How To Start Hunting: 5 Things Montana Hunters Recommend

A Montana mule deer in a snowy November rut.

Learning to hunt, especially as an adult without much mentoring, is hard. You have to dive in. And you might make some mistakes along the way, we all do, but these five things should get you started on the right foot.

And if you’re looking for a practical, no-nonsense, advertisement-free hunting gear check list for beginners, here it is Hunting Gear Checklist Written By an Actual Montana Hunter.

1. Read the Montana Hunting Regulations

Grab the free regulations, set them in the bathroom, and start reading. Familiarity with these not-so-newbie-friendly regs takes time, but it’s how you stay on the right side of a game warden. Find your copy of the Montana hunting regulations online or at a regional office or sporting goods store. Read about The 6 Montana Hunting Regulations Hunters Screw Up.

2. Take a Montana Hunter’s Education Class

Yes, you’ll learn the regs and rules, the dos and the don’ts, but you’ll also get yourself aligned with Montana’s storied hunting culture — well worth your time. And yes, there will be young kids there too along with adults new to hunting. It’s all good. Note: if you were born in 1985 or later, you have to take a Montana hunter education class.

3. Start Shooting

Find someone with a rifle and beg them to take you to a shooting range. Better yet, take your new rifle.

Now, the boom won’t hurt you. The kick won’t hurt you. Add them together, boom plus kick, and it still won’t hurt you, greenhorn. Just squeeze the trigger nice and slow, and get used to calming down for a steady, killing shot.

Old Pointer says: A wise dog once said, “When the drinkin’ starts, the shootin’ stops.”

Old Pointer is Montana Whiskey Co.'s wise hunting dog.

4. Research Several Montana Hunting Areas

Researching several spots can take time. Which hunting district is it? What can your tag do there? How can you access it? Is it private? Get permission. Is it public? What type of public? Things like National Recreation Areas, Wilderness, or BLM lands for example, all have different rules. You can get help with Montana’s Hunter Access Toolkit or apps like onxMaps; its many data layers are well worth a modest annual fee to help you all season long.

5. Animal Down! Now What?

This is the hard part of hunting for beginners and perhaps the biggest barrier: dealing with a dead animal. Hopefully, you can do this with an experienced hunter the first time or two, but really, it’s not that hard … just intimidating. You can always just watch YouTube videos, then go for it.

And remember, if you can drag it whole to your vehicle, then just remove the internal organs in the field. If you need to break it down and take it out piece by piece, quarters, backstraps, tenderloins, trimmings, and proof of sex, then use the gutless method. Randy Newberg made this great video about the gutless method …