New-Hunter Recruitment: Success Is In The Details

Helping expand our ranks should be most every hunter’s goal; use these proven tips to help ensure a positive first experience.

by Andrea Bogard


Helping expand our ranks should be most every hunter’s goal; use these proven tips to help ensure a positive first experience.

Do you recall your first forays into the magical world of hunting? As a society we’ve come a long way from hunting being a simple necessity of life for many; today our ranks run the gamut from those who consider it a hobby, to a good chunk of the population believing it is a critical component of existence. And it’s no wonder. Indeed, the pull of nature, unique challenges, solitude, self-sourced meat and camp camaraderie are an intoxicating mix for many of us.

When you’re standing on a mountain listening to elk bugles during the September rut, or maybe still-hunting through the woods during deer season, does the thought cross your mind that you wish “your person” was there beside you? Maybe that person is your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend—apply as desired, but there’s no wrong answer to the question, and here’s why.Recruit2 900
Hi, I’m Andrea. I’m a recovering vegan/non-hunter turned hunter. The Reader’s Digest version is this: I didn’t grow up hunting. I thought it was unnecessary. I started dating a guy who hunted. I went out deer hunting with him a couple of times but wasn’t totally wowed by the experience. I later married him. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I found the passion for pursuit.

Let’s go back to the “no wrong answer” concept. It’s 100-percent okay if the “soul food” hunting gives you is best cherished alone—or without your person. I’m a firm believer that we can’t be what we need to be for others, if we don’t take care of ourselves first. Recruit1 900
Take a look from another perspective. Let’s assume you introduce your person to hunting. Here are a few possible outcomes based on how this introduction is handled:

Outcome No. 1: They could HATE it.  This could mean they never want to try again, and/or will put up lots of obstacles for your future recruitment efforts, based on how awful their experience was.

Outcome No. 2: They could absolutely LOVE it! This could mean the end of your solitude in the woods—unless a solid conversation on boundaries is had. It could also mean the household hunting budget doubles, and you have to share space in the gun safe (or buy another safe).

Outcome No. 3: Your person is indifferent to the experience, and has no desire to try again—or alter the status quo at this time.

These are three outcomes that can drastically alter your hunting experience if handled poorly. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume you want to introduce your person to hunting and are willing to take the risk of buying another gun safe (and more guns/bows/ammo, yay!). Keep in mind, if your person falls into Outcome No. 2, there’s a good chance they will want to hunt by themselves eventually, so stick with me here.Recruit6 900
The Gear Factor. I’m a huge proponent of making sure I have the right gear for an adventure. Introducing your person to hunting is no different, and perhaps even more critical. The three F’s for apparel hold true here: Fit, Fabric, and Function. 

It’s got to fit.  I can’t stress this enough. Just because it’s trimmed in pink or blue, doesn’t mean it will fit (this is not like shopping for a gender-reveal party, or baby shower gift for your cousin).

The right fabric. Is it going to be hot? Go breathable. Is it going to be wet? Get something waterproof, and make sure rain gear is always on hand (or at least quickly accessible), no matter what the forecast says. Comfort is key, regardless of what you’re hunting for.

Proper function. Is it functionally designed for whatever debut adventure you’re planning? A Midwest late-spring turkey stalk calls for different features than a horseback elk excursion, or stand-based whitetail rut hunt.Recruit5 900 Hunting Style Matters. Is your person the poster child for ADHD? Then don’t expect a 16-hour saddle hunt dangling from a tree. This isn’t a hunting version of Mission Impossible. It’s supposed to be fun. Try something more active or flexible. Maybe a walk-up bird hunt, or a pop-up blind turkey/deer hunt that will allow you to share the experience and give you a chance to explain the game behavior you’re both seeing.

Attention issues aside, did you enjoy a 16-hour dangle when you first started hunting?  Just food for thought…Recruit3 900
A Winning Hunting Method. This is one of my personal favorites. Find something your person is comfortable with. Are they sensitive to loud noises? Ditch the rifle for a crossbow! Are they experienced with firearms? If so, your options open up a bit.  Selecting a gun that fits (and mitigates recoil effectively) is imperative to the enjoyment of the process. Hunting shouldn’t hurt.

Proper fit is a very complex, but critical topic. The simplified version is this: find something that can ethically and legally achieve what you want—within the physical, mental and emotional capacities of your person. This may be a squirrel hunt with a light-kicking .410 shotgun, or a deer hunt with a light-recoiling caliber and platform.  Please do not hand a brand-new shooter a “lightweight” .30-06, or your spare, magnum-loaded 12 gauge and expect a positive outcome. Just don’t. Recruit9 900
The Right Instruction. I’m a firm believer there are a few things in life that you should NOT teach your person:

  1. How to back up a trailer.
  2. How to golf.
  3. How to shoot.

I’ve been a National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) Instructor for 20 years. I have clients (both male and female) who have attempted to learn to shoot from their significant other, and it has caused significant issues. Do some achieve success? Absolutely. Most, however, do not. Honestly analyze your communication habits and decide what would work best for your dynamic, and mutual objectives. You can always find someone who can walk your person through the fundamentals, then you can do the fine-tuning to your specific applications.Recruit4 900Talk About Expectations. A friend once told me, “Uncommunicated expectations are just premeditated resentments.” Wow. Read that again.

Communicate your expectations, but first, listen to theirs. If they’ve never hunted, they may think the first deer that comes out is a “shooter,” and a totally unexpected scenario could unfold. Listen to their perceptions, and answer their questions. Explain the why behind the what—for whatever game you’re chasing.

We’re still on listening here, by the way. Before you communicate your expectations, remember your first time out. Maybe you were five; maybe you were 35. What were you thinking? Feeling?

  • Were you hungry? Be sure to pack some snacks.
  • Were you cold? Make sure you lined out the right gear, with an extra layer or two handy.
  • Were you knocked over by an ill-fitting 12-gauge with 3½-inch shells? Don’t be that person. Make sure whatever you put in their hands fits—and makes them feel comfortable and confident.
  • Were you sad when you saw the animal go down? Remember that, and recognize your person might feel the same.

Back to expectations. Tailor them. Your person might be “all-in” for a four-hour sit, but plan on half that (or less). Your person might be totally physically capable of a 10-mile mountain excursion—but only have interest in tackling five.

At the end of the day, the long-term outcome depends on your person, but the intro is up to you. The result of my own intro was somewhere around Door Number Three.  I wasn’t in love with hunting after those early experiences, but they made me want to learn more.

Recruit8 900
These days I hunt with my husband and sons, but also alone. The joy and magnificence of the hunt is something I pursue both in solitude and community. For me, both are imperative—and each is soul-nourishing.

Before you take off on that next hunt, think about the journey ahead—and what you want that to look like. Whether pursued alone, together or parallel, the adventure is truly amazing! Happy hunting!



HuntStand is the #1 hunting and land management app in the country. It combines advanced mapping tools with powerful map layers to allow users to create and share the best hunting maps possible.