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We Know: How to Plan a Hunting Trip


Safety First, Always

You're going to be out in the woods, playing with deadly weapons; it is critical that you take steps to be safe. This includes the following:

  • File a hunting trip plan. This means leave your wife, husband, mother, uncle, or anyone else who might worry about you information on where you are, who you're with, and how long you expect to be out. Be as specific as you can. Some localities may recommend you also leave this information with a ranger station or a sheriff's office.
  • Regardless of what you're hunting with, ensure that all members of your party are at least minimally competent with the weapon, and know how to set the safety on it.
  • Ensure all your party members have orange hunting gear for visibility.
  • Always know where your party members are at all times.

Laws and Country Rules

After safety, legalities are vital. Never hunt without a license or out of season. And be aware that in the country, country rules apply. Never, ever trespass on someone's land; get their permission to pass through or hunt, and be prepared to have them say no. If you trespass and get hurt, don't be surprised if the sheriff sides with the landowner.

If you want to hunt on private land, speak with the landowner well in advance, and get an agreement in writing that you have permission to hunt there. You should also be prepared to pay a fee. The main advantages to hunting on private land are that you probably won't have to worry about other hunting parties, and that you'll almost certainly be able to get the landowner to point you toward the best places to hunt.


Preparing for the Trip

You need to know whether you're going to hunt for a day or for a weekend. If you're living rough, you will need all the standard camping gear as well as hunting gear: guns, ammunition, hunting knife for field dressing.

If you're hunting deer, elk, or moose, you should have a deer stand built in your chosen hunting location. You can buy deer stand kits at many hunting stores.


Field-Dressing or Preparing the Killed Animal

If you've never field-dressed the large animal you're going to hunt, you absolutely must learn how. The best way is to hunt with an experienced hunter the first time. You can also get videos that will show you what to do in most hunting stores. Field dressing is basically removing the entrails; if you don't do it, there's a good chance that the animal's guts will swell up and explode, rendering it no better than roadkill to you.

Smaller animals should not be field-dressed; instead, you should get them to the taxidermist or the freezer as quickly as possible. If you have to drag the animal to your vehicle, do it on a sledge, a tarp, or anything that protects the hide from scraping along the ground.

While field-dressing or otherwise handling an animal you've killed, use rubber gloves. Many animals these days have diseases, or carry ticks with Lymes Disease; you don't want to catch anything.

You should also have an arrangement with a taxidermist if you're hunting a trophy. He will tell you what condition they want the animal to be in when they receive it. Often, the taxidermist prefers to skin the animal himself.


Transporting the Animal

When you transport your kill, pay no attention to all the shows you've seen where the animal is tied to your hood -- this is a bad idea! Ideally, it should be wrapped and put in the bed of a truck, or hauled behind in a wagon of some sort. Dirt, moisture, and engine fumes can all ruin the meat and the skin. Don't forget to stop and get your animal tagged at a tagging station.


After the Trip

You killed it; now you have to figure out what to do with it. Butchering an animal is not an easy task. You can talk to your taxidermist about doing this job as well; or you can ask him or her to refer you to a butcher or experienced hunter who can teach you. It is not a great idea to do it yourself without guidance.

When you leave your campsite, take everything with you -- that includes trash, cigarette butts, everything. If you field-dressed your animal, bury the entrails at least a foot or so deep so the smell doesn't draw dangerous animals to the site. And if you hunted on private land, don't forget to stop, let the owner know you're leaving, and thank him. This ensures you a hunting site next year.

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