Hunting is one the most fundamental, primitive behaviors we humans can exhibit. There’s something about waking up before dawn, arming oneself with bow or firearm, and trudging through mud and brush toward wild beasts that really gives you a feeling of awe!
For a new hunter, that feeling is something you can look forward to on your first trip into the wild. There is a fair amount of preparation before you head out, though. This article is a great start!
Read on for your “Hunting 101” lesson with all the information you need to get started, including training, licensing, when/where to hunt, and of course, the basics on hunting gear.
The first thing to do to prepare for your first hunt is take a hunter education course. Arizona Game and Fish offers both a classroom and online course covering everything from safety, to hunting ethics, to marksmanship. Both require a hands-on field day to get some practice, and an exam to test your new knowledge. The course isn’t required for adults, but is required for children ages 10 and up to participate in a “big game” hunt. “Big game” is a term which describes any of the following animals: deer, elk, turkey, bear, sheep, buffalo, or mountain lion. Though it isn’t a requirement, it’s a good idea to get armed with information such as the rules and regulations before you get armed with a gun!
Once you’ve completed the beginner’s course, try being an apprentice! Getting out in the wilderness with a seasoned hunter will reinforce everything you learned during training, plus you’ll get practice shooting your gun (or for the brave hunter, your bow and arrow).
A license is required to hunt in Arizona. For some species you may also need to purchase a stamp for your license to be valid. For big game, you need certain tags. License and tags must be signed before you go hunting for them to be legal.
Licenses can be purchased online or at a game department office or license dealer. Prices vary for both residents and non-residents, and the license is good for one year. If you like to fish, you can purchase a combination hunt and fish license to save some money!
To conserve wildlife, the game and fish department restricts the number of available permits and assigns special tags to certain areas. These special tags are issued through a drawing, which requires you to send an application and pay a fee to participate. If you’re interested in one of these special tags, you can only apply during a certain time of the year, so check the game and fish website for dates and deadlines! After the draw, head over to the website to see if you were selected. If you weren’t, don’t worry—you’ll get a refund and can try again next year. No harm, no fowl!
What, Where, & When to Hunt in Arizona
We’ve already mentioned big game, but there are other classes of animals you can hunt here in Arizona, such as:
- Small game: rabbits, tree squirrels, migratory game birds, quail
- Predator/fur-bearer: coyotes, skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, ringtails, weasels, and badgers
- Miscellaneous other birds and animals
As a beginner, start small. Small game is easier and you’ll get decent shooting practice. You can graduate to big game later!
Once you know what you want to hunt, you’ll be able to determine when to go. Each species has a specific season. In addition, hunting at night is typically illegal unless you’re targeting raccoons, reptiles, or certain other mammals. Arizona Game and Fish has a comprehensive guide to seasons on their website that you can use to plan when to take your trip.
There’s quite a few places you can go hunting here in Arizona. Get a map from the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or the State Land Department. Some land is owned by Indian reservations, national wildlife refuges, and military installations. Each entity has its own set of regulations, so check them out before you hit the road.
Just like when you go camping, you’ll need to pick up some hunting gear to make your hunting trip a success. Pick up these basics and you’ll be ready to go:
- A sharp knife
- Waterproof boots
- Guns and ammo
- Bow and arrows (if it’s your weapon of choice)
- Camouflage pants and /or shirt
- Hunting safety vest
- Water canteen
- Camping tent and sleeping bag for overnight stays
- Miscellaneous food and snacks to keep your energy up for a long day (or weekend!) of hunting
When it comes to choosing a gun, you can go as simple or extravagant as you want to! Some hunting enthusiasts use a rifle with a stock, some use one without the stock. If you’re new to shooting a gun, you may want to start with .22 caliber rifle. It will be easier to build your shooting skills with. Practice makes perfect! Visit the local shooting range to try out different guns to find the one that works for you.
Mistakes to Avoid
If you don’t follow the rules, you could face serious penalties including revocation of your license and fines up to $8,000. Arizona Revised Statutes and Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules about Hunting contain a lot of details on what you can and can’t do when hunting. Here’s a list of the most common violations hunters may make (without even realizing it!) to help you avoid getting in trouble:
- Taking (killing) wildlife without a license
- Taking wildlife during closed season, after legal hours, or by using artificial light
- Exceeding bag or possession limits
- Taking wildlife that may not be hunted
- Improper tagging of big game
- Hunting from a vehicle
- Lying about being an Arizona resident for licensing purposes
- Using a prohibited device
- Shooting too close to a residence or building
- Shooting across a road
If you see anyone doing something illegal, you can report it to the Operations Game Thief hotline.
Everything You Need for the Hunt in One Place!
Now that you’re ready to take on the exciting world of hunting, it’s time to start planning that hunting trip. And you can pick up everything you need for a successful hunt at Shoppers Supply! We carry everything from weapons and ammunition, to hunting vests and boots, to camping gear for those weekend trips. Get all your hunting supplies in one convenient place. Stop by our Chandler or Apache Junction location today!