your targeted game animal.