In every sport, there are the talkers, the doers, and the all-rounders (they talk the walk as it were). These groups of 'experts' are tough to separate at first glance. As a new 'initiate' into the world of hunting, making sure your head is filled with the right advice and practical skills will save your life when the wild gets a little too lively.
It is a fortunate few who were raised on the hunt, who have tested their mettle in live situations and gone on to make a living from their bushcraft. For the rest, who have come to the sport a little later in life, there is some catching up to do. As a hunting hobbyist (someone who works to hunt) will only get a few outings a year, it is a good idea to spend the non-hunting time (spare office hours) doing some research. Some practice hours (after hours & weekends) will also make sure that the next live outing is successful.
YouTube is full of survival and hunting experts, who will claim to show you the best way to build a shelter, sharpen a knife or field dress a trophy. There are gear guides, tips, and tricks, show and tell and all manner of claims to fame and courses to join or subscribe to.
But aside from spending time in the wild, how else do you sharpen your hunting skills?
The best way to learn is through experience, actually doing it yourself, and absorbing skills from staying close to experienced hunters that accompany you on a trip. Second-best is to go on a course for a few focused bushcraft lessons.
How do you Pick a True Hunter from the Boy Scouts?
- Do a background check. If you want to learn how to fish, you find a fisherman who can actually catch fish (anyone can fish but not everyone consistently catches fish). The same is true for learning bushcraft and hunting. You need to find an instructor who is a seasoned professional hunter. You shouldn't have to hire a detective here as a professional hunter/instructor will have proof of pedigree readily available.
- The local area and species knowledge are important. There is little use in taking a hunting course from a monster specialist (sharks, crocodiles...) if you intend to hunt small game. Or taking tips from a Māori Backcountry course if you intend to explore the African Savanna. Take some time to drill down to what you want to specialise in and find the right people in those fields to help you.
Real-life experience is better than social media claims. YouTube can have you following and 'researching' all manner of 'interesting topics' and before you know it, you're watching a guy who is teaching you how to build a hut out of clay that has central heating, roof tiles and a forge. Handy if you are stranded on an island with lots of spare time but not really practical for a camping safari.
- Hands-on time with real tools is important. Learning the necessary how-to from a distance is vastly different from physically rolling up your sleeves and doing the task yourself in a live or realistically simulated situation.
- Learn to be very familiar with your own gear. Learning how to fish, hunt and field dress with the supplied gear will make the transition to your own gear easier, but rather get really familiar from the start by using your own gear. Learn how you like to carry your own gear, and where you prefer to have your knife. In an intense situation, the familiar weight, grip, and location of your hunting knife will be comforting and feel natural, saving you time and quite possibly your life.
Arno Bernard makes a range of small knives and folding knives for hunting, but in reality, they are just as handy as everyday carry knives. A good small knife is really man's best friend, a cold piece of comfort that you can carry with you wherever you go.
TOUGH ENOUGH TO USE, NICE ENOUGH TO COLLECT.