Melody lives in the Minnesota Big Woods with her husband and five children. She is a baker, archer, homesteader, and more. Her goal is to help people learn the old ways of working, making, and doing.
For this blog post, I wanted to go into a little bit of the nuances of hunting. In previous takeovers and posts I have spoken about why we hunt, both from a conservation standpoint and a personal standpoint, but I’ve said very little about how to actually go about hunting! After in informal poll of the Homestead Mama’s members on our Hunting and Foraging Marco Polo group (which you should join!), I decided a bit of hunting how-to is to be the topic of this month’s takeover.
I am not a “professional” hunter, but I have put quite a few animals on the ground and have had a lot of success in the past six years since I first took an animal with a rifle. Until that point, I had been casually along for hunts, but never been the hunter. Never held the weapon and pursued game. It wasn’t intimidating to me, I wasn’t scared to do it or worried if I could, I simply hadn’t tried it yet. My husband and I married young and started having kids right away, truth is it didn’t seem like I had time to hunt so I put it off every season saying “next year”. The words my mom would tell me every time I would complain about not having time for something would play through my head “you do whats important to you”. As the grocery bills continued to pile up (as the kids piled up too!) I realized that I could contribute and double our yearly deer in the freezer if I learned to hunt, and so I did. I made it important to me. After my first season, I was hooked, and now my husband barely has time to hunt between all of my hunting exploits! I hunt every season I can and spend every spare hour out in the woods, and I mean that completely literally! I do not go shopping in my spare time, not to the hairdresser or to get my nails done. If I have free time and there is an open hunting season, I go. This has become standard over the last few years and my kids think it is completely normal, which I love!
All of that to say that you too, mama, can find the time even if it is only one day a year and the rest of the year is spent practicing and building up knowledge for those fleeting moments. You will do what’s important to you!
I started studying what I thought was hunting, but turns out it was actually just shooting. I thought hunting was limited to being proficient with a weapon, and so I learned to do that to the best of my ability, and really I got to be a very good shot. Off to the woods I went! I remember my first day in the deer stand thinking hopefully that I would score a large buck. I did what all the other hunters in my party had done: I had some morning coffee, had hung my clothes around the fire the night before, I grabbed some hand warmers and made sure I wore blaze, and that was it. That was my preparation. I followed a map on my phone to a pin where I was told the deer stand was, but the pin wasn’t dead on accurate so I spent an extra half-hour fumbling in the darkness of early morning trying to find my tree. Once in the stand, I sat. I waited. And finally I thought: I know absolutely nothing about deer. This leads me to the first hunting how-to on my list!
1.) Know your prey. Study the animal you are hunting, not just how to kill them but how to pattern them. How do they sleep? Do they travel in groups? Are the habitual creatures? What is their field of vision like? What are their preferred foods? These are all questions that I had never thought about and I found myself regretting as I sat in that high deer stand looking around me realizing I had zero idea which direction to watch, zero idea about the habits of the animal I was “hunting”. This humbling experience of ignorance spurred me on to study the animals I hunt. I study them year round, I sit in the woods and listen for their noises, and I observe their behavior whenever possible
2.) Be proficient with your weapon. This one feels like it should go without saying, but I have hunted enough to hear plenty of stories of rifles that were’t sighted in before opening morning and the deer that consequently got away. I have heard still other stories of the wayward arrow or the rifle that wasn’t loaded and the deer spooked by the click of an empty gun. Reduce the chance for your own failure by practicing proficiency. Don’t accept a few accurate shots at a target and think you are ready to hunt! Make the practice as real as possible, elevate your heart rate with sprints to simulate the adrenaline of seeing an animal, practice from a sitting position as you would in a stand. Wear all the clothing you would when you hunt. Commit the movements as much to muscle memory as possible to ensure that there is little chance for failure. Words from my wise brother ring in my head as I practice: train so that your own failure is not the variable that costs you the animal.
3.) Go outside. This is one of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you. Get out there. Don’t rely on YouTube, blogs, or instagram to make you a great hunter: get out there for yourself! If you’re not yet ready to hunt, sit in the woods or walk trails and see if you can spot animal sign. Learn to tell the difference in fresh and aging tracks and become a proficient navigator in the wild.
4.) Research. Books, like real, physical, books are my favorite source of information. We live in an age of mass inundation of information, and not all of it has been properly vetted. Mr.Sponsored hunter may have great looking camouflage and sound good on his hunting commercial, but I personally prefer the good old fashion information that I can bring with me into the silence of the woods. This knowledge feels more time tested to me, and I try to find it as unbiased as possible. I remember reading through a website all about how deer are attracted to scent, and it went on elaborate on the importance of synthetic scent in the field and which scent to use for each situation. I realized part way through the article that it was sponsored by, you guessed it, a synthetic scent producer. Was this information really what I needed? I don’t think so. I have literally killed zero deer with the advice from that article!
There is so much more I would love to share with you, from my observations of deer vocalizations to my love of tracking, but that will have to be in a different post! I hope that these few simple how-to’s that I have learned throughout my faux pas in hunting will help you, even if just a little bit. If you’re like me, you don’t have hunting mentors and learning is pretty much left up to your trial and error. While this is a wonderful teacher in its own right, I would strongly encourage you to find a mentor. It could save you some trouble!
Go out and hunt, mama!