View Full Version : Taking up hunting in middle age...

March 3, 2012, 10:43 PM
I've decided to take up hunting. Not having done any hunting except one squirrel hunt with a shotgun, I really have no idea how to prepare myself. I got a rifle, but that's it. I want to try for deer, antelope, and eventually elk. Should I start by reading a book to get some basic info on finding an animal, learning anatomy, how to handle the carcass, etc? I'm thinking I should start with smaller animals like the little deer I've seen around here in southern AZ. Does this make sense?

I need to get some learnin'....

March 3, 2012, 11:02 PM
Best way is get with a friend who is a good hunter and let him or her mentor you. Learning how to hunt from books is like learning how to be a farmer from books. It don't work too well.

You mentioned starting on small deer. I think starting on rabbits, squirrels and such with a .22 rifle would be even better. Field dressing a rabbit is good practice for field dressing deer as the anatomy is similar, just smaller. Best of luck. What type and caliber is your rifle?

March 3, 2012, 11:24 PM
If you can go with a buddy who has hunted for some time, that will help.

Although books are okay for giving you some background, and I do recommend reading books on whatever type of hunting you intend to do, I think that going with a friend who can give you feed back about why you're hunting here not there, why you're doing x, y, or z, etc is ideal.

And get in shape. Hunting isn't easy.

Good luck.

March 4, 2012, 07:12 AM
Something else to consider is to show up in the afternoon at one of the state controlled hunts and get a look at what happens to the animals after the "hunt". Could also go to a place that cleans game for hunters ( I'm guessing you have them there. ) and do a little watching.

Another thing would be to find someone to beg some meat from the various animals you want to hunt from. Cook it a couple of different ways. If you find you like elk way better than antelope, or is you find you don't like one kind at all then you will know what species to focus your energy on.

It's a motivating factor when the work of hunting, that is everything that happens after the animal is on the ground, has a known and positive reward attached to it............good food!

And just a aside........wild hogs are the best tasting animal in the woods!

March 4, 2012, 07:13 AM
I took up hunting completely on my own, no mentor no nothing.

It's not the best way to do it, it was a few years before I was any kind of successful. Still not the greatest.

My enjoyment of being outside alone far outweighed hunting failures.

March 4, 2012, 09:50 AM
I've been hunting all my life, but when I go to a new area, it helps to have someone who can coach you. I hunt where I live, in north central Louisiana, and hunting in another piney woods state wouldn't be much different, but if I went out to the plains, or the mountains, I'd definitely want someone who I could look to for advise. Nothing succeeds like success and there is no reason to re-invent the wheel.

March 4, 2012, 10:01 AM
Just a thought to add to the above good advice. There are alot of decient hunting shows on the outdoor/sports channels. Not really the best source of info unless you plan to spend alot of money but still worth watching. Just remember they are greatly condensed. If you don't really like the outdoors & nature you will be bored silly hunting. I'm talking about large game hunting.
Generally speaking it takes many hours on stand. Most of that time you watch the grass grow waiting for something to happen. I've known quite a few people who've tried hunting once and were so bored they never tried it again.
Myself, I love the alone time in the woods. And if I take an animal, all the better.

March 4, 2012, 10:13 AM
I think you really need someone to teach you the ropes. Go hang out at your local gunsmith's and get to know the regulars. My guess is you will find someone to go with you if you offer to take your vehicle, steak dinner and their favorite bottle of bourbon. Also attend your local Ducks Unlimited and NRA banquets and meet some people. I bet some of your Air Force buddies hunt.

Art Eatman
March 4, 2012, 11:14 AM
The more time you can spend out in the boonies, the better. From just before sunrise to full daylight and from late afternoon until near-dark are the best times to see critters. That's when they do most of their moving around.

Learning to walk quietly when doing walking-hunting is important. I've trained myself to glance down to figure where my next three or four steps will go to avoid breaking sticks or stepping on rolling rocks. While I take those steps, I look out and around.

Avoid a marching rhythm. Animals might trot a ways, but when feeding or stalking they don't march like people on a sidewalk. Pause after three or four quiet steps and then go on.

Find a spot from which you can watch a fair-sized area, particularly above low areas of vegetation or water. Sit still and imitate a rock or stump. Animals notice motion. Generally, position yourself such that you are looking into the wind or crosswind. Be on the east side at sunup; the west side at sundown. (If possible.)

You don't need a gun for this learning process (nothing wrong, of course, with having one along) but a pair of decent binoculars around 7X or 8X and 30mm lenses are very good to have.

March 4, 2012, 10:13 PM
You're beginning your hunting experience in a GOOD PLACE (Arizona). I can't help as I hunt in Wisconsin which is a total different way. But the suggestions about finding an experienced friend to help is the way to go. I don't know how old you are but you might have to take a hunter's safety class. Us really old guys didn't have to. And as was already said, whether you get anything or not the experience of just being in the great outdoors is the real reward of hunting. Any game harvested is just the icing on the cake.

March 5, 2012, 07:53 AM
You will have to take a Hunter Safety course before you can obtain your hunting licence. That will give you the basics on handling firearms. The next thing that you will want to do is go to the library and do some reading. Especially on your intended game. You should now have a rudimentary knowledge and it is time to find a mentor and start hunting with him/them. A lot of times you can find a mentor out on the firing range. He is usually the "old fart" down by the end.
Avoid the young and party types. They are usually more trouble than they are worth. I would also check at work to see if anyone there hunts.

I wish to welcome you to the realm of hunting. It is a wonderful and rewarding sport.

March 7, 2012, 11:18 PM
As stated, see if you can find a mentor.

There are things you can do on your own.

Go out to just watch, observe and study nature. Watch how the animals act, react and socialize. Notice the body language when they are at ease and when they have been alerted to something.

Work on being able to walk quietly (not dragging your feet).

Work on being able to sit still with no quick movements.

Work on being able to be quite while sitting (no clearing throat, coughing, etc.).

March 8, 2012, 06:46 PM
You will have to take a Hunter Safety course before you can obtain your hunting licence. That will give you the basics on handling firearms.

I thought I was going to have to take one. But I'm old enough that I didn't have to. In WA people born before 1972 can skip it.

The OP is in Arizona, which has hunter safety courses, but they are optional unless you are a kid.

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot
March 8, 2012, 11:38 PM
AZmark, Good for ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As said, get a mentor if possible, as it adds to the fun - GREATLY -, not even counting the help which at times is needed plus the safety factor.

Be'in an Ol'Coot, I just took up the 45/70 and hunting with my own cast boolits during the 2010 season and have to date 3 deer and one elk with that combination.

REAL kick, no pun intended, hunt'in with a cartridge which came out in 1873 and using my own boolits besides, and I'll be 69 before the next season rolls round.

After years of hunting with my own hand loads, figured this was about the last thing I could do for myself in the way of producing my own hunting ammo.

Highly effective I might add, in fact AWESOME!

Keep em coming!

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot

March 9, 2012, 09:26 AM
I started hunting four years ago at 23.
I have two mentors. One is sort of a "good ol' boy" and one is a Biology instructor at a university, and they take totally different approaches to hunting. Both have a lot of knowledge though. I have sucked up as much of it as I can.
This last year was the first time I went deer hunting and felt like I made same decent decisions on my own.

I started with squirrel hunting. I enjoy eating squirrel though(you should try it if you have not). The main problem with it is it is so small there is hardly any meat.

Spend as much time as you can tracking out of season. Big animals follow predictable patterns(although they get a little turned around here in gun season). If you know what they are doing a month before season they will likely do that until they get shot at once or twice during season. If there is a well worn game path chances are good one or more animals pass on it DAILY. you stay out there quiet all day, chances are they will pass by. I have had better luck in the two day and less hunted Ohio bonus gun and muzzle loader seasons than the 7 day gun. There may be a similar effect in Arizona.

IT is going to be boring. Don't be afraid to fall asleep, especially if you do not snore. One of my correct decisions this year was to fall asleep. I was more quiet than when awake and the I woke up easily when the buck I shot was approaching.

Be patient. don't move or shoot when the animal is far away. This year I sat as the buck and doe approached from thirty yards, where they were when I woke up, without moving until they got to 10. At ten i shouldered my rifle quickly and fired. Had i tried to slowly shoulder my rifle as they approached they surely would have seen me.

March 9, 2012, 10:34 PM
IMO You'll do just fine if you have time to spend out Yonder The more time the better. You'll learn the does & donts pretty quick.Just depends on how much it bothers you commin home empty handed. My time in the country is just that My TIME !!! GOOD OR BAD. good luck.

March 10, 2012, 06:53 PM
I try not to sleep... :D I'm so deaf you could put railroad tracks next to my blind and run a train on them and I'd never wake. And I also snore. That whole combination probably would actually draw all the deer in the woods to me to see what was going on!!! :confused:

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot
March 10, 2012, 07:10 PM
Nothing like a good nap in the hills!!!!!!!

Been there and done that a number of times.

One time on the top of a bare rocky ridge. Talking November here.

Another, got to my jump off point a bit early and zipped everything up and had a great nap in the bottom of the draw while waiting for hunting light.

Yes!!!!!!!! to naps in the woods, deaf or not!


March 11, 2012, 07:31 PM
Find a local sportsmen/gun club and let it be known of your intentions. You will find someone that will let you 'tag along'. May have to buy some gas and lunch. Wont learn everything but it will be a start.

22 rifle if you dont own one would be a good place to start for small game.

March 12, 2012, 01:52 PM
"Hunting Clubs" are hit or miss around me. Some are shooting clubs, some drinking, some private limited access, some trap, some 4 wheeling, etc. Got to get the right one if you go that route. Archery club might be a good place to start. Around here almost all achery club members are deer hunters.

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot
March 12, 2012, 02:18 PM

The mentor direction is still a good one. Spend enough time at any local sporting goods retailers and you are likely to find some folk glad to help.

Just watch out for the ones who blow smoke in great clouds. They may think they know, but just being with them is more then I can deal with even if they might know anything.

A little goes a long LONG ways when the color is blue and it comes in great clouds!

A boozer that happens to blow smoke is double bad!!!!!!! Stear clear!

Keep em coming!

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot

March 12, 2012, 03:53 PM
Find a mentor as everyone has said. If no one is available, go as often as you can by yourself. Don't make it so much about the harvest but more about observation and understanding the habits of the animals you want to hunt. Learn the quarry and how it behaves during different weather conditions, during wind, mating seaons etc.

I like the book/farming analogy, its a good one. The biggest thing is not to get discouraged, make mistakes and learn from them, they'll be the best teachers you can have. Deer are weary creatures when you seem to be hunting them and it may take some time to take one.

Good luck.