Learning to hunt as an adult can be difficult. While you need and want mentors, you have to take ownership over your learning in a way that you didn’t need to when you were 10. Oftentimes, it feels like you are teaching yourself how to hunt. In many ways you are because you need to make sense of things with your adult brain and your adult relationships.
Two years ago, my friend Sarah and I decided to teach ourselves how to hunt antelope. We’d both hunted and killed deer before, but we really had no idea how to nab a speed goat. That first year, we engaged in behavior that would have frustrated many people in my life to no end. We sat on the side of the road for 15 minutes strategizing our approach. We hemmed. We hawed. We debriefed for hours. We came home empty handed.
After our second year out, here are some things I’ve learned about teaching myself to hunt:
- It’s hard to find the time. Really hard. Work, family, and other things in life get in the way. We put in for area 700 and decided to hunt the Brodaus/Alzeda triangle. It’s 7 hours away, and our hunting trip was seriously shortened by the travel distance. You don’t have to be crazy like us, but, if you’re in Missoula, you’ll need to do some traveling if you want to hunt with a rifle. Take a day if you can, but if you have four hours, take four hours. You don’t have to commit to a week. Commit to what you can.
- Experienced hunters can tell you the same thing in a million different ways but it won’t make sense until it does. As a teacher, one of my favorite sayings is you can’t teach anybody anything, you can only create opportunities for learning. Opportunities for learning only happen in the field. Be smart and be safe, but get out there because you can’t learn how to hunt from a book.
- Experiential learning is best when you have someone to debrief with, strategize with, and laugh with. So, grab a buddy. It doesn’t matter if they know more, less or the same amount. What matters is that they support you the way you need and want to be supported. (It’s a bonus if they still think you’re funny after 3 days in a truck!)
- Call a friend. Sometimes, you just need to ask someone who knows. Find an experienced hunter who doesn’t mind if you call them at 7:00am with a question about the difference between BLM land and BMA land. Find someone who won’t laugh or get frustrated when you ask the same question for the tenth time as you struggle to make sense of it. Put that person’s number in your phone. (FYI, Alex and I will volunteer for that position!)
The cooler is still empty this year. We both had antelope in our scopes, which is more than we could say last year. For our own reasons, we decided not to pull the trigger. I could tell you why, but I’m not going to because hunting is a little bit like sex. If it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. If you don’t want to, you don’t want to. And you never have to offer an explanation.
We learned a lot this year. We had a lot of fun. And are excited to try again next season.