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December 1, 2010 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find somebody to teach me how to hunt deer? (Next season, in Pennsylvania.)

People who hunt seem to primarily be descendants of people who hunt(ed). Nobody in my family has hunted for several generations, and so it's been totally lost. But, I love venison, and I shoot (several hundred rounds a month), and goddamnit, I want to go deer hunting next year.

So, how can I find somebody who'll teach me to hunt? Obviously, I need to take the hunter education course. But, it's focused on how to hunt safely, and less on how to hunt successfully. I'm an autodidact in nearly everything, but I really don't think taking the course, reading a book, putting on the camo, and then wandering around in the woods with a rifle is really a good way to learn.

I'm not opposed to hiring a guide, if that's the best solution. But, are they really going to be able to deal with a 27-year-old first-time hunter who's likely to make fundamental mistakes before even showing up? Do guides even do deer, or would I then need to start with something more exotic (and out-of-state)? What might the price range be for something like this?
posted by Netzapper to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
i would go to a hunting supply store and ask around. i have family who have served as hunting guides before - sometimes to city hobbyists, sometimes to the handicapped. a quick google search brings this result and they seem to have listings for deer.
posted by nadawi at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2010

My instinct would be to try to work yourself into the local hunting "scene," such as it may be. You said you shoot-- you're probably familiar with the local shooting range and gun shop by now, right? Maybe try hanging out at the range bar or around the shop on Saturdays, chatting with the regulars, and see if anyone would be amenable to a noob tagging along (unarmed at first, I'd assume) in exchange for an extra case of beer or so?

Also, have you tried making contacts through meetup.com? A search for deer hunting interests in my zip code revealed no existing groups, but two people who were actively waiting for one to form-- might be a way to identify other people in your area who need hunting buddies.
posted by Bardolph at 6:25 PM on December 1, 2010

I would start by talking to your friends and coworkers. I can almost guarantee that someone you know hunts or knows someone who hunts and would be happy to take you along next year. The key is to ask very politely. Sweeten the deal by offering to help them make repairs to their camp, or assist them in clearing brush and general maintenance if they hunt on private land.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:33 PM on December 1, 2010

An experienced guide will absolutely be able to deal with your lack of experience - in fact, they will likely find it refreshing that you are admitting that you don't know what you are doing, as they are likely used to customers that are "experts" and difficult to guide.

Just be upfront about your experience and comfort level when booking, and make sure that your guide knows that you are more interested in learning the subtleties of the hunt than racing out to where he knows the big buck will be and shooting it on day one.
posted by davey_darling at 6:41 PM on December 1, 2010

There is no reason to think that hiring a guide wouldn't be a great solution to your problem. If you are willing to spend what a professional charges, the professional will be helpful and happy to have your business.
posted by Perplexity at 7:25 PM on December 1, 2010

What might the price range be for something like this?

Guided hunts can be pretty expensive. This guy wants $650 for a semi-guided rifle hunt ("semi-guided means I show you the place to hunt whenever needed", so probably not what you're looking for) in PA. This place is asking $700-1000 for up to a 6-pointer, and way up from there. These guys "specialize in first-time hunts" with "1 on 1 service, no assembly line hunts, and are determined to create a great hunting experience", but want $1100.

If prices like those are acceptable to you, it'll be a once in a lifetime trip, but I'm with theBigRedKittyPurrs: put the word out and see if a friend or friend-of-a-friend would be willing to take you along next year. Hunting is safer (buddy system!) and more fun with a partner or two, anyway; you'll want someone to go with in 2012 if you enjoy it next year.
posted by vorfeed at 7:38 PM on December 1, 2010

Go to grad school in Wisconsin? More seriously, make friends with hunters. My husband is a hunter and grew up hunting, but has taken numerous friends on their first hunting trips. Most of these folks he met in grad school. If you can befriend hunters and show them you are serious about hunting, you may find someone willing to mentor you.
posted by sulaine at 7:52 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would definitely suggest the "asking around" method. That's mostly how I got to do any shooting at all, and I know at least a couple of my coworkers were deer hunters (Bambi chili for the Christmas Party!). Western PA/Pittsburgh has quite a few around and available (schools getting the day off for first day of deer season and everything), I'm not so sure about the Philadelphia area.

You might also want to ask at the local range about any hunters or if you could put up a notice asking for guidance/help.
posted by that girl at 7:53 PM on December 1, 2010

If you get a hunting license, maybe you could make a deal with someone who has already bagged his limit, and then split whatever you can get together on your license.

I had a car break down in central PA on the first day of the season, and I was advised to get a motel room because no one would be working until they got theirs. One of the mechanics got lucky that morning, so I was able to get out of there.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:14 PM on December 1, 2010

I like the above advice about networking in places that are hunting-positive.

Are you aware of the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program? Perhaps you could contact your county's coordinator and explain your situation (especially if you would consider participating at some point).

You could also contact the Game Commission as ask if there's a version of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program for adults who would like to learn to hunt.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:56 AM on December 2, 2010

Jackson Landers may be able to help you out if you can make the drive down to Virginia.
posted by electroboy at 7:34 AM on December 2, 2010

Deer hunting sucks in public woods. Period. That's also where people get shot and where people randomly shoot at anything that moves. I once saw a guy try to check in a goat. True story. In bear season.


What you need is what I just got after 30 years of trying---a friend with woods. Depending on where you live, sometimes getting a hunters permission is as simple as stopping at their hous and asking, if they're elderly, offer to do some chores in exchange for it. Offer to help them put up their hay in the fall, or to seed their winter wheat or alfalfa or corn or whatever. Heck, offer to paint. Be sincere, be honest. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to meet some old-timer who's still got hid pappy's Garand that he himself hunts with.

Most semi-rural communities also have really active bow-hunting groups. Find an indoor archery range and ask them about club shooting or open shoot nights. I realize you're talking gun---but the best and brightest hunters are bow hunters, and if you can mingle with them...they may just let you in on their secrets and their property. You may also do well with a shooting club, however those are often full of glock-toting pistol-idiots, so ymmv. Hunting and fishing clubs are also a worthwhile bet, think "country club" for people like me who cry when they see a golf course. Not cheap, but a great place to meet people.

And, lastly, check craigslist and your local bulletin-board penny-saver mag. Often people will sell hunting rights cheaply, and/or offer to guide. There have historically been some cheap hunts on ebay.
posted by TomMelee at 11:55 AM on December 2, 2010

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