Which game critters offer new hunters the best entry into the sport? From spotting to taking down with a clean shot, we cover America’s most feasible options.
Story by Ashley Wells – Photos by Shutterstock
When getting into the hunting game, it’s best to start with some lighter or easier prey to help you practice. Of course, before you head out into the wilderness, you need to do some target practice to ensure you know how to use your weapon properly. Once you can easily hit a target that isn’t living, you can start hunting animals.
The general rule of thumb for hunting is that the smaller the animal, the easier it’ll be to shoot for a beginner. This might seem counterintuitive because a larger animal would give you a bigger target. However, they are usually a lot more dangerous and would not be a good idea for your early hunting trips.
Birds are a great place to start when it comes to learning the ropes for hunting. Yes, they can take flight to get away, but they are usually fairly easy to shoot down from the sky. You can see why practicing with your weapon before you head out on your first hunt is a must.
A WILD TURKEY
makes for excellent prey for a beginner. The birds are large, giving you a good-sized target to aim for. They also tend to gather in big groups, meaning you have a selection if you miss your first attempt. The birds are fairly slow, making them easy to catch. However, you may have to walk quite far to get to where they are, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing.
Turkeys are known to respond to an array of calls, and you can get devices that make the right sound. This is incredibly useful to bring the birds out into a clearing or to work out where they are while you’re hiking to find them. Just be sure to keep your human noises to a minimum while waiting or walking.
DUCKS MIGHT BE
the quintessential creature for hunting, and a perfect choice for a beginner. For starters, you usually get a large number together, so it is far more likely that you’ll get one.
Another reason that ducks are the best choice is that they come to you. It can be a bit of a waiting game, but there are a lot of tools you can invest in to bring the ducks around quicker.
It’s all about the setup. You need a great spot that’s well-hidden – a blind. Then, you can use decoys out on the water and a duck caller to trick the birds to come in for a landing. Finally, make sure you have steel or other nonlead shot in your shotgun. These pellets spread out when fired, which makes it easier to hit a flying target – sometimes you can even get more than one bird with the same shot.
PHEASANTS TAKE HUNTERS
to the fields and tall grass in search of these birds. This really is a waiting game that’s best done in a group. One person waits with their shotgun, while the others can move in a long line to herd the birds towards you. If you’re going to have people moving around, make sure they know what they’re doing because pheasants can spook quite easily.
The trick with shooting pheasants is that you need to wait for them to take flight. This means that you should be practiced with a moving target in the air. Skeet shooting is a great training technique for hunting pheasants and will help you to feel more confident about bringing down your prey.
If you aren’t keen on bagging birds, there are a number of other animals you can hunt for. Just remember, the smaller they are, the more likely they are to have a burrow or hidey-hole nearby that they can disappear into. Stealth is key.
WHERE RABBITS ARE
common, it can be a relatively easy challenge to get one. You can also bring a hunting dog along with you that can disturb the rabbits in their burrows and bring them out into the open for you.
When hunting rabbits, remember that they are fast. You will only have a moment between spotting them and them disappearing in which to take aim and fire. The good news is, you can train for this kind of hunting by moving into different positions and firing at your target as soon as you stop. You’ll learn to anticipate where the rabbit will be and how to get your eye in quickly.
WHITETAIL DEER ARE
probably the easiest of large game for a beginner. They offer you a large target to shoot at, although it’s important to be confident that you can hit them in a way that they’ll drop instantly. You want to kill the animal with your first shot or have it drop immediately so that you can move in and kill them quickly. Deer can also be quite skittish; however, they do have a tendency to hesitate before they run off – giving you that all-important moment to take aim and shoot.
The hard part about harvesting a deer is that you actually have to do some hunting. This entails having the right clothing on, making sure your scent is right for the woods and knowing that you can make the shot from a fair distance away. You’ll also need to track them without letting them know you’re in the area, otherwise they will bolt as soon as they feel your presence. As a beginner, you should go with someone who has experience with tracking and knows how to field dress a deer so it’s easier to bring your kill home.
TIME TO START HUNTING
Remember, hunting is about respect for the animal and for your surroundings. If you’re brand new to the sport or the practice, it’s definitely best to go with someone who is experienced – a trained guide is your best bet. Good luck and happy hunting!
Editor’s note: Ashley Wells is an editor at Hunting Locator
. Ashley is a passionate outdoors enthusiast and writer. With her trusty camper van, she’s on a mission to travel the remote corners and discover the hidden gems our world has to offer – one destination at a time.