So, I get these questions all of the time from my friends: "Take me hunting!" or "Teach me!" or "Show me where to hunt"... and since the hunting season is quickly approaching, I thought I would expand on a few things. I'm not opposed to teaching or taking folks hunting, especially on duck hunts, however, I think there are several misconceptions formed about hunting and successful hunters. Same thing applies for fishing, but for the sake of this conversation, I'll stick with hunting. If you fall in the category as to one of the folks who wants to "get" into hunting, first and foremost, you need to start with the California Fish and Wildlife's Hunter Education program. You have to study, do class time and pass a final exam before you can even consider hunting, so that's first and foremost. Past that, you really need to ask yourself, what kind of hunter do you want to be? In my opinion, new hunters fall into either the recreational hunter or dedicated hunter category.
The Recreational Hunter:
This type of hunter, occasionally feels the desire to pursue game. It's not a passion, more times than not, it is something their friends or buddies do and they feel like they are missing out on something. The recreational hunter does not spend a whole lot of time in the field scouting and does not spend a whole lot of time researching and fine tuning their skills to become better. The recreational hunter is a guide or landowner's best friend. Private land access brings forth opportunity with less effort, thus why it is so appealing. I would imagine some of these type of hunters are fine with spending a few days a year in the field, whether they are successful or not. Maybe it's just a means to escape their reality for a few days in the open air? I'm not sure how that works exactly. From my personal experience, and from what I have seen most from the recreational types, is that they're more discouraged than anything with their lack of success. Almost as if they think hunting should be easy, and that the act of pursuing game requires little dedication to be successful. I see this also with the folks who express their desire to want to learn how to hunt. The first questions that start to run through my mind when I hear such an expression are: How serious are they? What's the likelihood that they will actually follow through with their desire? How willing are they to learn on their own? Do they truly understand what it takes to be a hunter? Are they expecting me to do everything for them? More times than not, I end up suggesting the guide route for these types of hunters, or those new hunters who really do not grasp the aspect of how dedication and time in the field, makes you a better hunter and in return, makes you more successful.
The Dedicated Hunter:
These are the types of people that I am drawn to and I want to surround myself with. They get it, fully, they understand the importance of the experience and they have the will do whatever it takes to achieve whatever it is they are after. They're students, whether it is researching, scouting or learning from experience. They understand that in order to be successful, it does take dedication, constant practice and honing of one's skills. Killing isn't everything, it sure is the end goal, but whether a hunt is a success or not, is not solely based around the kill. It's more than that, each experience afield is used to better learn about the animals they are pursuing and simply, just the enjoyment of doing what they feel they are to some degree, called to do. A dedicated hunter, does not merely hunt for the sake of having a hobby. It's an inherent need or perhaps a necessity to hunt. This need fuels their drive and their appreciation for the animals that they pursue. The dedicated hunter simply put, is not whole, if they cannot hunt.
Keep in mind, these are simply my views of such a topic, but I do want to stress, the act of hunting is one thing and being a hunter and living the life of a hunter is a completely different thing. I say this, because if you are reading this and are thinking to yourself that "hunting" is something that you want to try, seriously consider the amount of effort that you want to put in to become a hunter. Seriously consider what you will do, yourself, to achieve what you think you want to achieve. I hunt primarily public lands, at no time, could I summarize any of my public land hunts into being an easy thing to do. It's not, I've shaped my entire life around hunting. I spend almost every waking minute thinking on how I can better prepare. I train and exercise, because I am a hunter. I research and I take the initiative to become what I want to become, I am not relying on anyone else to do that for me. The tools are all there, for everyone, but the simple truth is, not everyone has what it takes. So ask yourself the question, what type of hunter do you want to become... and how far are you really willing to go to become one...