North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

New to Hunting? Our Getting Started Outdoors Program Can Help!

Author: NCWRC blogger/Thursday, December 6, 2018/Categories: Blog, Hunter Education

New to Hunting? Our Getting Started Outdoors Program Can Help!

If you’re already a hunter, try to imagine a time (if you can) when you didn’t know how to hunt…a time without firearm knowledge and scouting skills, no comprehension of how to process meat and no social support, such as family or friends to help you get out into the field. Most of us took to hunting easily and naturally, and with abundant assistance from other hunters in our circle of friends. In fact, many of us learned from someone we shared a home with, or at least a neighborhood. Still, there are many folks who grew up with no supporting cast of family and friends to encourage or cultivate their hunting interests.

That’s where the Commission’s “Getting Started Outdoors” (GSO) program comes in. Instructed by dedicated staff, volunteers and industry pros, the program is designed to identify, teach and encourage curious adults who lack social support in hunting pursuits. North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the Commission collaborated on the project as part of an Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) multi-state grant, which is used to study and identify effective ways to recruit interested college students into hunting.  

The latest installment, hosted on Oct. 27 at the Lee County Wildlife Club, was focused on deer hunting. It was the second time around for this type of workshop, which was further enhanced by valuable NCSU collaboration and many other conservation partner organizations who were willing to donate both time and talents.

GSO: Deer Hunting is broken down into the most important and accomplishable facets of hunting. Participants learn to understand basic hunting regulations, scout and track for deer, understand basic deer behavior, learn about needed gear, practice safe use of tree stands, safely operate a firearm and process the harvested game. There’s a lot to learn, but great teachers and engaged students make for fluid instruction.

Not everyone qualifies for the GSO program:

GSOs are for individuals that have never hunted or have very minimal hunting experience and lack social support for hunting (i.e., hunting family members and friends)

GSOs are not for existing hunters, or family members of existing hunters, where experience and social support for hunting already exists.

Understanding hunting’s rules and regulations is paramount to success. These standards are in place to conserve the resource and “Fair Chase Ethics” that make hunting pursuits both knowledge-based and  responsible. Understanding access helps new hunters identify locations to hunt and ways to do so. After an overview of this portion of the program, led by Wildlife Enforcement Officers, participants break into different groups to learn about the technical aspects of deer hunting.

Scouting and tracking, too, are necessary to find game. While there’s plenty of habitat, determining where the best location to see deer is important. Participants learn about travel corridors, pre-rut and rut behavior, as well as food sources – all of which are helpful when finding deer. Teaching new hunters this “secret” language of deer behavior could be considered a tall order, since many hunters built their understanding of these items through years of experience. Hunter education coordinators from across the state, as well as trained volunteers, handle different aspects of this. Whether its identifying scat, understanding scrape lines, noticing game trails or safely erecting tree stands, it’s all covered and practiced at the workshop.

A trip to the controlled shooting range with qualified range safety officers is a big part of the workshop. Learning to properly use a scope, work a firearm’s action, and reloading – things that may seem like second-nature to many hunters, are foreign ideas to many first-timers. These tactics are covered as well, using traditional calibers such as a .243, 30-30 and .270.

To round out the day, participants learn about cleanly and safely field dressing their harvested animal to protect and care for the meat. Skinning, quartering and deboning are covered, along with preparing and storing excess meat.

The Commission plans to offer more Getting Started Outdoors workshops in 2019, starting with turkey hunting in February. For more information (and to be placed on a waiting list for future workshops), visit the Commission’s “New to Hunting” webpage.

Walter "Deet" James 
Hunting Heritage Biologist

Chase Luker
Northern Coastal Hunter Education Coordinator

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