How Long Does It Take to Learn to Hunt?

old hunter with rifle sitting

Hunting is a great pastime that allows you to spend plenty of time outdoors and hopefully keep your freezer stocked with fresh meat to feed you and your family. Like any other hobby, it takes time to learn how to be a successful hunter.

There is no standard on how long it takes to learn how to hunt. The time it takes varies widely depending upon several factors, including the type of weapon you use and the game you hunt. Expect it to take at least five years to become proficient and to see consistent success.

You have to master various skills before you can expect to bag game on most of your hunting excursions.

Things You Must Do Before You Can Be a Skilled Hunter

It takes most people several years to cultivate the skills they need to be successful hunters. It helps to focus on one type of game while learning the ropes. Hunting for deer is different from hunting for rabbits, so it’s essential to understand various rules that apply to certain types of game.

You can’t expect to bag game the first time you go on a hunting excursion. While there is no set standard for becoming a skilled hunter, there are at least 3 things you need to do to get started.

Obtain a Hunting License

Regardless of which state you live in, you must obtain a hunting license from the Department of Natural Resources before you can hunt legally. There is a fine if you are caught hunting without a license.

Getting a hunting license is relatively easy; you only need to take a hunter’s education course and pass a quick exam to be eligible.

There are many courses available online to teach you about the safety rules and basics of hunting. You may complete a course in one sitting if you have enough time or break the course into smaller chunks. Some of the core topics you’ll study include:

  • Wildlife and habitat conservation
  • Field dressing of various types of animals
  • Hunting rules and regulations
  • Firearm safety
  • First aid
  • Shot placement
  • Ethics

Some states require you to pass a field test with an instructor on a hunting excursion. If you live in a state with this requirement, it will take you a bit longer to work through these logistics before obtaining your license.

Regardless of whether you take a field test or not, you must pass a written exam. Paying close attention to course materials and studying for a few days should prepare you to ace the test so you can apply for your license.

When you provide proof of course completion and the license fee, you will immediately receive your hunting license and be permitted to track game legally.

Hone Your Skill With a Weapon

Before going out on your first hunt, you’ll need to choose a weapon. You’ll hunt with either a bow or a firearm. It takes time and practice to become a proficient hunter with either weapon.

If a rifle is your hunting tool, you must spend time studying firearm safety and learning where to shoot the animal for a clean kill. You can learn these basic skills in as little as a day, but it takes much longer to make them regular habits.

You should also expect to practice at a shooting range frequently to hone your skills. In general, you should expect to practice for approximately six months before becoming an average shooter with a rifle.

It is harder to estimate the time it takes to become a skilled bow hunter.

You may be able to learn basic archery skills within a few weeks if you practice every day, but it takes much longer to learn how to hunt with a bow than with a rifle. Some people are naturally better at bow hunting and master the skill in just a few years, while others practice for a lifetime. It’s less about the use of a bow than it is about understanding how game animals behave. You need to know what to do in response to an animal’s movement so that you can get close enough to them to take a shot with a bow.

Learn About the Behavior of the Game You’re After

Hunter with his dog in the forest

One of the most crucial aspects of being a successful hunter is understanding the type of animal you are after. Each type of game has its own habits, so it’s important to spend time studying the animals you want to hunt.

There are two ways to gather this information.

Researching is excellent for gaining a basic understanding of deer behavior. Learn about what spooks deer and how you can create food plots to attract them to your hunting spot. Read about rutting season and understand which months are the best for bagging large stags.

But if you really want to know how the animals act in the wild and how to recognize signs that they live in the area, you need to get outdoors.

Spend time in the wild, searching for signs of deer and observing the animals from a distance. You can also set up trail cameras to get close-up views of the creatures you want to hunt.

No amount of research inside can beat days spent outside. You’ll learn so much faster by trying new techniques in the field. You’ll learn what gear works for you and what just feels right.

Ways You Can Speed Up the Process of Learning To Hunt

If you’re honing your skills regularly, you can still expect it to take at least a year to become an average hunter. It takes most hunters several years to master the skill, so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you haven’t bagged any game after your first hunting season. 

I was able to harvest a whitetail my first season deer hunting, but only because I had the help of my uncle who really knows what he is doing. For the next five years on my own, I had a mixed bag of success and the lack thereof. Years later I’m still learning and figuring things out, but I feel like I’ve got the basics down at least.

Very few hunters have successful excursions the first time they hunt, so focus on learning a new skill every time you go looking for game.  Bagging a deer isn’t the only measure of a successful trip.

You can’t become a successful hunter overnight, but you can reduce the time it takes by finding an experienced mentor who will share their knowledge. Having the right equipment and being willing to learn new skills can also help you learn to hunt faster.

If you’re wondering how much time it takes to start hunting, there is no standard answer. Expect to spend several seasons learning how to hunt, and then several more seasons perfecting your craft.

Don’t worry about how long it’s taking you to learn to hunt, just enjoy the process of learning new skills and being one with nature.

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