Where to start on this subject, I suppose at the beginning, as they say. So, where is the beginning for a non-hunter to start hunting?
Right off the bat, before you think about going into hunting, you need to make sure you are OK with shooting and taking the life of the animal you are hunting. If you shoot a critter and injure it, it is on you to finish that critter off and not allow it to suffer. If you are not up to that part of the hunting lifestyle, then don’t carry a gun in the field. And if you are not sure how you honestly feel about this part of hunting, go along with a hunting party or buddy, and be part of the hunt, but not part of the game-taking, until you know for sure you are good with the whole package.
If you can be a very ethical and practical hunter, take a hunter safety course. Even if your State does not require it for a license, take the class anyway. You will learn many things you need to know. The NRA offers a great hunters safety program, and you can find that here.
When I was attending my Hunter Safety Instructor course here in Utah, we covered the three basic hunting approaches. The Anti-Hunters, obviously that is not who we will talk about, the NON-Hunter, these are the folks that are shooters, but not hunters, and then the dedicated hunters. This article will not discuss people that are already hunters but the non-hunter group.
Most shooters’ households will have an AR platform rifle. With the price, convenience, and applicability of a red dot sight on AR15, the target shooter can become a rabbit shooter by changing the target they shoot.
I would suggest the place start into the hunting world is with vermin, like rabbits, they usually don’t have a dedicated season, and if there are rabbits in your area, most likely there are a jillion rabbits. When you hunt rabbits, there is no need to identify male vs. female animals, so you don’t have that issue to worry about or violate and get into some big trouble.
Now, if you are great with that AR and Red Dot, go and hit a moving target like a Jack Rabbit and see how good you really are. The most significant part of hunting, no matter what you hunt, is the trip itself. The time I have spent with family hunting all kinds of game is time I hold near and dear; nothing is like it. Many hunters will say that taking a deer at deer season kills the fun, and the work begins.
The hunting gear sold to hunters, big game specialty stuff, upland game stuff, and waterfowl stuff can fill an entire book, like a catalog – like a Cabelas catalog or the Brownells catalog, etc. – you get the picture. Starting with a rabbit hunt will be minimal hunting gear and more like the range gear you already have, and that is good. Get in the field, an area easy to find your way back to the truck, not super remote, and enjoy the hunting, leave all the extra at home for your entry.
Your number one item needed for entry or any time in the hunting world is a hunting partner for safety, camaraderie, and mostly for mentorship. This bond will run more profound than you think, even if it is only one hunting trip.
The other significant part about hunting rabbits, or maybe coyotes, whatever you figure needs to be pursued, and legal for you to pursue (more on that in a minute), if the State does not have an exact season, you don’t have to go in freezing cold weather, spend time in horrible weather, or get in any hurry. When the game is in season, you are somewhat of a hurry, so you stay out in awful, uncomfortable weather. At times the push to take game can make you do dumb things, weather-wise, that can be dangerous.
On the ethical hunter’s subject, we covered the do not cause suffering and damn sure do not let it continue, you have the means to end it, so do it! In the summer, hunting rabbits in dry, tall weeds have nearly burned down half the State of Utah, about every other year. You are the one pulling the trigger; if it is too dry to shoot there, don’t shoot there.
Now for Legal stuff. Check with your State’s fish and game, whatever they are called in your area, and find out if the game you want to take requires a license, permit, has a season, a limit, and all the rest. The folks at the Division of Wildlife Services are great to work with, and they will lead you down the straight and narrow path and support you in getting into hunting in every way possible.
On the subject of the AR15 and Red Dot sight again, in Utah, that caliber is not legal to hunt big game with, unless it has changed since the last time I looked. The round does not do enough damage to ensure it takes the animal, and not just wounded. I know the 5.56 fanboys will get all fired up on that one, so be it, that is the law.
The stuff you will learn in the hunter’s education class if you have not had one is invaluable. The things you will learn from your hunting buddies (most of which you can not repeat in public and never at work) will stay with you forever. The things you will learn about yourself when you become a hunter will charge you for the better.
Now, if you look deep inside yourself and figure you can do the shooting and take the animal, learn what you need to know, get legal, and make the blood oath as an ethical hunter. You get there, but that red dot on the animal, and just don’t feel right, don’t take the shot – there is nothing wrong with being honest with yourself.
Hunting is a generational gathering in many families, and you will not trade the time for anything, even if you choose to take a camera instead of a rifle or just go to be there with everyone.