Getting Started

Once upon a time, Dave Campbell had to teach himself to hunt. Nowadays, though, he finds that there are plenty of introductory resources available to new hunters and shooters.

Like most geezers, I am convinced the world is generally going to hell in a hand basket. Unlike most geezers, though, I know there have been some real improvements regarding helping new hunters to get started. When I started hunting about the only resource a burgeoning hunter had was the typical Hunter Safety course, usually sponsored by the NRA. If, like me, you did not grow up in a hunting family you were pretty much on your own learning the ropes. It was tough.

We all recall our firsts, and my first real hunt with a gun in hand was a dove hunt on the Mojave Desert. I had asked around as to where a guy might find a dove hunting opportunity. Hunters were a pretty tight-lipped bunch at that time. They still are but not to the extent that they were 45 years ago. Finally, someone mumbled to me “Lancaster.” I drove by myself the 80 or so miles to Lancaster, Calif., in my ’57 Chevy pickup on September 1. My armament was an H&R Topper, 12-gauge single-shot and one box of Winchester AA Trap Loads. I found a line of trees where some other hunters were and worked my way into a position without crowding them.

I had virtually no experience shooting a shotgun and absolutely zero experience hunting dove. About all I could do was observe what the others were doing and try to do the same. A few doves flew down the tree line, and after running the gauntlet through the other hunters they passed me with their afterburners at 100 percent. Nonetheless, I shot at most anything I thought was in range. By the time I shot my last round from that one box of shells I had a grand total of two birds and a shoulder that resembled a Minnesota Vikings’ helmet—a beautiful shade of purple.

Today most areas where a lot of hunting occurs have some form of mentoring available, especially for young hunters. It may be underwritten by a local sportsman’s club, a church or even a local businessmen’s group. It’s probably still a little tough for an inner-city kid with no connections, like I was, to get into it but perhaps not with the proliferation of the Internet.

I think the loosening up of information regarding hunting is a result of the hammering we have taken from the non-hunting and often anti-gun demographic. We’ve learned to stand and work together to preserve our hunting heritage.

So if you have been hunting for several years, consider volunteering or starting up some form of hunter mentoring. I guarantee you it will provide you with a lot of pleasure. And if you are new to hunting, ask around. Likely some area near you has hunting opportunities, and they probably have some form of hunter mentoring available. Don’t do it the way I did. Learning on your own is a long and painful process.

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2 Responses to Getting Started

Lee Moats wrote:
September 13, 2013

extremely interesting and well written story :)

Phillip wrote:
September 13, 2013

Good points, Dave! Things are a lot different these days, and given the fairly large upsurge in late-bloomer hunters, folks coming to the sport as adults (in part driven by the 'locavore' food movement) there seem to be more resources than ever... especially around more urban/metropolitan areas. I was fortunate enough to grow up hunting, but even so, without the help of folks like you when I first moved to California, I'd have had a much longer uphill push to get back into the sport. I've tried to pay it forward with new folks too.