How To Get Started Hunting as a Veteran or 1st Responder?
Updated: Jun 24
1. Figure out What YOU like to Do:
The types of hunting you can enjoy in Canada is as extremely diverse as our Provinces. Find out what animals are available to hunt and during which times of the year. Your personal schedule may determine if you spend more time hunting in the Spring, Fall or Winter. Your Province may not even have a Spring hunt. Next, are you the type of person that likes to sit and wait for things to happen to you? If so, stand hunting maybe for you. Are you more the type that wants to create your own destiny? Then consider spot-n-stalk. If the undulating prairie grasses speak to you, consider pheasants or other upland birds. If your soul burns for quiet shimmering sunrises in the marshlands, learn the patterns of migrating waterfowl.
2. Get Educated:
In Canada, every Province and Territory requires new hunters to complete a hunter education course. Most can now be completed online. Here is a link to each of the required courses:
Links to the courses can be found below:
1. Online Hunter Education Programs by Province https://www.huntercourse.com/
2. BC https://bcwf.coretmr.ca/
3. AB https://www.aheia.com/
6. ON https://www.ohep.net/
14. Yukon https://yukon.ca/en/hunter-education
3. Make Time for It:
Time is the biggest consideration when deciding if you have the desire and ability to embark on this journey. The dates you can legally hunt are dependent on location and species, but for most big-game animals in the West, the Archery season starts the month of September and can extend until the end of October. Rifle seasons vary; however, they are typically the month of November. Can you imagine if your biking, skiing, climbing, or running season was only eight days to a month long? Hunting takes time away from other activities and family. If your kids are in weekend sports, then you might have to consider hunting weekdays. This can be a bonus as there is less hunting pressure during the week. You also need to make time for pre-season scouting and getting hunting permission from landowners if that’s your best bet for a hunt. I cannot overstate this enough, it’s important that your significant other or family is supportive, since your new obsession will likely become all-consuming, and most of your outdoor excursions will now revolve around searching for animal poop in the woods.
4. Pick an Animal:
Once you determine which animals you can hunt within your Province, you need to decide on ONE animal of choice. As you progress through your hunting experience you will try hunting other species. But I recommend you select one animal and learn all you can about them and how to hunt them. I prefer to hunt Elk, not an animal I recommend you select if you're new to hunting, since there is a less than 10% chance of harvesting one and you need to learn how to use a Cow and Bull Elk call. Try harvesting Deer first and progress to Elk. I have spent a lot of time reading about Elk, just to learn all I can about the species. In many cases what has been written by others in Hunting Magazines is incorrect in my field experience. I have learned to spend a lot of time in the field observing Elk behaviour and understanding the personalities of the herd and their dynamics. Now, you don’t need to be able to write a doctoral thesis on Deer behavior, but knowing Deer biology, like Deer signs and Deer hunting tactics, is a fantastic resource for learning to hunt.
5. Choose Your Weapon & Take Lessons:
Bow: If you’re a Veteran interested in Archery, and you don’t have a bow check out this link: https://www.soldieron.ca/Get-Support/Soldier-On-Grant-Program Just remember your applying for a bow for Archery practice.
Archery hunting is not a cheaper alternative to rifle hunts. A good beginner bow with sights, stabilizers, arrows, broadheads, case and a target can easily cost you $2000. I do not recommend purchasing a bow from a box store. Find a reputable Archery store and talk to someone there. They should first measure you for your draw length and then ask you the purpose of the bow and type of bow? You will want a hunting bow which is a compound bow. Two popular types of manufacturers are:
a) Bowtech - https://bowtecharchery.com/ ;and
b) Hoyt - https://hoyt.com/.
I mention only these two because these are the two that I am the most familiar with. I use a Bowtech Carbon Icon with a 70lb draw and a 29 inch draw length. My son uses a Hoyt Power Max with a 70lb draw (reduced to 55 for competition) and a 30 inch draw length. Do not make the mistake I made when I first got into archery. I bought a used bow only to find out afterwards that it had a 28 inch draw length and was to short for me. Buying used is ok, so long as you take the bow to a reputable shop have it inspected and sized for you before purchasing it. Remember bows are totally designed to fit the shooter unlike any rifle you have likely used. Lastly, get some lessons and learn how to shoot your bow properly…I didn’t and developed a floating anchor point and some other bad habits that I made work for me (Army Guy), but now I am relearning how to shoot properly.
Here is an article from Field and Stream that outlines a variety of different bows: https://www.fieldandstream.com/gear/best-beginner-compound-bow/
Rifle: Most of us who have served made do with the rifle we were given and learned to shoot consistently at 300m with a fixed 4x optic. Today you can buy something for yourself that you will hopefully shoot forever and can customize without breaking the bank.
The first rifle I purchased, and it is still my go to is a Bolt-Action Remington Sendero SF in .300 Win Mag with a 6-24x40 Optic. I have used it to harvest, Deer, Moose and African Plains game. That rifle today with the optic costs: $2600. However, it is a heavy rifle and not one I like to carry 20km when sheep hunting.
Some things to consider when purchasing your first hunting rifle:
A. Fit – Standard length of pull is 13.75 inches for most manufacturers. I’m 5’9” and that works for me and my daughter but if your over 6’ it might not. So a stock that can be adjusted with spacers in the recoil pad may be something that you need to think about.
B. Actions – All of us used a semi-automatic in the military and a few used bolt-actions. The basic bolt-action is the most accurate and easily obtainable in almost every caliber. It is also available in right- and left-handed models.
C. Calibers – We could debate this all day long so I will list a few all-around calibers that I know you can reload yourself and still find available for purchase to harvest, deer, sheep, bear and elk: .308 Win; 7.62x39, 6.5 Creedmoor, .30-06; and .300 Win Mag.
D. Good reasonably priced rifles that are available for under $1000:
a. Howa M1500 in 6.5 Creedmoor;
b. Mossberg MVP Patrol in .308 Win;
c. Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 7.62x39;
d. Remington 700 SPS in .308 & 6.5 Creedmoor; and
e. Savage Axis II XP with Optic in .30-06;
6. Find a Mentor:
Connect with The Veteran Hunters and we can help you find a mentor to help you succeed and push yourself to get out there.
7. Go Hunt:
Just go hunt! No excuses just do it!