Learn to Hunt - My Path to Hunting
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
I was introduced to hunting by my Grandfather at 10 years old. My mother had not hunted since she was a child. My father went deer hunting once, and he was caught in a blizzard and never hunted again. My grandpa and uncles were the only active hunters in the family. When my brother and I started to express an interest in hunting it fell to my grandpa to take us to a hunters education course to start our journey.
My brother and I both passed the hunter education course and that Christmas we received our first firearms. Now the proud owners of a new 20ga Mossberg 500, it once again fell to my grandpa to teach us how to use them responsibly. A week or so after Christmas we found ourselves busting clays in a farm field. We learned the fundamentals of shotgun shooting and manipulation that day. Once we finished shooting clays we took our guns home and were taught how to clean and oil our guns. While cleaning our firearms we started to discuss actually going hunting.
It was January or February which meant most hunting seasons were closed. With limited options, we decided our first hunt would be for rabbits. I couldn't tell you if we hunted public or private land but I can picture the area as if I had been there yesterday. Since we did not have any rabbit dogs in the family, my grandpa enlisted one of his hunting buddies to help him flush rabbits.
The lessons began before the hunt even started. My brother and I being nervous and excited had managed to forget how to load shells into the magazine tube. We had somehow got it into our heads that you loaded one in the chamber and then rack the shotgun to move it down into the magazine tube. So my grandpa and his buddy are chatting at the front of the car while my brother and I are chucking shells out of our guns and into the mud. The look on my grandpa's friend's face when he looked back and saw two clowns flinging shells everywhere was priceless. We both were scolded and shown how to load the shells into the shotgun properly. On this hunt we would end up seeing two rabbits, both would provide lessons.
I had the first crack at bagging a bunny. I was walking up a gravel path towards some railroad tracks when the rabbit was spooked out of a log pile. As the rabbit hit the path and headed straight for the tracks I pulled up but never shot. During our hunter education course, one lesson that stuck with me was the danger of ricochets. I would have had to shoot at the railroad tracks to hit that rabbit. I was probably being over cautious but after explaining to gramps why I didn't shoot he told me I had done the right thing. He told me safety is always more important than a bagged animal. I would be taught this lesson several more times throughout my hunting adventures.
My brother would get his chance when the second rabbit appeared. He shot and wounded the bunny which crawled into some tall grass off the path he was walking. What gramps said next would be interpreted differently than he expected. He yelled, "Finish him before you lose him". To my grandpa, this meant go pick up the rabbit and wring its neck. My brother being on his first hunt thought that meant walk up to the rabbit and shoot it again from two feet away. Needless to say, we did not get much meat from that rabbit. My grandfather learned to more specific with his directions when dealing with new hunters and my brother learned that shooting small game up close left very little to be harvested.
This hunt taught us that experience was the ultimate teacher. Watching videos, reading articles, or listening to podcasts can teach you to a point but nothing can replace personal experience. The memories we create seem to be more deeply ingrained when we are the ones making the stories. Research before you embark on a new adventure is both responsible and educational, but nothing can replace going out and making the memories yourself.
What are some of your first hunting memories and experiences? Comment below.