Learning How To Hunt: The Basics

Learning how to hunt might be one of the more challenging outdoor activities or sports to get into if you don’t have someone helping you learn. As a boy, I never went hunting–my dad didn’t hunt, and I lived in a state that wasn’t too gun-friendly. 

After I moved out west, I became interested in hunting but didn’t know where to start. I didn’t even know what was legally required to hunt. So I started reading and reading and reading. I started asking around to find people who could give me information–people at work, people at gun stores, and anywhere else I could get information. The Department of Fish and Game is a great place to start. It took me three years to get out hunting, and I’m hoping I can harvest my first animal this fall. So what have I learned?

Learning How To Hunt Elk

Learning How To Hunt: Steps You Should Take

Well, first is that you need to know that to have the ability to hunt, you need to start now. Permits go on sale for the fall very early, so even though the hunting season for the biggest game is in the fall, you need to start now also to be able to hunt. Understanding the terminology is helpful as you learn about hunting and prepare to go. You’ll need to be able to talk with other people and know what they say as well as the understanding you. 

In order to hunt, you need a few things–first is a hunter education certificate. In Utah, you have to take a hunting class one time in your life, after which you will get a certificate that will allow you to get a hunting license. The hunting license is a yearly license that gives you the legal authority to hunt. But it does not give you the ability to hunt whatever you want. For most animals, you need a permit to shoot them. 

For example, big game (deer, elk, moose, sheep, etc.) requires you to get a specific permit for the animal you are going to hunt. The permit will be restricted to a particular time-frame and specific area or boundary that you have to stay within in addition to one specific weapon that you can use. Permits also are restricted to the sex of the animal and often the age of the animal. 

So to summarize, you will take a hunter class once in your life, get a hunter license every year, and get a permit for an animal (including age and sex) to hunt in a specific time-frame and specific area with a specific weapon. And these permits and licenses may differ if you are a non-resident vs. a resident.


In order to get a permit, depending on the animal, you need to apply for a license or tag. Some permits you can buy “over the counter” but others you have to apply for in the draw. This process varies state by state, but the idea is similar to a lottery. You put in a list of permits that you would like to get, and they have a lottery pick to determine what you get (if anything). 

Usually, you build up points when you do not draw your top picks, which is supposed to give you a better chance the next year to receive the permit(s) of your choice. Some animals may take 3-5 years or more to obtain a permit. 

Some animals are considered a “once-in-a-lifetime,” which means that you can only receive that tag one time in your life.

Now, if that’s not confusing enough, you still have to learn how to shoot the animal and harvest it properly. There is tons of information available, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do the real thing justice in learning how to shoot and harvest an animal properly. 

Buy the gear you need and Practice

We’ll assume that you are competent at shooting a rifle (or whatever your weapon of choice is). However, there are still variances between shooting a standing target with bench support than shooting a moving animal and varying distances from the ground. So practice shooting different distances from different positions as much as you can.

From there, there are a lot of resources you can use, but youtube videos are a big help, and some useful reading resources are this Deer Hunting Secrets e-book. Take a lot of notes as you read through various things. Make a list of things you need and then a shopping list of things you need and don’t have. 

Write up an “itinerary” where you outline what you are planning on doing and what you do if you get into various circumstances. Most likely, you won’t have any reception or the ability to get more information in the field, so you’ll have to have whatever you need with you. This brings up one additional point–you need to be in shape. 

Don’t expect to get to the deer (unless you have 4-wheelers or horses) on your own without hiking. So start getting in shape now!

Take Time to Slow Down

Getting into hunting can be tricky–you have a lot to learn if you aren’t familiar with how it works. The last piece of advice is to find a friend that can go with you. Take them out to lunch or dinner and pick their brain, and see if they can/will go with you. 

Or find a friend that will let you go with them (even if you don’t hunt) to gain the experience. Even better, if they have the equipment, you can borrow to help make your hunting experience a little easier. It’s a thrilling experience, but it isn’t effortless to learn all on your own.

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