When you happen to be interested in something thrilling to do, one of the neatest hobbies these days, as long as you are not frightened of firearms, is hunting game.
During hunting season, I don't go a week without a reader emailing me asking some variant of this question: "I want to learn to hunt, or at least see if I want to, but I haven't the faintest idea how even to start. Can you help?"
But hunting season, which in America is, for the most part, late summer through late winter, is precisely the wrong time to get started. If you want to hunt in 2010, you need to get started now.
I am sorry if you are reading this outside the United States, because I have no idea how to get started hunting in other countries. But if you live in America, let me try to walk you through the process.
Keep in mind this is a primer, and I will undoubtedly forget some key points — feel free to ask any and all questions I have not addressed, and you hunters out there, chime in with stuff I am forgetting.
This is the primary reason I am writing this now. In most states, before you can legally hunt, you must earn a Hunter Education (also called Hunter Safety) certificate. This is what allows you to buy a hunting license in your state — and your hunter ed certification should be valid in all 50 states. A hunter ed certificate (usually just a sticker) is the gateway to the hunting world. Once you are certified, you can go anywhere, buy a local license, and start hunting.
Different states have different rules. The International Hunter Education Association keeps state-by-state lists of requirements.
Now not all states require the certificate. I did not have to take a course when I first started hunting in Minnesota. But, when I wanted to hunt in Wyoming, I did need the certificate — even though I was a licensed hunter in California. Bottom line: Better to get certified.
An even better reason to take the course is because if you have never hunted before, did not grow up around guns, and don't know basic woodsmanship, this course should fill in a lot of blanks. I learned a ton just by taking the IHEA's online course, which will get you most of the way toward being certified. It takes about an hour to complete.