Preparing for the hunt

Unless you reside in Hawaii or some other tropical paradise, the vast majority of us have put away our summer clothing, covered our pools and retired our flip-flops for the season. But before the winter blues set in, why not plan an educational day outdoors that could inspire future hunters and those anxious for hunting season to make its way around again.

Although the basic know-hows of maneuvering through the woods in search of a hunting spot may be common knowledge to the seasoned hunter, we are not always mindful that new or novice hunters still have a great deal to learn before firing that first shot or sitting in a hunting blind or stand.

Call on nearby hunters to share from their wealth of knowledge and plan a day of activities using one or more of the examples listed below.

WILDLIFE SIGNS

Find a wooded setting that encompasses an acre or 2. Make sure it is open to allow folks to walk through without difficulty. Plant various game signs (including imitation) and decoys throughout the area. Share with the class that to become a skillful hunter you must understand the habitat in which the game lives and be able to identify their presence prior to the hunt. As you guide them through the woods, allow time for participants to point out game sign that leads to decoys, if available. Use each stop as an opportunity to teach about the specific sign identified. Don’t forget to point out overlooked signs.

Examples include:

Turkey feathers

Turkey tracks (hen and gobbler)

Turkey scat (hen and gobbler)

Turkey scratching

Hen, gobbler and/or jake decoy

Buck rub or scrapes

Shed antlers

Deer tracks

Bedded doe decoy

PERSONAL PREPAREDNESS

Before braving the hunting woods, it is smart to be prepared. Learning how to navigate the unexpected can boost your confidence and help prevent a sleepless night in the hunting woods. Teach one or more of the following:

Navigation: map and compass

Basic first aid

Basic survival skills

Elevated stand safety

ATV safety

Physical conditioning

BECOMING A SAFE HUNTER

In many states, youth can complete their hunter education certification online. Many chapters still host hunter education classes, however, and there is still a great demand for the face-to-face instruction. Whether you host a sanctioned hunter ed class or teach a general hunter safety class, be sure to cover the following:

Firearm safety

Archery safety

Basic hunting skills

The hunter’s role in wildlife conservation and management

Knowing your firearm and equipment

Shot selection

Hunter’s ethics and responsibility

Hunting strategies

Field care of game

The time to prepare for the next hunting season is now. Invite individuals of all ages who are interested in learning how to hunt as well as those just starting out. Sharing the passion of our hunting tradition is sure to spark a flame that can easily turn an interest into a lifestyle. Don’t miss the opportunity!

— Teresa Carroll

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