View Full Version : Absolute beginner to deer hunting. Help us out?

Army GI
January 22, 2008, 01:10 PM
Just when I thought I had the old man all figured out. My father recently expressed an interest in hunting. As you can see the big problem is we have no experience and we wanted to know what resources we could utilize so that when we eventually make it out there we can make a clean kill.

My dad and I are ages 61 and 22, respectively. Are we too old as a family to learn this skill? I know a lot of friends that have been hunting since they were 13. I feel really awkward and embarassed to ask for help at such a late stage in my life, but I know the community will tell it to me straight.

Firearms is the least of my concerns. We both have military backrounds in the army, own good deer calibers (45-70 and 30-06), and we practice regularly at the local 100 yard range. Will try to idealy limit our shots to 150 yards or less.

I'm more concerned about the actual process of getting prepared, stalking the animal, and most importantly, field dressing it properly, and what to do afterwards. I tried locating some sources for gutting but I can only find pencil drawings and I do believe I would be better served by real life pictures.

So there you have it:D. I know to you experienced hunters this sounds foolish, and if it is let me know. Otherwise I would greatly appreciate any help. Thanks!

ETA: We will be in California; thanks for the info taylorce1.

January 22, 2008, 01:12 PM
What State will you be hunting in? Get Hunters education classes for both you and your father. Your Army so remember "Cover and Concealment", move slow and deliberately, make sure the wind is always in your face or as close to it as possible. Try your hand at some small game hunting to get an idea how to dress out an animal. If you can afford it try a guided hunt your first time or find a mentor who can take you both out.

January 22, 2008, 01:20 PM
I would recommend a guided doe hunt or management deer (or hog) to get a feel for the ropes if you can't get a mentor. Many leases might be willing to help a new family into the sport, but for simplicity sake a guided hunt would let you know if you have enough interest to pursue long term.

I'm going to give public land a try next season. I've been hunting a lease as a guest for quite a while and I think it's time to either pony up a grand (which isn't an option) or try my hand in a National Park. I spent a good amount of time getting maps yesterday and a friend and I will plan a scout trip in a few weeks to see what the terrain looks like. We won't hunt it for 9 or so months. There is a ton of homework involved and now is the time to start. I couldn't imagine getting started without a mentor.

January 22, 2008, 02:03 PM
Are you at an Army Base? Most have either a rod-and-gun club where you could meet like-minded folks, or they have rolled that function into Outdoor Rec.

Any of your buddies hunt? See if you can get them to come along, maybe you could pay for all the food or something to sweeten the deal.

Are you planning on hunting California, or is this going to be somewhere else?

Gutting is not complicated, but is confusing the first time. I read the process, watched it done a couple times, then did it while my "coach" stood there and directed traffic.

Good luck!

January 22, 2008, 02:19 PM
I'm in the same boat you are, I'm 24 and have never hunted in my life. I took a (Colorado) Hunter safety class and they seem to of covered the basics pretty well, like you I had some questions about field dressing, they showed a few videos and answered them all but I'm sure more will come up when it really happens. check round youtube.com for field dressing, I found a few videos there, some are garbage but some are OK.

be safe!

January 22, 2008, 02:19 PM
Your location will be the determinant of how you get started and what skills you need. Hunting deer here in Florida is a totally different experience from hunting deer in the midwest. Both are totally different from hunting in the mountain west. Like others have said, take a hunter safety course and buy your way into a guided hunt.

January 22, 2008, 04:15 PM
try my hand in a National Park

That's a good way to go to jail.

January 22, 2008, 04:45 PM
You guys need to go with an experienced hunter who can show you the ropes the first couple of times. So find someone who has experience hunting (even if you have to pay 'em) so that they can teach you how to hunt.

January 22, 2008, 05:37 PM
Your state fish and game office is your best resource. Taking the hunter safety course is a must.
Where you hunt will affect how you hunt.

There are two basic types of hunting, walking and sitting. Sometimes they intersect.
Walking/stalking means wandering around the land till you happen on a deer and shooting it. For brush or dense forest this is the better choice.

Sitting means just that, find a place where you think deer will wander by and sit down wind from that place till the deer wanders by. This type of hunting lends itself to areas where you can see further out such as pasture land.

Talking to your friends at the rifle range who hunt and to the nice people at the fish and game department will give you an idea of where in your state each type of hunting is best suited for.

Where you hunt can either be public land or private.
Public land open to hunting is just that. Sometimes it will be open to any hunters. Sometimes it will be restricted to certain types of hunter such as bow or muzzle loaders or hunters that have won a lottery to hunt a certain area.
Private land can be similar to public land in being open to all hunters. Scott paper and Weyerhaeuser here in Washington open some of their forest land to any hunter. As already mentioned, in some states you can lease hunting land that is often set up for deer harvesting. Or you can get lucky you'll find a farmer, rancher, or orchard owner that'll let you take deer on their land.

A guided hunt isn't a bad idea. It can be very expensive and even the least expensive aren't cheap. Some of them will guarantee a deer.
They also vary from 5 star quality to a guy taking you into the woods and telling you to sit and wait.
If you can afford it I go with a guided hunt for a start.

Dressing and skinning a deer isn't really difficult. Except when you try to explain it.
Luckily there are butcher shops that will do most of the thing for you, if you can find them. If you shoot the deer close enough to the butcher they might even gut the deer for you.
But really after the first one you'll wonder why you worried about it in the first place.

My problem is what to do with the hide. I don't like tanning them my self, my friend that liked doing it moved away, and I'm too cheap to pay to have it done.

Art Eatman
January 22, 2008, 07:47 PM
Spending time in the outdoors just watching critter behavior is very important. The less-popular areas in state and national parks are a possibility. Early morning from just before daylight to a half-hour or so after sunup; and, late evening in that last half-hour before sundown and on toward full dark: All sorts of animals start moving around. Learn to imitate a rock or stump, and watch.


January 22, 2008, 09:18 PM
Not knowing your circumstances I hesitate to give any advice except for one tidbit. IMHO tree stands, ladder stands and climbing stands are generally unsafe for a "seasoned citizen". Nothing like climbing up 15 feet in the air in the dark and realizing you don't have enough arms and legs to simultaneously fasten the harness clip, hold your gun, turn around, swap holds on your backpack...then you find out your boot lace is untied and tangled in the rung below. :eek:

January 22, 2008, 09:19 PM
There are several videos posted on youtube about field dressing of deer. Both gutting and no-gut methods. Just search for "field dressing deer".

January 22, 2008, 09:50 PM
The advice about finding a mentor, taking hunter's safety and talking to your DNR is all really good advice. I would add two things:

Nobody has mentioned hunting magazines. Some of them are garbage and most of us have outgrown them but some might be just right for a neophyte. Deer and Deer Hunting is well written by people who concentrate more on scientific research and principles. In any case, sit down at a book store with a large hunting magazine section and thumb through them until you find one that you like. Look for articles on public land hunting, basics of scent, scouting, etc.

Check the inter-web for forums dedicated to deer hunting and see if they have a section devoted to California and see if there are other members near you. They might be willing to put you on some locations that they don't hunt. If you can't afford to pay for a guide (I sure couldn't), you may be able to hire another hunter to take you out and show you the basics of scouting, reading sign, stand site selection, etc. If someone offered me $100 to do that, I'd show them in a heartbeat.

January 22, 2008, 09:56 PM
That's a good way to go to jail.

The LBJ Grasslands is a national park working cooperatively with the TPWD. It's the closest to me but not the only national park in Texas that allows hunting with a permit. The Army Corps of Engineers also has hunting in several places with an additional permit/permission. Many state parks permit hunting as well. Many of the parks have additional restrictions on legal means usually regarding centerfire rifles, but one in particular allows those as well. Good research should keep me out of lockup.

January 23, 2008, 01:37 AM
+1 for a guided hunt

also +1 for going to the rod and gun club on post.

Also mightbe able to hunt on post. Hunter education is a must. I hunt on post down here in Ft. Huachuca and they only issued less than a dozen rifle tags for the deer here on post ( have an incrediably huge area to hunt with so few tags issued). There are a lot of tags to be had, but only less than 12 put in for the draw.

Anway, the texas game and fish department has a good brochure on it, plus there are videos on the net and you can buy some of the deer hunting videos and they include the details.

Try to ask around and admit your limited knowledge. You may get some grief from some a-holes, but you will eventually run into some folks willing to show ropes.

also do a search here. somebody a year or 2 back asked the same question and I remember the tx brochure was linked and somebody posted a good detailed how to.


January 23, 2008, 03:59 AM
Just a word of encouragement, don't be embarassed to ask others for help. I'd spent a lot of my life hunting birds and varmits, but it was just a few years ago that I decided I wanted to hunt deer. I too had a few friends who had been hunting since they were young, so I just asked some of them if they'd help me get out and get into deer.

I remember that "silly" feeling you mentioned, but my friends didn't make me feel stupid and were really helpful. It's great to come places like here, and I agree that hunter's ed is a great place to learn; but if you know people who are actually hunters then I'd encourage you to contact them. I know that in my case my friends were excited to help me out, and they did their part to make sure I shot something my first year. If you've got those contacts, then those people can be available to help walk you through some of your anxieties and also make sure you have an enjoyable experienc.

Art Eatman
January 23, 2008, 07:51 AM
The "big three" hunting/fishing magazines, "Sports Afield", "Field&Stream" and "Outdoor Life" are what I'd suggest as subscription material. Comparatively more how-to and a bit less "Look what I did!"

The NRA's "American Hunter" is a good choice of the magazines that come with membership.

January 23, 2008, 10:52 AM
If you find some experienced hunters, they'll probably like giving you advice and teaching you. There's nothing to be embarrassed about asking for help, especially from other hunters; we all have to start somewhere. Good luck!

January 23, 2008, 12:53 PM
Universal Frost - Are you serious???? Is it open to us old-fart retirees? This is beginning to sound like "road trip".:D

I expect they have javalinas as well...

Any chance you could hook me up with a link or something??

January 23, 2008, 02:10 PM
I think you can hunt pigs year round on Ft. Hunter Liggett. Doing a pig hunt would be a good way to get your feet wet and it is fun. There are several other places to do a guided pig hunt in CA as well, probably cheaper than a deer hunt. If you shoot the ones smaller than 200 lbs they are pretty tasty as well.

Rod and Gun Clubs on military bases seem to have been absorbed by Outdoor Rec. I know here on Ft. Carson it is a PITA to use the Private Weapons range must have held the rank E6 or higher to open the range, and then if the person who opened it decides to leave he/she can not hand off the range to another person of equal or higher rank. The range has to be closed down and you have do dirve a few miles to Range Control to hand off the range to another person. It is much easier to pay a yearly membership to the off post gun clubs these days than it is to use the Base's ranges.

January 23, 2008, 02:35 PM
I expect they have javalinas as well...

Funny you should mention that. I almost got ran over by a HUGE javelina last weekend (see my thread on rabbit hunint in AZ).

he decided he wanted to live and headed away at the last instant before I pulled the trigger. Now if I had a javelina tag he would be in the freezer right now.

YES, retirees active duty and activated reserves/guard and DoD civilians (sorry no contractors) can hunt on post down here as long as they have a hunters safety card and purchase a base hunting permit (still need a state permit). Plus, down here they stock the ponds with trout so i can hunt in the morning and then fish in the afternoon and maybe get in a round of skeet in the evening.

Now if the wife would just agree to this weekend schedule. :(

Any chance you could hook me up with a link or something??

Here is the link http://www.mwrhuachuca.com/sportcenter.html


January 23, 2008, 02:40 PM
UF - thanks for the link, I will check it out. Do you know off-hand if you can bring a guest? My full-time hunting buddy is ex-Navy, but is does not have any real status (i.e. not a retiree).

January 23, 2008, 02:50 PM
UF - I just read through them. Looks like a no-go on guests for deer/javalina - only OK for birds. Hmmmm.

January 23, 2008, 02:50 PM
I don't know, best call them.

I usually go out shooting with retirees or dod civy's . Just give them a call, almost all of the guys there are retirees and all but one are prior service, so they can relate.


Kentucky Deer Hunter
January 28, 2008, 08:53 AM
Here is a great video on how to field dress a deer. It is a video from "Kentucky Afield", a long running outdoors show shot in Kentucky. This video is very imformative and is very explanatory. YouTube does require you to have a login ID and password because they say it contains "explicit material" (I guess because all the blood???) Anyways, great video, it is definitely worth checking out. Kentucky Afield also has tons of other videos on You Tube, they are all very informative.

Deer Field Dressing Video

My favorite Venison Recipe! (Video From Kentucky Afield)

Kentucky Afield YouTube Channel with all their videos listed

They also have a great video about how to process your deer, but I can't find it on youtube. Anyways, hope this helps...

January 28, 2008, 10:34 AM
Honestly, you've got more info than you can probably digest here already, but I just wanted to be another voice letting you know "It can be done!" I'm a self-taught hunter who started at 21 with no family or friends in the field. Read a couple books, attended hunters' safety, and read forums like this one. There's no substitute for getting in the woods for some trial-and-error though. Definitely frustrating at times, but I've been lucky more often than I've been skunked. If you have any specific questions that aren't covered by the above, feel free to drop me a message. Good luck!

February 23, 2008, 09:51 PM
Army GI, I'm in the same boat as you. I'm 27, and will probably go hunting for the second time this year. I didn't even see a deer my first time out, let alone bag one. My friend's dad and brother want to take me hunting down in AL, but I'm open to any and all suggestions from people in other states as well.

Art Eatman
February 23, 2008, 10:07 PM
Again: Get out into deer counttry as often as you can, early morning and/or late evening, and just sit and watch. Practice imitating a stump.


February 23, 2008, 10:17 PM
One other thing to try is carry a digital camera. Keep it in your pocket until you see a deer within range. Than practice pulling it out and zooming in and CLICK... if you can consistently get the photo than you are closer to feeling confident you can get a round into one...
Range finders are good but I would use one to "calibrate myself"... I use real world "items" to guess distance... I use 18 wheeler trailers and extension cords...:o I have dragged a zillion hundred footer cords and walked along as many 18 wheeler trailers 48-53 foot in length... good enuff for me YMMV.

February 24, 2008, 07:28 AM
It sounds like your have the firearms experience & safe gun handling down, which is very important. A low level guided hunt is not a bad idea, doe, hogs in CA or similar. Some type of bird hunt is also a good intro hunt.