Whether you have chosen to pursue
hunting to put food on the table, spend more time with friends and family, or
simply conquer the challenge of adapting to mother nature's elements while
outsmarting the instincts of a wild animal…CONGRATULATIONS, and welcome into
the circle! Those of us already “hooked”
understand there is only one way to participate. Learning to be safe, humane, respectful, and
responsible stewards of our outdoor resources should be the primary focus of
A little education goes a long way and at Nexgen Outfitters we encourage newcomers to work through three big aspects.
GET A LICENSE
Research your state’s regulations. Almost every state now has wonderful online resources to help guide you, get to your state's hunting page here. Before that, think about and/or prepare for these questions.
Which big game animal would you like to hunt? Whitetail deer are a great place to start. They are found in almost every state, licenses are typically readily available, and hunting methods are a good fit for beginners.
Which weapon are you most comfortable with? A firearm will offer the easiest preseason preparations along with plenty of knockdown power. Crossbow technology has improved significantly in recent years offering consistent accuracy and lethal power for humane kills. Triple check your state’s crossbow regulations. Becoming a new archer AND new hunter at the same time is a great pursuit, but please plan plenty of time (9-12 months) to prepare.
Which part of the state will you hunt in? Your state’s big game hunting planner or guide will provide hunting area maps. These zones or license units are vital for each state’s wildlife management people to keep herds healthy. It’s best to secure land access and permission in your desired hunting unit(s) before jumping into the licensing step.
Which season will you hunt? Some of the timing for your hunt will be dictated by the seasons available in your chosen unit and for your weapon type but think about the typical weather during the season options and not only if you are willing to manage yourself against mother nature, but also how you will be able to care for your harvest if temperatures are warm.
What are the other requirements in your state? This is not a complete list but will typically include specs related to: hunter safety, accompanying stamps, blaze orange requirements, field dressing stipulations, and check-in procedures.
Now, jump over to our state by state resource page for more details around the planning process.
GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Sure we are a retailer, but there is also
absolutely nothing wrong with hand-me-downs or garage sale gear to get started. The key for this lifestyle to continue to flourish is participation and safety.
USED FIREARMS, BOWS, AND CROSSBOWS need to be
inspected by an expert before you use it. For any used equipment, PLEASE consult a
reputable shop for complete inspection.
PRACTICE SAFELY A LOT before putting a big
game animal in your sights for the first time. Spend as much time as you can throughout the off season learning the safe
operation of your firearm, bow, or crossbow. All that practice will form vital habits which
become second nature in the field.
THE ESSENTIAL GEAR is probably what you
expected from a new hunter blog written by a retailer, so we sure do not want
to leave that part out! These next several items are a good place to start, and your mentor (talked about in the next section) will appreciate you having these things of your own. A more detailed review of these essentials, along with our staff pick in each category is available here.
RIFLE - First time shooters will be most comfortable with a light recoil rifle like .243 Winchester or 6.5mm Creedmoor caliber with crisp but simple optics. All the top brands of the last few years like Ruger, Savage, Winchester, Browning, Tikka, Weatherby, Thompson Center and more have an economical rifle offering in popular calibers. Shop
AMMO – yes, it is 2021’s dirty “A-Word”. Normally (if there is such a thing anymore) hunting type calibers are readily available despite runs on other calibers, however in 2021 you will need to be really effective with your practice rounds. Check out our article concerning whitetail deer ammunition selection to help narrow your choices before hitting the range. And check our ammo page often as inventory in constantly changing.
SLING – perhaps one of the most overlooked yet simple accessories that can make a tremendous difference toward enjoying your hunt.
CLOTHES & BOOTS – hopefully, you have spent time outside between 5:00am and 10:00am during the season you will be hunting and can draw from that experience to manage your body temperature. A couple basic principles will go a long way toward your body’s ability to place a lethal shot when the moment comes. Break-In your boots! Layer Up! Simply stated for this article, manage moisture, ensure layers go on and off easily, and embrace modern technical fabrics. Skip great grandpa’s advice that if you were cold in 3 cotton shirts then go with 4.
BINOCULARS – for us after the investment in an effective weapon, a good set of binoculars should quickly follow as your next investment. Spend enough to get the low light performance benefits of HD glass, good prism design, and hi-tech lens coatings. Big game animals are most active during the low light periods around dawn and dusk, so efficient light transmission is key to finding shot opportunities.
FLASHLIGHT/HEADLAMP – again with most of the activity right around dawn and dusk, you will likely be headed to or from the woods, tracking a blood trail, and/or field dressing in the dark. Another unsung hero item, we think it's worth a few extra "bucks" to get a nice light with plenty of adjustment.
WATER – Even though temperatures are often cooler during the best times to hunt, you will still need to think about how to stay hydrated. Pretty simple to pick your favorite water bottle and keep it handy but an item like a collapsible bottle with micro filtration is a great addition to the vest or pack. In addition to carrying enough for hydration, we recommend keeping and old milk or juice jug full of water in the truck to assist with clean-up.
VEST OR PACK – Conditions will change, and your hunting tactics will need adjusted quickly so keeping your gear organized and at your fingertips is even more important that just being able to carry it all. Obviously, we are biased toward our own Whitetail Caddy Pack, but the reviews are also stacking up in support of our first Nexgen branded day pack. Read all about it and check out the video here; $99 every day.
FIELD DRESS KIT – Once the strategy, gear and shot placement all come together for your first harvest, a few simple items can make a big difference toward a successful first field dressing. This process by the way, is also the absolute most crucial step in turning your first harvest into enjoyable table fare. Get this process done cleanly and cool your kill as soon as possible. Carry a Sharp Knife, Butt Out 2 Tool (sounds weird but it will be the best $13 a new hunter will spend), Shoulder Length Gloves, Field Wipes, First Aid Kit, a 20’-25’ piece of basic paracord is the safe and reusable version of duct tape in a hunter’s pack.
FIND A MENTOR
The last and longest process is to find
someone experienced to help set you up for success, and BE PATIENT. One of my favorite, and a little old
fashioned, methods to drum up both land access and maybe a mentor is to head to
farm country. Meeting a few folks in
your local ag community is #1 just plain healthy, but #2 beneficial in your
hunting process. The men and women who
own and steward their land are inherently the best wildlife conservationists as
well. They understand intimately the
process of managing resources for healthy domestic and wild animal herds. And while you are there, volunteer to jump in
and help with a few farm and ranch projects. Many long-term hunting relationships are built and maintained around
rich ag traditions like crop harvest, livestock branding, fixing fence or storm
clean-up so be prepared to roll up your sleeves.
Most states also have programs sponsored or
operated by their game, fish, and natural resource departments. These will range from formal mentor type events
to locations and advice for becoming proficient with your weapon, or just help
navigating available public land access. Head back to our state by
state resource page to get started.
Seasoned hunters also know a big part of our responsibility
is to foster the conservation of the land and wildlife we all love. To end like this section began, just BE
PATIENT. Those of us who have spent a
great deal of time earning our stripes are more than willing to help make your
path to hunting success smoother than our own, but you will inevitably have to
“get busted”, take an ill prepared trip to the field, miss a shot or two and a
myriad of other stumbling blocks. But
learn, laugh, tell stories, enjoy the journey, and then celebrate each moment
that everything comes together.
We’ll see you out there!