First Steps Afield

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Published on: Sep. 18, 2013

My dad sold his gun cabinet years ago, but I can still recall the sound of his key working open the lock, and the groan of brass hinges in the early morning still of our house. There’s no alarm clock like that in the world for a kid who spent the night dreaming of squirrels in oak trees.

I consider myself fortunate that my parents taught me to hunt and appreciate the outdoors. Many friends have told me how they’ve always been interested in hunting, but never had the opportunity growing up. Now, as adults, they’d like to learn but don’t know where to start.

What follows are some helpful strategies to remove both the real and perceived barriers that keep folks from venturing into the sport of hunting.

Recognize Misconceptions

One of the most common questions I get when I tell someone that I hunt is, “Do you eat the animal?” When I tell them how I process and consume everything I harvest, they seem to breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not unusual for nonhunters to think that hunting is just about shooting. They aren’t aware of the traditions, training, and the outdoor experiences that make hunting so rewarding.

As a person who enjoys our great hunting tradition, recognize that you might have to respectfully dispel some false notions and replace them with realities of how ethical hunters behave. Even if hunting doesn’t end up being a lifelong pursuit for your friend, they may become an important, nonparticipating advocate for the sport.

Assume No Knowledge and Invite Questions

The challenge with bringing new hunters afield is that we want them to have the right information, but we don’t want to patronize them. My suggestion is to begin your conversation about the upcoming hunt by asking, “Tell me what you already know about hunting. That way, I won’t waste your time, and I can make sure you know the important things that can give you an advantage.”

No one wants to ask a dumb question, so you have to encourage your friend to ask away! Tell them you are glad they are interested and asking, and be candid about the things you’ve had to learn. It can be intimidating to start from scratch with little knowledge about what you’re doing, so make it easy for them. It never hurts to poke a little fun at yourself by telling your partner stories

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