Becoming a Professional Hunter

When I first told my (then) wife I wanted to qualify as a Professional Hunter, she looked at me aghast and yelled, “you want to be a WHAT! Are you mad?” When I attended my PH training course and examination, the sentiment was repeated……. but thankfully, this time, in humour!

We get many e-mails from young men and the occasional young lady asking us how they get a job in the industry. Some erroneously see it as a ‘glamour’ job, some are genuine hunters and some simply need psychiatric help. Sometimes sorting the wheat from the chaff isn’t easy, so I usually tend to give as much advice as I can and then it’s up to them if they choose to pursue the matter.

Getting started in the industry isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s not impossible. After all, if an Englishman like me can do it, then anyone can. Two of the hardest challenges you’ll be faced with is getting your initial training and then getting your first few seasons’ experience, especially with dangerous game. I was lucky in that my first few years experience was in a more relaxed generation and I was the luckiest SOB in the world to meet and become friends with the late Mr Vivian Good. Viv was not only a great PH, he was also a good man who gave unstintingly of his advice, hospitality and friendship. When I first went along to get my official training and sit my first PH exams, I struck lucky yet again by attending the Goss Professional Hunting Academy in Kwa Zulu Natal, run by Ian Goss. Ian is a tough, ‘old school’ taskmaster, but he gives a superb standard of training and strict examination. Even today, when I tell someone I passed with Ian Goss, they’ll often comment something like, ‘hell, you must be good then!’

One of the most valuable things Ian gave to me was his parting advice as I drove off with my very first PH licence tucked in my pocket. He told me, “Steve, don’t for a moment think that I’ve made you into a good Professional Hunter. I haven’t, but I have put you on the road to becoming one, and as you take your first steps down that road, you’ll learn something new every day.” Nearly 20 years later, that statement still rings as true today as it was then. I’m still learning new things about the business on a daily basis and I doubt I’ll ever be able to thank Ian enough for all his help, friendship and support he’s given me over the years.

The South African Professional Hunting academies, although occasionally criticised by some, are a very good way for the novice to start his PH training and get his first licence, but remember, if you’re not a South African resident, you are forbidden to sit the exams, which means that although you’ll have completed the training, there is no possible way you can actually gain the PH licence.

Don’t even consider attending one of these academies unless you have at least a reasonably good knowledge of the basics such as rifles, ballistics and a general knowledge of the common mammals in general and hunting in particular. If you turn up not knowing a kudu from 30.06, you’ll be wasting your money and everyone’s time and you may very well get kicked out on your ass!

It should be noted that at the time of writing this article, South Africa is currently considering revising the Professional Hunter training and examination system, and if this happens, the course will become considerably longer, more expensive and harder to complete. The proposed syllabus currently looks like it’ll comprise of something like 150+ unit standards and each unit standard will equate to a day’s work or study.

Another option if you are unable or reluctant to attend one of the South African PH training academies, or even if you do attend the course. Your next step will be to begin looking for your first seasons work.

If you live in South Africa and want to restrict yourself to that country, then it’s fairly straight forward, all you have to do is join PHASA and put an advert in the magazine and hope that something comes up. If you’re from overseas, then it’s a bit more difficult. My advice would be to get on the internet and start researching for good quality hunting companies that might pique your interest and operate in the countries you’d like to work in. Then you get yourself organised with a good quality, professional CV/resume and start sending it to the companies of your choice and asking for work. Remember that even if you offer to work for nothing but keep and tips, and you may well have to, it still costs the safari company a great deal of money to keep you in camp and train you, so if you and your application needs to be of the highest possible standard. If it’s not, then forget it until you can make yourself more desirable to any potential employers. I’ve never forgotten one bloody idiot that wrote to me many years ago telling me that just because he had a masters degree in medieval history, had been chairman of his university clay pigeon club for a year and lived on a farm in the shires, he was ideally suited for me to employ him as a Professional Hunter. Quite why, I could never fathom – he hadn’t even ever fired a rifle and knew zero about even the basics of Africa or the African hunting industry…….. Needless to say, he didn’t get a job, but he did give me a laugh!

If you’re lucky enough to break into the safari industry, and some do manage to do it, you can expect your first season or two to be spent doing some of the more mundane tasks such as road and camp building and vehicle maintenance. You’d better make sure you make a good job of everything you do. Stuff something up and you just might be out of a job the next day. After all, a safari company simply can’t afford vehicle breakdowns in the middle of the bush for instance. – The good news is that if you get it right, you’ll be taking the first steps down the road to a great career.

Working as a PH is a great job, but don’t expect it to ever make you rich. If you want to make serious money, go get a job as a lawyer or a banker or something, sure it’s not as much fun as working as a PH, but you’ll probably make enough money to come on safari on a regular basis. If you feel you can forego the money in exchange for the lifestyle of a Professional Hunter, then I’d encourage you to go for it. I did, and I’ve never regretted it. My bank manager and my ex-wife might have done, but I never have……..

Famous Taxidermists

Martha Maxwell (1831-1881)

Martha Maxwell was one of the first women known to both collect and preserve her own skins. She was born in Pennsylvania but moved to the Colorado Territory in 1860s, during the first wave of the Pike’e Peak Gold Rush, where she became an accomplished hunter. Inspired by the work of a local taxidermist, she began skinning animals for artistic endeavors. Interestingly, Maxwell was a vegetarian throughout her life.

A self-educated naturalist and artist, Maxwell’s work helped found modern taxidermy and changed the look of natural history museums forever. In 1868 she opened a museum in Boulder, and she also showed her preserved animals and birds at both the Colorado Agricultural Society Fair in Denver and at the American Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

The Maxwell Owl (Otus asio maxwelliae) is named after Martha Maxwell. She was the first woman to have a subspecies named after her.

The Van Ingen brothers

Van Ingen & Van Ingen was an Indian company specializing in taxidermy. During its heyday, it was run by the three brothers Botha, De Wet and Joubert Van Ingen who were trained by their father Eugene Van Ingen, founder of the taxidermy firm. The Van Ingens lived and worked in Mysore, Karnatak in the southern part of India and became famous for their head mounts, full mounts, flat animal rugs and rug mounts with attached heads. In 2004, author Pat Morris interviewed the 92 year old Joubert for the book “Van Ingen & Van Ingen – Artists in Taxidermy”. Joubert is the last remaining survivor of the three brothers.

The Van Ingen brothers famously preserved shikhar hunting trophies in lifelike poses for the maharajas of India. Their work was considered incomparable to any other taxidermist in the world. The family worked chiefly with tigers, leopards and bears and their book “The Preservation of Shikar Trophies, Artists in Taxidermy, Mysore” is considered an important source for information on the abundance of wild leopards and tigers once found in the wild.

The company was active from the turn of the last century to 1998.

Louis Dufresne (1752-1832)

Louis Dufresne was one of the naturalists traveling on the ship Astrolabe on its remarkable journey. The ship sailed first to Madeira, Tenerife, Trinidad and the coast of Brazil. It then rounded Cape Horn and landed at Concepción and the Sandwich Islands. The journey continued along the northern coast of the Americas all the way up to Alaska. After visiting Monterey, the expedition crossed the Pacific and landed in Macao, China. Eventually, the ship returned to France with an abundance of knowledge.

In 1793, Dufresne started working as taxidermist and curator at Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. In the early 1800s, he popularized the use of arsenic soap for preserving birds – a technique which had made it possible for the museum to build the world’s largest collection of birds.

Dufresne also maintained a private collection. By 1818, he had compiled roughly 1 600 bird specimens, 800 eggs from around the world and 12 000 insects. The collection also included a lot of shells, fossils, corals and amphibians. Today, the this collection is a part of the Royal Scottish Museum, after being purchased by the University of Edinburgh in 1819.

Deer Hunting – How to Pass the Time While Waiting for Your Buck

While deer hunting, it can seem like time can drag on and on. After all, it is not like you can entertain yourself with a handheld DVD player or even a radio like we do in the “real world.” It is just you and nature, and nothing in between. A hunter must find a way to make all parts of deer hunting, not just the tracking and shooting parts, interesting.

A hunter may start to feel like a guard outside of Buckingham Palace: unable to move, no matter what insect or creature comes along. No matter the time, no matter the weather. It is very important that a hunter does not fall asleep, especially when up in a tree stand.

Falling asleep in a tree stand can lead to great injury. Besides, if you fall asleep, you may miss a big buck, right beneath your tree. Even worse, you might start snoring and scare every living creature within miles away.

So, how can you liven up your deer hunting and make it more interesting?

· Music: yes or no. With the popularity of mp3 players, some hunters have started bringing their own type of entertainment along with them. Of course, if you really want to bag a deer, you should keep your ears open at all times. Many people hear a deer before they ever see it. Also, unless you have amazing headphones, the sound is going to extend beyond just your ear. And, as a side thought, some people cannot help but tap their feet or sing along to music… OK in the city, bad when deer hunting. So, just say no to music.

· One way that I stay awake is to stay as aware as possible. I love being in constant check of my surroundings. I focus all of my attention toward finding a deer. I scan the area constantly and I always use my periphery vision. I keep my ears open to any sound. Most times, even on the afternoons that I do spot a deer, I will see many other types of wildlife, and the experience is amazing.

· So, even I can not focus all of my attention fully on deer hunting all of the time. So, I start playing games in my head:

o I take the name of a famous person, first and last, then I have to think of another famous person who’s first name starts with the first letter of the last name, and so on. This can entertain me for about half an hour.

o I find a word, usually somewhere on my equipment, and I break it up and see how many other words I can come up with. For instance, from the words “deer blind,” I get the words reed, beer, bind, binder, blinded, dine, etc.

o I count trees or other objects.

o I philosophize.

o I compose symphonies in my head.

o I try to think of an animal for every letter of the alphabet.

o I empty my mind of all troubles.

o I meditate.

The important thing is to only let your mind wander and play for short periods of time. Then focus your attentions on your surrounding until you need another mind break.

For some people, deer hunting is monotonous. But then there are those of us who love the calmness and “boringness” of deer hunting. All of the waiting is worth it, just for those thrilling few moments of spotting and shooting a deer.

Besides, after a weekend of deer hunting, I feel rejuvenated. The time spent alone in the wild clears my head of all stresses. I sit and think about and solve almost all of my problems of the previous year. I learn more about myself. I learn more about nature. There are few things better for me.

Orphaned Fawns, Pet Deer, and the Right Thing to Do

“Hey babe, come look at this,” said my wife from the back patio.

As I came up to her, I saw a small, spotted creature with immense ears. About the size of a medium sized dog, but perched on spindly legs, I looked into the eyes of the fawn poking around the property line.

“Hmm,” I said, “Little fawn. Cute little fella.”

My wife, always one to take in a stray and have to be ushered past the tail gaiters with free puppies at Wal-Mart, looked to me with the same eyes the fawn had. “He looks lost! Can we keep him?”

I sipped my coffee and walked back to the kitchen, “it’s fine. He’s not lost, just wandering around.”

She was heartbroken and demanded to know how I could tell in just a glance.

Well, here goes.

Identifying an orphaned Fawn

White tail deer, such as those found in abundance across all of Mississippi, rut in the fall and winter which leads to thousands of cute little baby deer being born from late April to about mid-July of the following year. When born, these fawns will have a more reddish coat than their parents will, and are covered with hundreds of small white spots. These spots help the fawn blend in with the myriad of blooming wildflowers and weeds in the spring and summertime when it is born. As a bonus protection from good ole Mother Nature, fawns have no sent which keeps predators from smelling them. As such, the mothers of these nursing fawns try to stay away from their young as much as possible to not rub off their own scent. By October, the young fawns normally lose their spots and at that time are foraging rather than nursing, well on their way to adulthood.

With this in mind, if you see a spotted fawn in spring and summer, odds are it will not be with its mother right beside it. Mom is most likely hidden in a thicket nearby while the kids explore the world. Alternatively, mama doe may have left junior behind so she could go get some grub, as she is still eating for two.

One of the best signs to see if a fawn is orphaned and in distressed is if it is dehydrated. A dehydrated baby deer is a deer that is unable to nurse for some reason. Perhaps mom is dead, or perhaps she is sick and not producing milk. Whatever the case, these dehydrated fawns can be readily identified by the position of their ears. A dehydrated fawn will have their wide ears curled back at the tips, or, in later stages, will be collapsed and non-responsive to stimulus. If a fawn has nice, strait ears and is walking around, it’s most likely not an orphan. Leave it be. Mom will be very alert to human smells on her baby, and may not want anything to do with it if you try to play hug-the-fawn. Worse, if you lead the fawn away, the doe’s milk will begin to dry within as little as 24-hours.

As the old timers say, “Ears are straight, fawn is great. Ears are curled; it’s alone in the world.”

What to do if you find one?

So you have an orphaned deer on your hands. Your baby is sick, its ears are curled, and it is just plain old pathetic. You have observed the fawn for hours and it’s neither moved away or had a mother come to tend to it. As confirmation, you may have even found a nursing doe killed by a car a few blocks away. What do you do now?

The best and most correct answer is to find a local wildlife rehabilitation group that can take the animal. While they don’t advertise due to lack of funds, these little known wildlife heroes are State/Federal licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators, Caregivers, or Veterinarians located across the state. A good resource to find one locally is MS Wild Life If you come up short, give your local conservation office a call as soon as possible.

Until the animal can be picked up or taken to a rehabber, keep it warm and dry and do not try to feed it any food other than plain water.

Can you keep it as a pet?

The simple answer is no. Now re-read that sentence if you have questions. In Mississippi, it is illegal to keep a deer as a pet. If you are busted with one, you are facing at a minimum of a class 3 offense, and you could be looking at up to a $1000 Fine (plus fees) and/or as much as 6 months in jail. It is also illegal to import whitetail deer into Mississippi. This is for the animal’s own good.

Wild animals taken in as pets are no longer wild, yet are never really pets. Once the steps down that road are taken, the animal is in a strange catch-22 situation. It can never be released into the wild because it’s become so dependent on humans that it can never learn to properly take care of itself. Yet, it can’t be properly vaccinated and cared for enough to be anything other than an easy target for passing poachers.

Pet deer were recently banned in Arkansas. In neighboring Tennessee its long been illegal to harbor pet wild deer.

So remember all this when your wife calls you to the deck with doe eyes.

I need to get that woman a dog.

Hunting Coon Hounds – What Are Competition Coon Hunts?

Hunting coon hounds comes in two forms. The first is pleasure hunting, this is when you go out with friends and hunt purely for fun. The second type is competition coon hunting. Today, I am going to talk to you about the second type.

Competition coon hunting is a structured hunt in which you compete for prizes. You go out hunting in groups, called “casts”, consisting of four dogs. Each dog will have a handler (that’s you). Also, in each cast, there will be someone who is appointed as “guide”. The guide is responsible for providing a place to coon hunt. They will also give you information about the layout of the land such as creeks, hills, etc.

There will also be a member of the cast that is appointed as “judge”. The judge is responsible for keeping track of the scores of all coon hounds on the scorecard. Judges also help settle any disputes that may arise. Sometimes the judge and the guide will be the same person. In bigger hunts, like the World Hunt, judges and guides may be “non-hunting guides” or “non-hunting judges”. This means their only point of interest is the job appointed. This helps keep the big competition coon hunts fair.

Now that you know how the competition coon hunts are organized lets talk about how the scoring system works. The dogs are scored on two categories. These categories are “strike” and “tree”. The first dog to strike a track by letting out a bawl and to be called by his handler would receive “first strike” and the most points. This is repeated through all 4 spots. Each position receiving a little less than the one before it. The next category is “tree”. This is handled in the same process but this time when the coon hound lets out a locate and switches over to the more rapid “tree bark”. For most coon hounds the tree bark is a “chop”, however there are some bawl mouth tree dogs as well.

The amount of points given for each category is different in each registry. Most coon hound registries award 100, 75, 50, and 25 points respectively for each position in both categories. However, the United Kennel Club awards 125, 75, 50, and 25 points in the “tree” category. The Professional Kennel Club has a time cut-off for tree points in which each position is closed after a disclosed amount of time. Also, the coon hound must stay treed for 5 minutes before the cast can come in and score the tree.

Okay, now that you know how the casts and scoring system works, I’m going to talk about how you score the trees. Once you enter the tree, all coon hounds are tied back. Once all coon hounds are tied back from the tree a clock is started and all cast members will start to look for a raccoon in the tree. Most registries allow between 8 and 10 minutes to search the tree for a coon. If a raccoon is found the tree is scored as “plus”. This is what you want, obviously. If it is obvious there is no raccoon the tree is scored as “minus”, as you expect, this is not good. If no coon is found, but there is a chance one could be there the tree is scored as “circle”. Circle points only count when it comes down to a tie-breaker. Examples of circle trees would be hollow trees or bushy trees. You will see lots of circle tree during the summer hunting season.

Now, you should have a good start of understanding competition coon hunts. Now, grab your favorite coon hound and head to the nearest competition hunt and try your luck.

How To Properly Make a European Skull Mount With Your Deer

So you’ve just bagged a big 8 point buck and you’re wondering how to have it mounted? Wonder no further because European skull mounts are getting more popular every season. They’re cheaper and arguably better looking than traditional shoulder mounts. Plus, you can even buy the materials to make it yourself for relatively cheap.

Now that you have your deer, use a skill saw and make a clean cut right behind the top of the deer’s head. If you don’t have time to clean the skull then simply place the head in a trash bag and keep it in a freezer until later.

Once you’re ready to get started, get a tall boiling pot and place the deer head inside. Make sure the boiling pot is tall enough where the deer’s nose isn’t touching the bottom. Now fill the pot with water until it’s covering everything but the horns. It’s not good to boil the horns but it won’t hurt if the water is touching a little. Now heat the water to a slow boil. You don’t want a rapid boil because this may cause damage to the skull and possibly cause teeth to fall out. You’ll have to let the skull boil for many hours before it’s fully clean. It’s good practice to check on it every 1.5-3 hours so you can scrape off any big chunks of meat and refill the lost water due to evaporation.

When you’ve removed everything you can by boiling, take the skull out and use a water hose with a wire brush to remove any remaining meat. When nothing but the skull and horns remain, use 40 or 50 volume peroxide to whiten it up. You can buy the peroxide any most beauty salons. When I went in to buy mine, the lady saw my camouflage and asked if I was there for peroxide so you may not even have to ask where it is.

Now put on some latex gloves and grab an old toothbrush. Be careful because this stuff will burn a bit if it comes into contact with your skin. Coat the skull with the peroxide then let it set for a few minutes. Rinse it off and repeat until it’s your desired color of white.

When your skull is done and cleaned, drill a 3/8″ hole in your mounting board and in the very back of the deer skull. Place the toggle bolt through the back of the mounting board and through the back of the deer skull. Make sure the bolt comes unlatched inside the skull and then tighten the screw until everything is secure. Now you’re done!

If you follow these directions, you should have a beautiful European skull mount to display in your living room, office or man cave. They’re a great way to show off your kill and you will have the satisfaction of telling others that you did it yourself. Happy hunting!

South Africa Hunting

Hunters are always in conflict with conservatives and environment protectionists. The tussle seems to continue as long as the spirit of hunting expresses in the minds of modern day hunters. Hunting for food is generally accepted as rule of nature, but when it comes to sports or trophy hunting, there arises differences of varied kinds, a strong struggle with seemingly no ending. Hunters can leave these concerns aside and pursue their passion to go wild and chase the animals in the wilderness once they are on for South Africa hunting.

Different companies offer South Africa hunting packages that cover providing information about hunting season, identifying hunting locations, availability of trophy hunting options, and provide for essentials as stay and dine in luxury or semi luxury rooms, weapons, guards, and trekking facilities like jeep, mini bus, elephant, or horse. If the adventurism lets you, you can also try a safari on foot, where you walk into the terrains where elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes and mighty antelopes roam about.

There are many animals including big five – elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo. Zebra, oryx, kudu, red leopard, steenbok, warthogs, cheetah, baboon, varmint, gemsbok, etc are the animals you can spot in South Africa hunting safari.

Not all animals are spotted in all seasons – your South Africa hunting company should be able to figure out the kinds of animals that may be available at your time of visit. Highest levels of skills and patients are required for a successful homerun.

The hunted animals will mostly end up in the dining tables of local people that at least partly depend on the hunters for their food. This can be an answer to haters of this big game safari.

While moving into the wilderness, the biggest adventure can be moving alone. But it is also easy to get lost in the wilderness. So it is not advisable to go into the hunting area alone. South Africa hunting companies will provide you with necessary guides and hunters to ensure you get a good catch and return safely.

Other options of wilderness and detour to primate conditions include bow hunting, where you experience ‘almost’ the same as what early caveman did while guarding his life, along with his women and children.

So where do you think you will get that experience of hunting for survival? Do you expect to get such an experience while you are with hundreds of other hunters looking to share a turkey or a deer? Although you can’t move in isolation, you need to choose South Africa hunting itinerary that doesn’t overload the hunting ground with a lot of hunters. It not only takes away the real spirit of South Africa hunting, but also leaves you with a less than satisfactory catch.

Shooting a Shotgun – Basic Fundamentals

The fundamentals of shooting a shotgun are vital to becoming a successful wing or target shooter. There are many things that contribute to actually hitting the target. In the next article we will talk about avoiding mental breakdowns. First things, first, we must look in depth at what the fundamentals shooting a shotgun are.

  • Stance. Your stance when shooting a shotgun is different from shooting other guns. The placement of your feet is critical in having a smooth motion when taking a shot. For right handed shooters, stand with your left foot in front of your right, about shoulder width apart or just under. Shift your weight slightly toward your lead foot to help brace yourself for the recoil of the shotgun. If the bird is coming directly at you, or going away, this is the perfect stance. Unfortunately, in the real world birds come from every angle possible. Remember to shift your feet and open your shoulders in the direction the bird is coming from.

    By doing this you will gain a greater kill zone and have a more fluid swing. For left handed shooters the stance is exactly opposite. Remember, if you pull the trigger with your right hand, the right foot goes back and if you pull the trigger left handed, the left foot goes back. A good stance and good footwork are the first steps to shooting a shotgun accurately. It is inevitable that during a dove hunt there will times when your stance is off because of dove surprising you. They will come from all angles and sometimes you won’t see them until you are already behind the eight ball, it’s okay. If you have the time to get your feet right, do it. In the times you don’t, your other mechanics will be more critical in making the shot.

  • Mount. This is simply how you place the shotgun against you shoulder and prepare to shoot the bird. The stance and the mount go hand in hand and are done almost simultaneously.,especially when dove hunting. The stock of the shotgun goes in the pocket of your shoulder slightly on the pectoral muscle. Keep it very tight as this will limit the amount of bruising from the recoil. Tilt your head slightly so that your eyes are looking down the barrel of the shotgun. The top of the stock should be touching the side of your jaw bone.

    Your off hand ( the one not pulling the trigger) supports the forend of the gun. Again, it easy to get a good mount when target shooting, but when dove hunting it’s real easy to have a bad mount when you are hurrying to get a shot off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with a bruised cheeked bone or shoulder because of a bad mount. By doing this it increases the difficulty of the shot dramatically. When you begin to take a shot getting your mount right ensures you are seeing the bird from the right perspective and the barrel is at the correct angle, which in turn increases accuracy and consistency. The bottom line is it’s worth the extra split second to get it right.

  • Eyes. Pretty self explanatory, you would think anyway. Most shotgunners say to shoot with both eyes open. Unlike rifles and pistols where you are seldom shooting a moving target, all of your shots on dove will be moving. I’m going to give you what some would call bad advice, but it works for me. I close one eye on shots that are straight on, either going away or coming at me. These shots require little barrel movement and usually require a straight shot at the bird, so basically aim and shoot, that’s why I close one eye.

    I’ll admit though, these type of shots are very rare when hunting dove. When shooting crossing shots (and all others), I leave both eyes open. I find with one eye closed on a crossing shot I’m almost always behind the bird. A good way to find out what works best for you is shooting skeet. Shoot a round leaving both eyes open on all the stations, then closing one eye on all stations and evalute your successes and failures. Whatever you decide works best, don’t change it. Consistency is key, do the same thing every time.

  • Swing. Imagine, you’ve spotted a bird, you’ve got your feet right, shouldered the gun and have your eyes right, now all you have to do is shoot right, wrong. What you have to do is get your swing right. Here muzzle speed and finding the right line is vital and is different on virtually every shot. If a dove is crossing but going away your muzzle speed will be slower than a dove just crossing.

    Finding the right line simply means following the line the dove is on. The last thing in your swing is your follow through. Just like a good golfer, basketball player, or bowler you must follow through your shot. Do not stop on the target, keep the swing and line even after you shoot. Doing this will keep you from stopping on the target and shooting behind it. The mechanics of your swing is something that must be practiced, once again shooting skeet is a great way to practice your mechanics.

There seems to be a lot to shooting a shotgun, but all these things happen in a blink of an eye. Practice, practice, practice. There are tons of articles on the different types of shotgunners, find out what works for you and stay consistent. The last thing you want to do is try to change your form in the middle of a hunt. Don’t let negativity set in. It can destroy everything you’ve practiced and turn a fun time into an aggravating experience. Stick to your fundamentals, be consistent, and always have fun.

10 Deer Hunting Safety Tips to Ensure a Fun and Safe Hunting Experience

Deer hunting season is upon us this fall in many states and I am so excited that I can hardly wait to put on my ridiculous looking bright orange hunting clothing and accessories so I can hit the outdoors.

My wife teases me about how silly I look in my bright orange hunting gear but if I were to leave the house without it she would be terrified for my safety and would think I have lost my mind for not wearing the correct gear for deer hunting safety.

As I double checked my gear in anticipation of the deer hunting season opening right around the corner it got me to think just how important it is to be safe out there.

Deer hunting is a fun outdoor sport but just like any type of sport you must adhere to certain safety precautions to avoid injury or even death. And not just your safety but that of your fellow hunters.

Deer hunting after all involves a lot of eager men, women, and children out there armed with high powered rifles and unfortunately not everyone is as safety conscious as they should be.

7 Deer hunting safety tips

  1. Wear the bright orange hunting clothing gear so you can be easily seeing and not confused with a deer. Not only is it safe but it’s also required by law.
  2. Do not pull the trigger unless unless you are sure without doubt, that your target is a deer. Sounds like a no-brainer but you would be amazed that the most hunting accidents are from hunters shooting other hunters by accident.
  3. Let your family and/or friends know when you’re going hunting, where, and what time you’re expected to be back home.
  4. Check the weather forecast.
  5. If at all possible, avoid hunting alone.
  6. Use your own tree stand and make sure it’s installed or built safety before you climb up on it.
  7. Take care of your hunting equipment before and after the hunt.

Hunt Safe – Have Fun

Hunting is a fantastic and fun outdoor activity. Not only is it a great form of getting exercise but it allows you to spend time outdoors with your friends and family and even your dog.

By following the hunting safety tips outline above not only do you ensure your safety but that of your fellow hunters (both the two and four legged hunters).

Please keep those hunting safety tips in mind each time so we can all have a safe and fun hunting experience.

When you pick up your deer hunting license ask for safety brochures or check your states department of natural resources agency website they will have printable safety tips.

Hunting in Montana – The Culture and Lifestyle of a Montana Tradition

Hunting is as much a part of the Montana lifestyle as cowboy boots and buffalo. It is a fundamental weave in our social fabric and considered a rite of passage by most Montanans. Imagine businesses closing to accommodate their employees’ hunting hysteria, and schools being more lenient about tardies and absences during hunting season.

Yes, a quick glance at the bumper stickers and license plates on the trucks in Montana will quickly illuminate the place of reverence that hunting enjoys in this state of, as one of my friends so aptly calls it, “Huntana”. And in fact, one of my favorite restaurants proudly serves the ‘Montana Surf n Turf’ which is a meal of rainbow trout and buffalo.

Not being limited to merely deer hunting, stalking the wily game in Montana offers a nearly unending supply of choices, and encompasses a wide variety of animals such as moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, buffalo, Canada goose, pheasant, brook trout, wild turkey, grouse; the list goes on and on.

Those who plan it right can legitimately hunt from September through November. They take advantage of this option by taking up bow hunting in addition to the traditional rifle or shotgun method of hunting. There is an added appeal to bow hunting because it starts in early September when the weather is usually a little more bearable. The rifle hunters will generally have to brave below freezing temperatures and fresh snow to land their kill. But, in fact, the snow gives them an added advantage in tracking. So those souls asking for an early snowfall in Montana are undoubtedly hunters or skiers.

When I came to Montana, I noticed horizontal boards across many thresholds and garages. “It’s to hang the deer from,” was my husband’s casual reply. I was appalled. The thought of animal carcasses hanging randomly around the neighborhood made me nervous. Sure enough, in October and November there they were; the big game carcasses, acting as hunters’ “trophies” hanging in a proud and defiant display. Many big game hunters let them hang for up to five days to cure the meat and reduce the ‘gamey’ taste. In Montana, many garages and sheds double as super-size refrigerators during hunting season: that time of the year the temperatures usually stay below 40 degrees.

A friend of mine is strictly committed to bird hunting. He will shoot any kind of fowl he can get his sights on, be it duck, Canada goose, pheasant, grouse or wild turkey. He is, however, more discriminating in what he will eat. He prefers pheasant over anything else. When I asked what he does with the birds he kills and does not care to eat, he so eloquently stated, “I make sure they get eaten by something.” This meant primarily friends, family, neighbors and their pets. How noble. His wife doesn’t care for eating any kind of wild fowl, so that presents its own brand of discord among his household. Still, most Saturday mornings he is guarding the banks of the river, shotgun in hand, waiting for the unwary bird to wander by.

Big game hunting seems to be more all-consuming for the big game hunter. Early in the season, many hunters will pass on perfectly good kills, waiting for the ‘big kill’. I have my suspicions as to whether they are actually holding off for the ‘big kill’ or simply milking the hunting excursions for all they’re worth. The spouses at home are referred to as ‘hunting widows’ while they patiently wait for their other half to get it out of their system. As soon as the magical phrase is uttered, “This is your last weekend! Don’t come home until you get something,” they somehow, quite miraculously I’d say, bring home an animal, be it elk or deer or moose or whatever is required to fill their hunting tag. The animals are probably more nervous towards the end of the season when the hunters who haven’t filled their tag yet will shoot at anything that crosses their path.

Everyone has their meat preferences. Most of my friends do not care for venison, preferring elk or buffalo to deer. They have different ways of preparing game meat, and interesting ways of disguising the taste of the more gamey-tasting meat that they dislike. When my father came for a visit, I made him a genuine Montana Moose Meatloaf, which he touts as one of the highlights of his trip. Some of my friends even brag that they have not had to buy red meat at the store for years.

I made my first kill last fall in the Lolo National Forest. My rite of passage was courtesy of a small doe that played her part in the cycle of life to feed my friend’s family. As I’m not a big fan of venison, my particular freezer contains elk, buffalo and moose courtesy of other friend’s generosity, as I didn’t kill any of them.

The Lolo National Forest is a two-million-acre recreational playground, with over 700 miles of hiking trails, over 100 named lakes and five rivers, and more than 60 species of large mammals, so when we say that western Montana is truly your outdoor recreational paradise, we mean it! For those of us that have the privilege of living here, we have the luxury of simply wandering out into our 145,552 square mile ‘backyard’ to enjoy this recreation any time we want. You simply can’t put a price on it, that’s for sure!