The New Hunter
For someone that's thinking 'I'd like to get into hunting' it's not just an easy jump in and do it.
For most hunters they more than likely started their hunting career as a kid tagging along with Dad or Mum or old sibling and slowly learnt the ropes. Perhaps some started hunting a bit older and tagged along with mates and again, slowly learnt.
Having a family member teach you from a young age makes all the difference.
But if you didn't have that upbringing or hunting family and now as an adult you decide you're going to get into hunting then where do you start.
There is lots of reasons why people decide to get into hunting, could be as simple as the cost of meat from the supermarket. A well placed shot on a red deer could supply your family with around 30kgs of prime organic venison. This could be a huge amount of a saving to the family budget and money saved. Remember there are seven species of deer in NZ, wild goat, pig, Tahr, Chamois, wild sheep rabbit, hare, wallaby, game birds (plus fishing if you get into that) There is plenty of game to be had.
Learning how to bone out a red deer leg. Alot of meat here.
I'm not going to go into why people decide to take up hunting, they will all have their own personal reasons, whatever they are. But for this blog, will just say because they want to.
One of the first things you are going to need to get is a firearms licence ( although you could take up bow-hunting which does not require a licence but chances of getting an animal might be several years in the making). So let's say you've made up your mind to get a firearms licence. You can find all the details on the Police website or the Firearms Safety Authority which will let you know the procedure you need to take and the order you need to go in to start the process in getting your licence.
Once you've got your firearms licence, away you go.
Once you've started the process, don't give up on it as it does tend to take a bit of time to get. There is an online firearms training and instructional website, there is a manual you can get to study up and you need to as once you have filled in the paperwork to apply for a firearms licence you need to do a Mountain Safety Firearms course. If you pass that, as there is a test (so study that manual) The Police will come and visit to check you and your security out. ( don't muck about, buy a good steel gun safe and get it bolted into a cupboard and ideally if that can also be locked also shows the Police how safety conscious you are).
While all this is going on and it could take 12 months or longer, join your local New Zealand Deerstalkers branch (NZDA) . Again it shows Police you are committed to learning, do one of the NZDA HUNTS courses, it will teach you a huge amount. Go on their branch hunting trips or their range days just to learn.
So let's say, one day 14 months later you open the mail and there it is your new firearms licence. Finally. Now to buy a firearm. Hopefully over that time you have done some study on what you want and each month from your pay check you've put away X amount of money to buy the firearm you want. From joining up with your local NZDA branch and going on club hunting trips and trying other hunters firearms you have decided you want a Tikka .308, suppressed, with a 3x12x42 Leupold scope and rings, plus gun-bag, sling, cleaning kit and a few boxes of ammo. Just like that your set.
A Tikka 6.5 Creedmore, all set up ready to go.
Once you've got everything, it needs sighting in, that's easy enough to do through your NZDA branch and hopefully you've meet a few members that can help and maybe you've also completed a NZDA HUNTS course. If so you'll have now got 10-14 new HUNTS friends that are in the same boat as you so they might be keen to help.
You would have noticed there is other gear you need as a hunter, some really useful and important other stuff, handy but not really essential. A good sharp knife, Binoculars, good pack of around 45-55L, good gortex rain jacket, good boots, maybe an Epirb, headlight and survival first aid kit. There maybe other items but as you can see things can start to add up in the dollar department. But there are things you can buy that don't have to be brand new or the latest and greatest.
All the equipment needed for a hunt.
Yeah, if you've got the money and can afford good gear or high quality stuff then sure, you won't regret buying it. However if money is tight and say for example a good pair of binoculars might set you back $800 or more. You have researched what you want, know how much they are worth so save until you can afford them. You might find a cheap pair at a garage sale that might do until you have saved up to get what you really want. Check out the local Salvation Army stores they might have a pack that someone has given them that will do for you, even a second hand knife. You can really find some good deals at those stores.
You're now all kitted out with everything (you think you need) time to get out into those hills and shoot a deer. Time to pay for all the gear you've brought and time spent learning to be a hunter. One of the bonuses of having joined your local NZDA branch is you've been out on a few club hunting trips so you atleast have an idea of where there are animals. Get a couple of your HUNTS course mates and organise a trip away. Walk into a hut somewhere, not too hard or too far away and consider it more training.
A group on a NZDA HUNTS course with NZDA HUNTS instructor (in Orange hat)
Get training and get fit. If you want to be a successful hunter you need to put in the hard yards at times. Do some planning, know the area you are going to go into, know where the tracks are, where they go, how to get back to your hut or camp. Get up early and walk up those tracks in the dark so that you are on the bush edge or the area you've seen sign on daylight. Use your binoculars and glass glass glass. Know what you firearm shoots like, that it is sighted in and accurate.
There are lots of things that make a good hunter and for new hunters it can seem very frustrating going out and maybe not seeing anything. It could be a case of again going out with other experienced hunters and get them to help you. I am often called by new hunters that will hire me to take them out to teach them and help them to gain confidence, see what they are doing and give them tips to help improve their skills and knowledge. It can be the smallest things that you are not doing that can help improve your chances.
A new hunter being taught by an experienced hunter. Get out with them.
Like anything, I always say, 'The more you do the better you get' and you won't shoot anything sitting at home. In order to be a successful hunter requires getting off the couch making the effort and getting 'Out There' Get up early, cover ground and use your binoculars simple really.
Not every hunt will be a success but the more you do the better you will become and a successful trip might be just seeing game. 'Yip saw 3 red deer this trip', as opposed to the last three or four trips where you saw nothing. You don't have to kill something for the trip not to be successful. A good time away with mates exploring new territory, hearing the birds, an awesome sunset or sunrise, a few beers and a laugh around the hut or tent. But learn from each trip away.
For the new hunter, use every trip as a way of learning.
Overtime you will learn new skills, become fitter, better at observation, pick up sign you would not have seen, hear sounds that you wouldn't have heard before. Hunting into the wind and you'll pick up the sniff of musk, a red deer was close or you'll say ''smell that, there are some goats close by'' just by the scent in the air.
Every trip out is a learning one. How did your binoculars go? Did you knife work as well as you would think it should? Was my rain jacket really rainproof? Was my pack suitable for carrying all my gear plus a boned out deer?
There will be changes to your gear over time, you will realize that, yes my rain jacket is crap and I need a better one or my pack is just not suitable etc. You will also go out with other hunters and see what they have/use, some stuff will be better than what you are using so you might change to that item.
For the new hunter the best thing you can do is get out with experienced other hunters, join NZDA, do a HUNTS course and study up on the gear you will need and again ask other experienced hunters what they use and why. Experience counts in this game. so the more you get out the better you will become.
For the new hunter get 'Out There' and glass glass glass.
There is a statistic that goes along the lines of 90% of the deer shot are shot by 10% of the hunters. So conversely the other 90% of hunters only shoot the remaining 10% of the deer which isn't an overly good stat. But that's the difference between good hunters and not so good hunters. It is the difference between making the effort and being successful or only doing it half arsed and not being successful.
Get of the couch and get into those hills. The more you get out the more you will learn.
There are lots of factors that make someone a good hunter but it's all about putting all of those things learnt over time and putting them into practice. Getting up early, walking up through the bush in the dark under headlight, knowing the terrain, being fit, being a good shot, having good gear and using it to get the best from it, using the elements to your advantage, having good observation skills, making good decisions and having good judgement. There's probably lots of other things I could add but the key is getting off the sofa, away from the idiot box, turn off the phone and get 'Out There'.