How to Hunt

Six Parts:Researching HuntingPreparing to HuntBecoming Familiar with Your WeaponPlanning for a Good HuntLearning About Handling Your GameGoing on Your Hunt

Hunting is an effective way of controlling the populations of certain game animals that no longer have natural predators.[1][2] It's also a state-sanctioned way of getting fresh meat to feed your friends and family. It is important, however, that you treat this activity with the respect it deserves, as hunting without proper training and preparation can be dangerous for you and others.

Part 1
Researching Hunting

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    Decide on your preferred game. "Game" refers to the kind of animal you will be hunting. The game you decide to hunt will influence the methods you employ while hunting, the kind of weapon or trap with which you hunt, and where will be best for you to hunt.[3][4] Some ideas on what to hunt:
    • Small game, like rabbit, hare, squirrel, pheasant, crow, waterfowl, etc.[5]
    • Big game, like deer, sheep, moose, antelope, bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, etc.[6]
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    Research effective hunting tools. You won't need an elephant gun to hunt a pheasant, but there are likely a few different guns paired with birdshot that can be used for pheasant hunting. Research the best weapon best suited for the game you have chosen to hunt.[7] Some weapons to consider:
    • Bow and arrow.
    • Shotgun.
    • Black powder rifle.
    • Rimfire rifle.
    • Centerfire (high-powered) rifle.
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    Talk to someone with hunting experience. Ask among your family members or inquire with workers at your local sporting goods store for someone who could answer some questions you have about hunting. You might say:
    • "I don't have a lot of hunting experience, but I really like nature, and I love the taste of venison. Could you tell me a little bit more about deer hunting?"
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    Investigate state and local restrictions and regulations. Depending on where you live, how rural the country is, and the local culture, there can be significant differences in the legal definitions of various kinds of game and the acceptable weapons you can use to hunt.
    • Most states have a Department of Natural Resources or a Fish and Wildlife Department that regulates hunting in your area. A quick online search should help you find the state agency charged with wildlife management.
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    Look into hunting tactics for your game. The right hunting tactic will give you even more enjoyment from the sport by offering you the most reasonable chance for success on your hunt. Some common hunting tactics include:
    • Deer hunting may be done from ground blinds, tree stands, stalking, or by driving prey from brush or cover with a group. Some areas even allow pursuing deer with hounds.[8]
    • Upland birds are often hunted with dogs like pointers or setters, which can actually follow the scent of these game birds. Then, these hunting dogs will point out the prey for the hunter to flush and shoot.[9]
    • Migratory birds are often hunted from blinds, so a successful bird hunter will need to find a feeding area or watering area to hunt. Harvested grain fields, waterways, or other places may offer successful hunts for these birds.
    • Small game, like rabbits and squirrels, may be hunted using dogs. Beagles are a favorite for rabbits, and some breeds are easy to train for treeing squirrels (or raccoon or opossums).[10][11]

Part 2
Preparing to Hunt

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    Take necessary safety courses. Many states require you to take a mandatory course in hunter's safety before you can be issued a hunting license, especially when hunting with a gun.[12] Be sure you comply with all regulations, or else you could be fined or suffer other legal consequences, like incarceration.[13][14]
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    Purchase a license, if necessary. Depending on the area in which you live, you may be able to hunt some animals, like small game, without a permit as long as you adhere to your region's hunting regulations.[15][16]
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    Put together emergency supplies. While you are hunting, an accident might occur that may require medical attention, or you might have to spend the night in the elements waiting for help to arrive. Don't be caught unprepared. Make sure you have:
    • Extra daily medication (e.g. insulin, blood pressure pills, etc.).
    • Cell phone or two way radio (in waterproof case).
    • Appropriate clothing for changeable weather (rain gear, etc.).
    • Lighters/fire starters.
    • Metal cup.
    • Waterproof light source (e.g. headlamp).
    • Whistle or signaling device.
    • Emergency shelter (e.g. space blanket).
    • Survival knife.
    • First aid kit.
    • Emergency rations (granola, meal replacement bars, etc.).
    • Map and compass.
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    Choose your tactic. There will be different methods for hunting the game you choose to as prey. Ambush hunting, stalking, and hound hunting are popular methods employed to hunt various prey.[17][18][19] You will need to research your prey to decide upon the most effective style.
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    Practice your hunting tactic. If you plan to hunt from a portable tree stand, you will want to be familiar with carrying and climbing with it before your hunt. The same applies for fashioning a blind, or for the procedure for stalking game.
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    Choose a location. Your prey will likely have an ideal habitat. Here you will have a better chance of finding your prey while you hunt. Research the ideal habitat of your prey, paying attention to notes about migration and yearly changes in behavior, and find some locations near you where you can hunt your game.
    • Hunting on public land is legal, so long as it is not in violation of state or federal restrictions, you have the proper licenses, and you are following state and federal hunting regulations.[20][21]

Part 3
Becoming Familiar with Your Weapon

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    Decide the ammunition appropriate for your game. You will need enough knock down power for a clean kill, but not so much as to do extensive damage to the game's meat. Here are some examples:
    • Quail, dove, and other small game birds can be hunted with shotguns using shot sizes between size six and nine in field loads, using gauges from 20 ga. to 12 ga.[22][23]
    • Turkeys, geese, ducks, and pheasants require larger shot sizes, and preferably larger gauge guns. A 12 ga. or even 10 ga. shooting number two or number four shot is a good choice.[24][25][26][27]
    • Rabbits and squirrels can be hunted with rim fire rifles using hollow point bullets, high powered air rifles shooting at least 750 fps, or shotguns similar to those used for quail and dove.[28]
    • Deer, antelope, and sheep can be hunted with center fire rifles, bows, or muzzle loading rifles. Center fire cartridges should be at least .243 caliber with no smaller than 100 grain soft pointed bullets. Muzzle loading rifles should be at least .40 caliber, and bows should be capable of shooting a broad head arrow capable of delivering a clean kill.[29][30][31]
    • Larger game, like elk, moose, or bear, should be hunted with larger calibers, such as .30 caliber guns shooting 150 or higher grain soft pointed bullets. Dangerous game hunting requires a gun capable of bringing down charging animals.[32]
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    Give yourself a "sight" advantage. Modern bows can be equipped with peep sights, pin sights, illuminated or even telescopic sights. Shot guns usually only have a front bead, although slug guns may have rifle type iron sights, or in some cases laser dot sights. Rifles can be equipped with telescopic sights, iron sights, peep sites, red dot sights, or in some cases, combinations of these.[33][34]
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    Understand the action or configuration of your weapon. There are single shot, double barreled, pump action, semi automatic rifles and shot guns, each with potentially different mechanisms of action.[35] The same goes for bows: there are re-curve, compound, or cross bows.[36] Some people even hunt with pistols. Use a weapon you are capable of handling with confidence.
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    Practice with your weapon of choice. You should do this until you are confident in your (and its) ability to do the job. You may want to visit a rifle or bow range, a skeet range, or some other shooting facility. You should take your shooting seriously if you plan on being successful.

Part 4
Planning for a Good Hunt

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    Familiarize yourself with the terrain. It's best to do a walkabout of the area you will be hunting in so you know the areas in which your game are likely to bed down. This will also give you the advantage if you hit your prey but have to track it.
    • Take note of any swamps, loose rocks, fallen trees, or any other obstacles that might impede your route to your hunting location.
    • Be aware of natural animal runs through your hunting area. These are frequently the paths your chosen game will travel, and if you have to track your prey, knowing these will be helpful.
      • Memorize or take a picture of the tracks you see on these natural trails. When you return home, you can check these against a track guide.[37]
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    Check the weather conditions. It's best to be prepared for bad weather when you go out hunting, even if the weather report calls for fair weather. Be that as it may, knowing ahead of time about inclement weather or other dangerous conditions can save your life.[38]
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    Gather your supplies. Forgetting something when you are out in the wilderness can be more than inconvenient: it can be dangerous. You should make a checklist and gather the things you will need before going on the hunt.
    • In addition to the emergency supply kit you put together while preparing to hunt, you should also be sure you are wearing an appropriate amount of blaze orange (also called hunter's orange or safety orange) so that other hunters can see you.
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    Inform friends and family of your plans. This way, if you get lost or are the victim of a hunting accident, you will know that help will eventually be on the way. In the wilderness, you can't always rely on a cellphone to get you the help you need.
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    Get permission, if necessary. If you are hunting on the private property of a friend or neighbor, you must be sure you have the landowner's permission and your hunting license before setting out to hunt.
    • It's always best to give your neighbor a warning before heading out to hunt, even if you've been told you can hunt there anytime. This will limit your chances for hunting accidents.
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    Review your map. This will jog your memory from the walkabout you took in preparation to your hunting excursion. This will also remind you of the best route to get there and safest path to your hunting location.

Part 5
Learning About Handling Your Game

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    Learn proper game meat handling. This will change according to the game you are hunting. However, field dressing and hauling a 700 pound elk is not something you want to try without preparation. Take the time to learn what must be done with an animal to avoid wasting the meat you have taken.[39]
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    Make sure you have resources for caring for the meat. You may need pack animals or other means to haul a large game animal. You should also keep in mind that you will need a place to store potentially several hundred pounds of venison, moose, or elk after your hunt is over.
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    Network with other hunters. This can be useful for developing hunting partners, but can also help in the event that you don't have sufficient freezer space. You can also get tips on how to [Field Dress a Deer dress] and prepare the meat.
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    Understand time is a factor. A trophy buck might be tempting to drive around and show off, but if the weather is mild, you need to gut the animal and cool the meat as quickly as possible after it is taken.[40] Other game animals have special handling requirements as well.
    • Game birds should be plucked or skinned and dressed soon after they are taken.[41]
    • Rabbits and squirrels should be skinned and dressed before they become stiff.[42]

Part 6
Going on Your Hunt

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    Begin the hunt at an appropriate time. This will depend entirely on your game and regional restrictions. Evening stand hunting for deer may require you to arrive at your stand in mid afternoon. This way the wildlife will calm from your interruption and your scent will dissipate before your game is most active.[43]
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    Enter the hunting area as quietly as possible. You should park your vehicle a considerable distance from the area in which you expect to encounter game, then proceed to your chosen stand or stalking area as quietly as possible.[44]
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    Stop frequently to observe your surroundings. You will be looking for signs, such as droppings, tracks, evidence of foraging, or other indications your game is active in the area.[45]
  4. Image titled Hunt Step 29
    Be mindful of wind conditions while you hunt. High winds often cause game to hide in thick cover or bedding areas, since the wind will make detecting threatening predators more difficult. Wind also may carry your scent to your game, resulting in spooked animals who will flee long before you get near them.[46]
  5. Image titled Hunt Step 30
    Use binoculars or a spotting scope. This is especially useful when hunting open country so you can scan for game.[47] You may find you only see a tip of an antler, or the eye of a well-camouflaged rabbit. Once the animal spooks and runs, it will be difficult to get an accurate shot.
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    Be certain of your target before shooting. Many species of game have restrictions on the size or sex of the animal you are hunting.[48] Be familiar with local regulations, and make sure your target complies with them.
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    Shoot for a clean kill. You should avoid shooting a game animal that is too far away, moving too quickly for you to properly sight, or is in a position where a miss could result in injury to other hunters or property.[49] If you are not sure of the background, do not shoot. Don't shoot toward or across highways, and never shoot toward buildings or populated areas.
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    Be prepared to track and dispatch a wounded animal. If you do not make a clean kill, it is your responsibility to make every effort to find the wounded animal and humanely end its suffering.[50] This may mean tracking through rough terrain, patiently looking for blood or other signs showing you the direction of travel, and searching until it is certain there is no hope of finding the animal.
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    Practice safe group hunting procedure. If you decide on hunting with a friend or friends, be sure they are also attired in an appropriate amount of blaze orange and that they stay in sight while hunting.
    • Check your gear before returning home; you don't want to bring potentially harmful wild animals into your home by accident.
    • Do not indulge in alcohol or use drugs while hunting, as this may compromise your judgement and lead to injury.
    • Test all your equipment before going out on your hunt. The last thing you want is faulty equipment putting you or you hunting partner(s) in danger.[51]


  • While hunting, stay as quiet as possible so you don't spook any close animals you are hunting.
  • Reference solunar tables to find the times that game are most active in your area.
  • Most animals have a keen sense of smell. Scent cover can make it so the animals you are hunting cannot scent you and run away.
  • Disguise or camouflage so that animals have a more difficult time spotting you and escaping.
  • Never shoot until you are sure of your target and what's behind it.


  • Always wear the right clothing and footwear for the climate and terrain.
  • Be aware of local predators while hunting. These are sometimes attracted to your kill, and can be dangerous if you are unaware.
  • Always exercise caution while climbing down from stands with any weapons.
  • Know the law. Hunting certain species without buying tags first can lead to a steep fine and/or prison.
  • Make sure your tree stands or blinds are secure before taking anything up.
  • Never point a weapon at something unless you are planning to kill it. Even an unloaded weapon should be treated with respect.
  • Make sure you are aware of any close hunters.

Things You'll Need

  • Ammunition
  • Appropriate clothing for changeable weather (rain gear, etc.)
  • Blaze orange clothing (a.k.a. hunter's orange or safety orange)
  • Cell phone or two way radio (in waterproof case)
  • Emergency rations (granola, meal replacement bars, etc.)
  • Emergency shelter (e.g. space blanket)
  • Extra daily medication (e.g. insulin, blood pressure pills, etc.)
  • First aid kit
  • Hunting tags/license (it is illegal to hunt certain species without these)
  • Lighters/fire starters
  • Map and compass
  • Metal cup
  • Survival knife
  • Water purification tablets
  • Waterproof light source (e.g. headlamp)
  • Weapon
  • Whistle or signaling device

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Hunting