Preparing for my first hunt…ever.

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Let me start by saying, I have never hunted anything in my life. It was not ever something I thought about doing. I grew up in the country. Had friends who hunted and was even a recipient of their bounties, but never considered doing it myself.

For most of my life, I’ve been a tom-boy. I love sports, being active, seeing how far I can push myself. In 2021, while most of the world was trying to navigate the pandemic, I decided to take up some new hobbies. These included getting my pistol permit, taking handgun and trauma management courses at Sig Sauer, and learning how to shoot a compound bow. I wanted to become a more prepared person.

As I started to dive into this new world of shooting sports, I began to look at the different applications for each sport. I started to pay closer attention to when people would post their hunting adventures. One day without thinking, I commented on a post one of my friends posted of a recent hunt, asking them if I could join them on their next hunt. Luckily they responded with a positive, anytime! This was just before Christmas. Soon after we were making plans for a big hunt in New Mexico in September.

The preparations so far

Hoping to obtain a tag…

First and foremost I had to apply to the Elk lottery in NM for bow hunting. Hunting tags are limited in New Mexico. Most of them are available through a lottery. The tags are expensive. People who live out of state have a slim chance of even drawing a tag. The majority of the tags are pulled for NM state residents. After that, preference goes to outfitters and hunting guides. I don’t have high hopes that I’ll pull a tag. However, there is a good chance that my friend, who is organizing the hunt will since he’s a resident. Although I may not be able to actually hunt on the trip, I do still plan on going and observing.

Bow-hunting for beginners

I’m having to prepare myself in a number of ways. Mentally and physically. Having never hunted, anything in my life, I need to train my brain to be ok with hunting and shooting an animal. The best way to do that, for me was to take bow-hunting lessons. I went to Northhill Outdoors, an archery center near me. I spoke with Leif, who is super knowledgeable about all things bow and where I purchased mine. We set up a training plan. Leif started me on basic targets so that we could zero in my bow and work on my accuracy. Then we moved to a 1/3rd size replica target of an elk so that I could practice shot placement for an ethical kill. Then for some extra practice, I signed up for a weekly techno-hunt league.

Techno-hunt is a 2D larger-than-life simulator, similar to a golf simulator, except you switch out your arrow tips with flat rounded tips. The simulator runs you through 30 different scenes. Each scene presents you with a different animal to shoot, your goal is to hit vitals or a bulls-eye every time for an ethical kill. This is such a challenge for me since I’m still learning where to hit certain animals. However, this is fantastic training because it shows you how animals move in their environments. What they do when they get spooked and how much of a window you really get when hunting.

Other training

Hunting out west is so different from hunting on the east coast where I live. Here in the Northeast, it’s a lot of watching migratory patterns and setting up a position where you sit and wait for your target to come across your path. Out west, you go on what’s called a stalk. That means you could be hiking for miles over rough terrain to find your quarry. This also means you might be in for some rough camping on the side of a hill if you can’t get back to camp. This means I have to get comfortable with camping and start hiking again.

I’m the first to admit, I am not a good camper. I don’t mind the setting up of camp and starting a fire, cooking over the fire…all good and enjoyable. Then you have to sleep. I never sleep well when I’ve been camping. I always wake up freezing or achy from not sleeping in a proper bed. So, I’ve planned a couple of camping trips, short jaunts, to figure out how I’m going to deal with the sleeping and the bathroom aspects. We’ll be out on the hunt for as little as a few days to just about two weeks and I don’t want to be the weak link.

That leads to my other additional training. Last year I started trail running, and love it. So along with trail running 3x a week, I’ve started hiking once a week to start to build my endurance. I’ll begin to increase the frequency and distance as the sessions start to get easier.

The gear

As a newbie to this sport, I have to get everything. I didn’t have a stitch of hunting gear until two months ago and there’s still a laundry list of items I need to get. First was the outfit. I was able to get a last season jacket and pant set from Bass Pro Shop for a discount. However, once I found out the hunt could run for close to two weeks, I knew I would have to buy at least one more hunting outfit. So I’m still on the lookout for that. Here’s a list of the other things I have yet to get before September and their relative costs.

Sturdy hiking boots for hunting ($75 – $200)

Range finders/Binoculars ($150-$300)

A hunting pack – with a bow carry and compartment to pack meat out ($250 – $500)

A second outfit for hunting ($150 – $600)

Bow case (if I choose to fly out) ($60 – $200)

Broadheads (bow tips which are used for hunting) ($40 for a set of 3 to 6)

Drop rest ($80 -$130)

Quiver for extra arrows ($25 – $40)

This is just a short list of necessities and then we’re talking about all the other things you need for camping. I’m glad I have all this time to slowly acquire all these items.

What I hope to gain from this adventure

For me, just going and observing the hunt will be so valuable. I don’t know if I could take the life of an animal, but being able to see the process, participate in the harvesting and carry out the meat will give me a good idea of what I’m capable of. I want to know if I will be able to provide an alternate source of food if needed.

This will also increase my physical and mental fitness. Being out in the elements for close to two weeks with only what we carry will be a test of my endurance and mental fortitude. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Is it an expensive experience? Yes. Will it be worth it? Yes. No matter what the experience of trying something new and pushing the limits of your comfort zone is well worth it. So stay tuned. I’m going to run this as a series and take you along the adventure of trying something completely new. Do you have any tips for me? What are some of your recommendations for gear? What is some advice about hunting that you got that you find invaluable? Let me know in the comments. Until next time.

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