Big Game Basics for Beginners

Every hunter wants to be successful.  New hunters face a myriad of challenges, and often find very little information to help them as they get started in hunting.  I did not come from a hunting family, but luckily my husband and his family were raised hunting.  Here are 3 very important tips on how to get started on becoming a big game hunter.

Choosing your Target Animal

The first thing that you should do is choose your target animal.  If you want to hunt deer, elk, or moose then you must check your rules and laws on applying for tags or how to gain the chance to hunt them.  Some states have a draw system where getting a tag is like a lottery, however some states simply have you purchase the license or tag directly without a complicated system.  

Once you have secured your tag, then perform the most intensive research that you can complete on that animal.  You want to familiarize yourself with their behaviors, seasonal activity patterns (rut times are key to certain hunts), and even what they like to eat.  Many animals have somewhat predictable patterns that make hunting them much more likely, whereas some animals are just ghosts and pop up and disappear without reason (elk are ghosts to me).

Learn how to assess the animal for size or age if you want a big or mature animal.  Take extra care in learning their vital areas for best shot placement.  Elk have a very thin shoulder blade making it much easier to get a vital shot, however deer have a broader blade and smaller rib cage area making it more important to get a shot when they advance the leg facing you to open a best shot scenario.

Call sounds or even studying the grunts or chirps that the animal makes is a very good idea.  You can often call an animal to you from farther away with a good call.  You might also have the chance to stop the animal if it is walking or trotting past you with a sound.  It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the actual animal sounds, because certain calls are an alert or panic sound while others are a soothing or flirty type of language to them.

Learn Your Area

The second big area of focus in starting out as a big game hunter is to learn your area.  Not every hunter has a chance to put boots on the ground and do a hike around the hunting area.  Luckily there are amazing apps such as OnX, Basemap, and even Google Maps satellite view where you can check for meadows, water holes, and even boundaries for private or hunt zone changes.  The last thing that you want to do is get your animal in a zone where you just broke the law.

Hunters must do diligent research to know that they are in hunt-able areas.  Once you have a general idea of your hunting area, then you can get out and place cameras if you wish.  Game cameras give you the chance to verify that animals are passing through the spot that you have selected.  There is zero guarantee that you will be successful, or that the animals in your captured pictures will ever show up when you are there hunting but it does give you a clue as to how well travelled certain trails or spots might be. 

My favorite thing to do is to get my tripod, scope or binos, and my PhoneSkope and go out to glass the face of a mountain for activity.  I can zoom in, pan around, and even capture pictures of what I find while doing this.  The best thing is that I am not tromping through the areas that I am about to hunt, or possibly bursting onto another hunter out trying to achieve what I am as well.  Frequently other seasons overlap with each other. 

Here in Utah I bow hunt the most because the season is longer. Archery season overlaps with some muzzleloader and other rifle seasons, so I must wear orange during those times. There will be a lot of people out on a hunt, so being able to get a clear picture and visual of where you are hunting is an absolute must. Safety always comes first.

Know and Recognize your Limitations

The last, and possibly most important tip of all, is to know your own limitations.  Be so solid in your weapon that you know exactly how close you need to be to make a successful shot on your target.  Spend as much time as possible on the range or making your shots like a seamless sequence because the moment you see your animal, the fever kicks in.  Do not be alarmed if you begin shaking because this is normal.  Extensive training will help you to perform well even under the panic of having a living, breathing animal in your sights.  

Besides knowing your shot sequence, familiarize yourself with your distance limitations.  The last thing that anyone wants to do is wound an animal.  It is our duty to ensure the best chance of a quick kill without making the animal suffer.  Be aware of the distance for your shot according to your weapon.  I am relatively new to rifle hunting at longer distances, so currently 500 yards is my max until I train more.  When bowhunting, 50 yards is my limit because I only pull 53# on my bow and I do not want to risk injuring the animal instead of a swift harvest.

If you are rifle hunting, make sure to practice from a variety of positions.  You will surely NOT be hunting with a bench rest, so practice on going prone.  You may use a log, your pack, or any other stable item as a platform for the shot.  Work on shots from kneeling as well since often there are scrub or ground cover bushes that you need to get above to get your target acquisition.  Be flexible in making your shot, just focus on creating the most stable set up that you can.  If you cannot get stable, then move and keep trying.  Do not take a sloppy shot and regret it.

These ideas will give you a great base for starting out as a big game hunter.  The hunting community is a wealth of experience and knowledge as well.  Many times you will find a difficult time in getting started because you don’t know where to go, or you feel that you need someone to accompany you.  Ask around, reach out, and you will find that the hunting community is (mostly) full of other people that want you to succeed and be safe.  Use social media platforms, groups, and forums to find friends or ask questions.  Many groups or programs have mentors that will happily show you the ropes.

Follow these tips to get started.  Always prepare yourself to turn back and help the next new hunter.  Make sure to tag us in your successful harvest posts!  

Happy hunting!

Guest Blog by: Leslye Leslie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *