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What should I hunt? How should I start?

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What should I hunt? How should I start?

Old 11-22-2020, 08:11 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2020
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Default What should I hunt? How should I start?

I'm getting back into hunting after hunting a little bit when I was a kid. I am trying to decide how to go about it. I'll describe what I am looking for and maybe someone can point me in the right direction. First guns. I have inherited a 22 cal, a 30-06 and a 12 gauge shotgun, and a good hunting airgun. Perfectly willing to buy another gun (looking at 6.5 Creedmoor). To me, hunting is about walking and stalking not sitting and waiting. Just what my Dad did, and I like to hike, move and see country. I want something akin to a wilderness experience. Want to get away from people and spend some time alone in the wild. Want to be in beautiful surroundings, probably Western US. I like mountains and also the desert country. Willing to backpack and sleep in a tent if need be. Deer sized game seems like something of interest, so whitetails, mule deer, antelope seem like attractive game. Elk probably too big and I gather you just don't go Elk hunting cluelessly or easily. But from what I hear, Elk country seems to be the ideal terrain I'm looking for. Just starting to learn about the tag system. Seems complicated. Not interested in trophies or pictures. Just want to (re)-experience hunting. Don't want to shoot anything that is too easy. Want to eat what I kill. I live in Massachusetts but can travel anywhere in the US. Not looking to spend crazy money (as in several thousand per hunt). Some obvious places to start, I guess, would be local whitetails since I can find them within driving distance and it seems they are plentiful. Perhaps turkey with either shotgun or airgun. Gotta wait another month or so to actually get license to use firearms. A Mass thing. Hope I don't miss this season. Also thinking of small game just to get the hang of hunting; i.e. squirrel, rabbit, hare etc. Not sure If I'd enjoy bird hunting but maybe. Eventually want to teach the kids after I get up to speed. Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-22-2020, 08:50 PM
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Location: Northern California
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Welcome back. It looks like you're well covered for guns for almost any kind of hunting you want to do. I'm guessing that your "22" is a .22 LR rimfire gun. Since you have to wait a month for your license, you're probably too late for most of the hunting seasons in your state aside from small game, waterfowl and predators. Members will be glad to offer you advice but it would help if you had some idea of what you want to hunt. Most hunters tend to hunt locally in their own state due to cost constraints and sometimes time or vacation limitations, family commitments, etc.

Aside from obtaining your hunting license, you should attend (possibly a mandatory requirement in your state) a Hunter Safety/Education class. Such a class tends to cover safety and laws that you will need to know for your state. It's also a place where you might network some with other hunters and learn more about hunting opportunities in your state. In addition to taking this class, study your state's Game Commission website so you know the laws, seasons, methods of take, etc. There will be some overlap with Hunter Safety. Also, don't hesitate to contact a warden or wildlife biologist to find out about more opportunities. You can also check out local gun shows and hunting shows to find out about more hunting opportunities and meet more people. The same with local gun ranges, hunt clubs, etc. And don't hesitate to do some internet searches.

People are all over the map on what they prefer to hunt. Bear in mind that just about any hunting can end up being expensive. Some guys/gals hunt just waterfowl. Others join pheasant hunting clubs where they buy birds that are released in rice fields, etc. to hunt with a dog. Some people do upland bird hunting like quail, grouse and/or turkeys. Some people hunt varmints like ground squirrels, marmots, etc. Others hunt predators like coyotes, bobcats, fox, etc. Some people hunt big game which can include deer, black bear, elk, moose, grizzlies, brown bears, caribou, etc. Most states have some type of deer hunting and often black bear hunting so you find lots to do in the Fall. In some states, deer seasons can last until December or even January.

Some states allow air guns for hunting turkey and small game. Others do not. Some states require a shotgun or straight wall cartridge for hunting deer, etc. Others do not. Most states have a separate archery season for big game that usually starts before the gun season so you get first crack at the animals. Most people only hunt within their own state. It may sound limiting but it's not. Lots of seasons overlap so you end up triaging your hunting time.

For instance, Mass has a lot of hunting seasons to keep you busy.

Attached Thumbnails What should I hunt? How should I start?-mass-hunting-seasons.pdf  
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Old 11-22-2020, 09:30 PM
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Thanks. Yeah .22 cal rimfire rifle. I've taken the Basic Hunting Course as well as the Mass LTC course. I'll probably start with some small game hunting if I can get going by Jan just to get out in the woods and get some experience. Then probably on to whitetails. Looks like some states like Alabama have a Feb whitetail season. Maybe not too late for that. But I'm most interested about hunting out West. Maybe mule deer or antelope. Not sure if I'll like shooting my Dad's 30-06 but I'll give it a try. It's the Remington 760 Gamemaster, pump-action rifle. A bit of an oddity I suppose.
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Old 11-22-2020, 10:38 PM
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I wouldn't sell your 06 short. We used to have a member (he passed away) who hunted everything with 30-06. He used to hunt antelope in Wyoming every year for almost 20 years and only used his 30-06. As part of your preparation for hunting big game, you should take your 30-06 out to the range and experiment with different bullets at different ranges. If you go to the top of this forum (Big Game Hunting), you'll find a sticky topic titled "Wyoming Antelope." Scroll down to the last 2 posts from Big Uncle and Bocajnala (one of the mods). I've included a link below to big Uncle's post and his field notes from several years of hunting antelope in Wyoming. Big Uncle said his average shot was very close to 200 yards. Jake (Bocajnala) said his long shot was 267 yards. In Jake's opinion, he thought an antelope hunter should be prepared to shoot up to 300 yards.

Your 30-06 rifle is capable of making shots like that. If you practice and get good at shooting at those ranges. Depending on where you zero your rifle (say 150 yards+), you're going to shoot 1-2" low at 200 yards and 8-9" low at 300 yards. You would still have over a ton of energy at both ranges and enough speed to reliably open just about any bullet you choose. You're going to want to buy points in Wyoming but with only a point or 2, your chances for getting a good tag improve quite a bit. That would give you a couple years to hone your hunting skills, get proficient at shooting your 06 up to 300 yards and save for your hunt. Keep asking questions and some of the guys who've hunted antelope will come along to answer them. In the meantime good luck.

Wyoming antelope
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Old 11-23-2020, 06:28 AM
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Hello and welcome. Good to see more people getting involved (or back into) hunting. Some good practice for the still hunting you describe in your area is to get you .22 LR and still hunt squirrels. Not big game but just as wary if not more so.
As far as the western hunts, antelope are fairly easy and you don't have to experience any back country to do so. Of course you can in some areas. Mule deer or sheep, if you can get a tag, are good choices for hunting the back country. If you're by yourself, elk would be a tough one. Not so much the hunt but getting it back out if your successful. Actually on any back country hunt I would not want to hunt without a partner for safety reasons.
Do all the research you can on the states you want to hunt and get maps of the public land available. This would include CRP land, State Game Lands, State and National Forest land, etc. You can also look into large ranches that give hunters access either at no charge or for a minimal user fee.
Good luck.
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Old 11-24-2020, 01:03 PM
Nontypical Buck
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Location: Central VT/Big Horn WY
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Welcome and congrats on rekindling the flame. Your weapons seem like they will work just fine. Some suggestions on future hunting opportunities may be Wyoming Antelope and Ohio whitetails to start with. I mention both of these because the animals are plentiful and there is a lot of public land to hunt. Tags can be easy to draw. Since you are in MA, don’t forget about NH and Maine for whitetails and black bear.

Best of luck.
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Old 11-27-2020, 06:25 AM
Typical Buck
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: NE Kansas
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a 22 cal, a 30-06 and a 12 gauge shotgun, and a good hunting airgun.
You're good to go here. Be aware that ammo is in short supply, particularly .22LR. Snag some if you see it. You're probably ok to find 30-06 and 12 ga., though I saw our local wal-mart was out of 30-06 and the LGS said they've had to ration 30-06 ammo for the firs time ever. Shotgun shells looked available.

You could put the Creedmoor off for the moment unless you really want one. A muzzleloader would probably get you more deer hunting time. Also, check the scope on the 30-06 if it has one. A good scope is far more important.

Is that 12 ga. chambered for 3 inch shells? That's fairly standard for turkeys, and would be far more useful to your potential plans than a 6.5 Creedmoor when your 30-06 will do practically everything.

You could also consider sinking that money into needed accessories. e.g. a good knife, warm clothes, good boots, blaze orange, etc. Turkeys are going to require a call, maybe a blind, etc.

Also thinking of small game just to get the hang of hunting; i.e. squirrel, rabbit, hare etc. Not sure If I'd enjoy bird hunting but maybe. Eventually want to teach the kids after I get up to speed. Thanks in advance.
Could I suggest this as a strategy: Focus on small game and deer for the next season you can get out, maybe throw turkeys in. The point is to see what you like to hunt.

Squirrels are wonderful for deer hunters. They live in the same terrain as deer and they can be hunted with the same techniques. You can walk and stalk through the woods with that .22lr the same way you would go at with the 30-06 and a deer. Do remember to go slow, though. A hundred yards in an hour is plenty fast. Definitely no faster than that for deer.

Plan an elk trip down the road. Elk are serious business and there's no way you can do it without some expense if you are an out-of-stater. I looked at Colorado once, which I understand is the only state that sells elk tags over-the-counter. A tag for a bull would have run $500 for an out-of-stater. Figure travel expenses and so on and you're into serious money even if you can plan a DIY hunt.

Guys do DIY hunts, but it takes a lot of advance work to find an area, secure tags, etc. You'd want to be calling conservation officers months in advance of when tag applications are due to find a place with elk.

You're talking about doing it alone and that raises some serious concerns. Hunting alone in the wilderness is frequently cited as dangerous. At the very least, you'd want to be a master with a map and compass, be competent in survival skills, and be sure that people know when to expect you to check in. A sprained ankle can kill you if you are alone in the wilderness, and that's why a buddy is always recommended.

You're actually close to one of the most challenging kinds of hunting there is and it would get you into a more wild experience. If you got a hunting trip arranged in Maine or maybe New York or Pennsylvania, it gets very challenging. Deer are low density in the sprawls of the big woods and that makes it difficult. The truth is, hunting any trophy buck anywhere is not going to be easy. They get to be trophies by eluding hunters. Think of a trophy buck as something like a sports team that hasn't lost a game in five straight seasons. Shooting a lead doe in a herd is no easy feat, either.
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Old 11-27-2020, 09:06 AM
Fork Horn
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 242

Welcome, congratulations on getting back into hunting.

If I were you, I would see what is in your area you can hunt. Learn the Regulations, Get the appropriate licensing, then maybe find someone to “train” you on hunting a specific animal.

For example, I was a self taught turkey hunter in North Idaho. I Learned to hunt deer with some help from friends. I actually took my first deer in North Idaho.

Then I moved to South Idaho. I needed to adapt my hunting skills. I met a guy who became my friend and a mentor for waterfowl hunting. He taught me all the ropes, and I am still learning from him. I also learned how to hunt black bear thanks to the advice people here and old friends gave me. I actually took my first black bear last September!

So, from my experience, my advice to you would be to find a mentor who can help you learn to hunt a specific animal. We are all glad to help you get started with advice, though!

I primarily hunt duck and goose, but I also hunt deer and black bear. I have experience with turkey also. If any of these interest you, and you can hunt them where you are, I would be more than happy to give you advice.

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Old 12-01-2020, 08:38 AM
Nontypical Buck
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,354

I grew up in MA, moved to NH for 25 years, now in WY.

between 12 gauge and .30-06 you are 100% covered for everything in the lower 48 with the possible exception of grizzly. I hunt everything around with a 20 gauge and .30-06 from small game to turkey to waterfowl to deer/antelope/elk.

In MA and southern NH, for deer you are stuck with the shotgun, so what type of barrel do you have rifled barrel or smooth bore? Smooth bore you want rifled slugs for accuracy. Ideally for turkey it takes 3 inch (the more pellets the better on them guys).

For "out west" pronghorn is the easiest "starter", they are everywhere and pretty easy and relaxing hunt. Elk are the pinnacle of western hunting (IMO) but also the hardest to find and deal with once they hit the ground.

Depending on where you are in MA it will be easy or hard to find places to hunt. I grew up in South eastern MA, literally every place I bird hunted, every day after school, is now houses. Further west in MA probably the better.
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