Big Vancouver Island Black Bear, Shad took with his bow
Shad and his dad with a giant Vancouver Island Black Bear

A Beginners Guide to Getting Started Hunting

Your heart is pounding, your chest is heaving and the blood is pounding like thunder in your ears as a huge smile breaks out on your face. You made it, you are standing on top of the world embracing the epic God created views laid out before you. Suddenly you hear it, a faint bugle off in the distance and the race is on to pursue a winters worth of fresh, organic meat.

Big bull moose wading through a river in Alaska
Alaska Yukon Moose

Honestly, there is so much more to hunting than the hunt or the harvest. Much of what hunting will mean to you, you will have to discover for yourself by getting out there and embracing those experiences.

For many of your reading this article, you may have grown up in the city or the suburbs or maybe you are simply from a family that wasn’t into hunting and now for whatever reason you are thinking you want to learn and explore and see if it is for you. Well, I am hoping I can help you get started, in fact I have had so many people contact me lately about getting started hunting, that I believe I am going to start a podcast with a substantial amount of it being focused on providing information, insight and resources to help those who want to become a hunter.

Currently, there are quite a few resources and programs for getting kids started hunting, there is even a growing number of programs specifically targeted at helping women get into hunting. But, I haven’t come across many resources to help those 25 and up get into hunting. My goal with this article is to give you some basic steps to get help you get started. I would ask any and all of you who humble me with reading this article to feel free and email with questions, or other topics you would like me to write or podcast about. You can email me

Hunting will take you to some truly special places

Well enough preamble, lets get you started on the path to a lifetime of hunting and perhaps a newfound appreciation for hunting and its role in conservation.

If you are still in the early stages of deciding if you want to hunt, I would encourage you to hop on Netflix and check out a series called Meat Eater, or jump on YouTube and check out any of the videos by Donnie Vincent (click here) or BonedOut Productions (click here). I believe all of these guys do an excellent job representing the spirit of hunting and what it means to be a hunter.

Getting Started:

First things first –  if you think you might want to start hunting, the first thing I would encourage you to do is to enroll in a hunter’s safety class. If at all possible do one of the actual physical classes, as not only will you learn some useful information and firearms safety, you will get the opportunity to meet some possible mentors in the way of the instructors and volunteers who put the class on.

If you don’t live in an area where this is possible or your schedule won’t allow it, don’t fret as these days you can do the majority of your class online. Once you complete your class you will still need to do the field safety day, but that is usually 4-6 hours on a Saturday. You can check out the online hunter’s safety courses here:

If you think you might want to become a bowhunter, I encourage you to take this course in addition to your hunter’s safety course:

What type of hunting are you interested in?

So now that you have completed your hunters safety classes, you need to decide how you want to hunt – rifle, archery, shotgun or muzzleloader. Secondly you need to explore what type of hunting you are interested in? Here in North America you have a lot of options as you can hunt big game like Moose, Elk and Deer, or you can hunt birds like Pheasant, Grouse, Quail and Chukar, or you can be a waterfowl guy and hunt ducks and geese or even all of the above, let alone fun options like bowfishing.

Depending on what type of hunting you want to start with, it will influence what gear you need to invest in.

The fun stuff – time to figure out what sort of weapon your want to hunt with. Depending on where you live it may be easier to take up one weapon over another. Most people start off hunting with a rifle, as it is one you can become fairly proficient with in a short amount of time, and can be a path to quicker success when it comes to harvesting an animal.

Great starter rifles to look at are Remington, Ruger, Winchester and Tikka. I would encourage you to look at a good all around caliber like a .270, 7mm or .30-06.

However,  if you like a challenge, or live in a big city it may be easier for you to find an archery range. So try to be realistic with your time when making this decision, as on average becoming proficient with a bow takes more time and practice, but it is an extremely rewarding way to hunt. Here are some links to some of the more well known bow manufacturers, with my personal preference being Bowtech. Click on the names to visit the website Bowtech Elite Archery Hoyt Mathews Archery

This is one of my favorite Bow’s on the market right now the Bowtech Realm SR6

Shooting Practice – Strive for Excellence!

Practice, Practice, Practice – it doesn’t matter if you are going to be a rifle hunter, a bow hunter or a shotgunner for upland bird and waterfowl. Once you choose your weapon, put the time and effort into becoming proficient with it. Feel free to email me if you would like to go into more detail on how to practice and gain proficiency for hunting.

Start networking – (Throughout this entire process you should be networking with those who can not only mentor you, but also try to meet other hunters who can help get you pointed in the right direction.)Figure out what you are interested in hunting be it deer, elk or any other species you are interested in. Then you need to learn about your options for hunting them depending on where you live and where you will need to travel to.

Guided Hunts – Fast Track to Learning!

If you have the budget one of the best ways to learn quickly and have near term success is to go on a guided hunt with an Outfitter. This is my main job, helping people just like you find the right Outfitter with the right hunt for YOU. If this is something you would like to find out more about feel free to give me a call 509-679-0225 and I will be glad to discuss my services and answer any questions you have about going on a guided hunt.

Find a mentor – talk to folks at your local gun or bow shop, let them know you are just getting into hunting and wanting to learn how to hunt and where to hunt.

Talk to wildlife biologists, game wardens and every hunter you meet and start learning about areas you can access that hold the particular animal you are interested in hunting.

Getting ready for your first hunt:

This is extremely important – Learn how to properly field dress your animals and care for the meat so it doesn’t go to waste. There are some great videos on YouTube to help you get started with this (Here is a great one from Randy Newberg click here to watch). You can also go talk to any local taxidermists or butcher shops in your area, as in my experience these guys/gals are more than happy to help you with this.

This is something that way too many new hunters overlook, and then when they do get an animal down, they have no idea what to do and some of the best meat on the planet ends up going to waste. Not to mention, you can actually get in trouble depending on the states wanton waste laws.

Packing out elk quarters
Here I am packing out elk quarters. Nothing tastes better than an animal you harvested and packed out yourself.

Part of hunting is to respect and utilize the animal you harvest. You want to be able to enjoy the meat of the animals you harvest, so make sure you know how to take care of it and then get it out of the field in a timely manner.

Hunting Gear and Tools of the Trade

Sample View of OnX Maps Mobile App

OnX Maps – your new best friend. If you will be hunting an area with cell service, you can get OnX Maps for your phone and it will help you not only keep track of where you are, but it will help you make sure you are where you are supposed to be so you don’t inadvertently trespass or wander into a closed area. If you plan on doing more backcountry type hunting where you won’t have cell service, I would encourage you to invest in a quality GPS and then get the OnX Maps Chip for your GPS. (click Here to check out OnX)

Gear, Gear and more Gear: Invest in quality hunting gear – Good quality hunting gear will make the difference between being cold, wet and miserable (or possibly dead) and being able to enjoy your hunt regardless of conditions. I offer a consulting service to help you put together the proper gear for you. Email to find out more.

Boots: Your feet are typically your most important tool in the field. Depending on the style of hunt you will be doing, make sure you invest in the best boots possible. You can click on any of the boot brands to visit their website (I personally recommend Kenetrek, Lathrop and Sons, Lowa, Crispi, or Hoffmans).

Socks – good quality merino wool socks and sock liners will keep your feet dry, comfortable and minimize the risk of hot spots and blisters. (Kuiu Kenetrek Smartwool Darn Tough)

Next get a good quality layering system – Kuiu, Sitka Gear and First Lite all make high quality products that perform well. If you need help with putting a system together consider talking to me about my consulting service.

Optics – Optics can make or break a hunt, especially if you will be hunting in the Western U.S. Alaska or Western Canada, so invest in the best binoculars you can, as they will help you find more game and be more successful as a hunter (unless you are strictly tree stand hunting) I personally use Vortex and Swarovski, but Leica and Zeiss make high quality optics as well. Vortex is a great option as they have a good variety of products ranging from economical up to some of the best glass in the world.

Backpacks – you need to be able to get gear in and out of the field as well as your meat. If you are going to be hunting out West invest in a good backpack, preferably one with an integrated load shelf so you can pack your meat out without wasting a trip. I use and fully recommend Stone Glacier Packs. Other solid packs are Exo, Mystery Ranch, Kuiu and Kifaru.

Knives – you need a good sharp knife or two when it comes time to breaking your animal down, plus you will never go wrong having a quality knife with you in the field. I typically carry a Havalon with replaceable blades and then one or two Buck Knives. I use the buck knives for popping joints as I can be rougher with them, then I use the Havalon for caping and quartering. If I was better at sharpening knives I would stick with just carrying a couple of Buck’s hunting knives.

Miscellaneous – First Aid Kit (Adventure Medical is a great place to start), Compass, water purifier or purification tablets ( has a good selection), protein bars, rain gear (Kuiu or Sitka Gear are expensive but worth it, Cabelas has a good variety of lower cost options) and game bags (I recommend synthetic bags like TAG Bags or Caribou Gear Bags.)

Time To Get Into the Wild & Go Hunt

Get into the wild – Once you decide where you want to hunt, spend as much time as you can out hiking, scouting and learning the area and the habits of the animals that live there. The more time you can spend in the field the better you will understand how the animals behave, where they like to go and what they like to do when they get pressured. The more you can learn about the habitat and the animals you want to hunt, the more you will understand them and why they do what they do.

Also, if you are getting into Elk, turkey or waterfowl hunting, start watching as many videos as you can on how to call these animals, as calling can be highly effective. The ElkNut app is a great one for elk calling and then the NWTF has a good app for turkey calling. Make sure to check out Phelps Game Calls as they are some of the best.

Learn your game laws!

Learn your state or provinces regulations – take the time to read and understand game regulations. If you are not sure on something, go to your nearest fish and game office and ask, as that is what they are there for. Part of being an ethical hunter is knowing the regulations so you don’t inadvertently break the law.

Enjoy the Hunt

Lastly – slow down and enjoy it. Hunting is about more than harvesting an animal. It is about getting unplugged, escaping the rat race and just enjoying God’s creation. So don’t put pressure on yourself, just enjoy the time you get in the Outdoors for what it is, skill and success will come.

If you are interested in learning more about getting started hunting, or are interested in booking a guided hunt feel free to contact me at or go over to my website and sign up for my newsletter

About the Author – Shad Wheeler is a seasoned hunting professional, he has professionally guided Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, California Bighorn Sheep, Marco Polo Sheep and Mid-Asian Ibex. He has hunted Africa, Asia and North America. Shad is the founder of Specialty Adventure Services – a full service Hunt Consulting and Booking Agency where he helps hunters find, book and experience some of the best hunts around the globe. He is married with 4 kids and a diehard bowhunter and currently holds the P&Y World Record Mountain Goat. Lear more about Specialty Adventure Services at

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