(Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts by Ashley Peters. Ashley is relatively new to the hunting and fishing world, and we’ve been working with her since the early days of her inquiry. In this series she’ll share thoughts and perspectives of a new hunter in hopes of helping others out in their journey. I hope you enjoy the conversation! Mark)
The Summer Hunter
Three years ago I was curious about hunting, but I wasn’t convinced it was for me. Thinking about all the gear, logistics, questions, and skill-building was intimidating. The same thought crossed my mind several times given how overwhelmed I felt: Will I really be ready by fall?
The answer for me was “Yes, absolutely” and it’s probably the same for you. There’s ample time between spring and fall to take things step by step. The timeline leading into hunting season is perfect for pushing yourself, but not to the point of exhaustion. Preparing for hunting can reinforce things you’re already doing.
Below are a few ways that someone like you can make the most of the season as a summer hunter.
Finding Good Recipes
Pheasant, grouse, duck…you name it! The prospect of a good meal will get you excited to visit your favorite grocery store (public lands!). Whether it’s pheasant roulade, venison katsu curry, or biscuits and gravy with duck sausage, there are a plethora of recipes that will make your mouth water. Even if you don’t have wild game, try out a few of the recipes to determine which you like best and how to do them well.
Exploring New Places
Determining where to hunt is one of my favorite things. Looking at maps and marking public lands is the first step, but there’s nothing like getting out and seeing land in person. For example, if I’m on my way to a state park or state forest for summer activities, I’ll note the wildlife management areas along the way. Quick detours for new-to-me natural areas are key to planning an enjoyable fall season. It means wasting less time while hunting when finding entry points and choosing habitats. As a bonus, certain hunting lands are prime birding spots in the summer, so bring your binoculars!
Getting Outside More Often
Finding new hunting spots can get you get outside more. When I know that a trip out of the city has more than one purpose, I’m far more likely to get out. Last week, I had a long drive through Iowa that normally would’ve been all road time. But I know I want to hunt pheasants in Iowa this year. I built time into my road trip schedule to stop at a wildlife management area. Checking out the landscape lets me know what to expect later this year.
Spending Time With Friends
Summer is the ideal time to have happy hour with other hunters to talk about your plans. It’s also a great time to sharpen or to learn new skills. Especially if you’re new hunting, spring and summer are the perfect time to join clubs, attend learning sessions, and connect with other hunters. I’m not sure I would be a hunter if it weren’t for the amazing people. I met other hunters through trap shooting meet-ups and also, public lands advocacy groups like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Regularly interacting with people that I like and who inspire me is the best way to ensure that I’ll stay active.
Who doesn’t like playing with new gear? Trap shooting, sighting-in your gun, and regularly using a new dog-tracking collar are just a few ways to become familiar with your gear. Simple things like finding the right hat, sunglasses, or ear protection can make your experience that much better. When you’re finally out hunting, the last thing you want is ill-fitting gear or malfunctioning equipment.
While there are cheap ways to get started, there are also unexpected costs. Putting away money each week in the summer can help ease the sticker shock of hunting. Seasoned hunters will tell you it’s smart to set aside extra dollars for unanticipated vet visits, injuries, or car trouble. Not to mention, you can always use extra funds for new boots, gear bags, or equipment for your dog.
Learning Something New
For very new hunters, the summer is a good time to consider personal questions about hunting without getting too overwhelmed. When I chose to start hunting, it felt like a big decision because part of my self-identity shifted as a result. You may experience something similar. One of the best ways to ease anxiety is to learn more about your questions and to identify helpful resources. Using the spring and summer to explore new ideas is a great, gradual way to understand a different side of yourself.