A Woman's Advice: Preparing for your First Hunt with Your Partner

Your partner has asked you to join him or her hunting (or maybe you asked if you could hunt) and the answer is yes.  You're excited and maybe a little nervous.  After all, you're a newbie and your partner is the experienced one. So, how do you go about preparing to hunt?  Here are some tips I've learned from my own first time hunting that may help you.

Plan on Being an Observer at First

Your first time hunting should probably be sans rifle or bow.  The reason is simple and not at all sexist.  You've never hunted and you don't know what you're doing, no matter how many books or articles you've read. There is nothing like actual experience, so the only way you will learn your area and your partner's hunting techniques is by being an observer, and occasionally, an extra set of hands.

That doesn't mean that you won't have anything to do.  On the contrary.  My first few times hunting, I became skilled at spotting animals. Pretty soon, Larry was relying on me to spot game which he didn't see. I remember spotting elk on a Colorado mountainside with my unaided eyes some half mile or more away.  I saw something and grabbed Larry's binoculars.  Sure enough, there was a cow herd on the side of a mountain.

Your partner may rely on you to keep track of your position on the GPS, watch for other hunters and game, and other duties.  You can learn a lot just accompanying a hunter.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Bachman, CC BY-SA 3.0
Learn How to Dress for Hunting

Hunting isn't a fashion show, but it does have its own clothing requirements.  If you're a woman, you'll probably discover the slim pickings that most clothing outfitters offer.  I encountered this back in my sled dog racing days. To be brutally honest, most cold weather gear for women is abysmal. Most of the gear aimed at us is, at best, medium weight.  That's fine if you're going on a hunt in warmer areas, but if you're hunting some places that are -20F or worse (and yes, I've been in those conditions), you're going to risk frostbite and hypothermia.

Women's Hunting Clothing Versus Men's' Hunting Clothing

To make matters worse, a lot of the women's clothing just doesn't fit right. At this stage, it's time to try on the men's stuff if you can't find a suitable version in a women's size that actually fits.  Don't be embarrassed.  I have a men's shell, men's boots, men's socks, and yes, men's fleece. Plan on getting slightly larger boots too because you'll be wearing some pretty thick socks.

Getting the Right Pair of Boots

Finding boots are especially difficult, because unless you have tiny, skinny feet, you're likely to find boots that won't handle a wider foot combined with thick socks. And inevitably the boots aren't made as tough and hardcore as those for men. I've given up on women's hunting boots and instead have opted for men-sized boots. I've gone to the men's shoe departments at outfitting stores and had sales people help me try on hunting boots to get the right size.  (Bring the socks you'll wear with these because you'll need to make sure they have enough room.) While it doesn't win any fashion awards, my feet are comfy.

The amount of warmth of the boot is in relation to the amount of insulation in the boot.  You'll want unlined boots for warmer weather and lined boots for the fall/winter. If you live in cold areas like I do (Montana can be interesting), you'll want a minimum of 600 to 800 grams of Thinsulate.  Plan on getting a Gore-TEX or suitably lined boot too to prevent wet feet.  They may not save your feet if you walk in a river, but for rain and snow, you'll normally be just fine.

Dress in Layers

Plan on using polypropylene base socks and undergarments to wick away moisture and fleece to keep you warm.  Your thicker socks will go over the polypropylene socks. You'll want a outer garment which has Gore-TEX or something similar to keep you dry but still be breathable, so you don't stew in your sweat.

Even when it's warm, you'll need some kind of layering, even if it's minimal. Just be aware you may be stripping down to your base layer.  You should never wear cotton; cotton kills.  I also bring an extra pair of socks because that seems to be the area where I sweat the most.

Camouflage and Orange
Bird hunting usually requires no orange

Yes, you'll want camouflage and orange.  I'm a real advocate for orange except when bird hunting, shotgun turkey hunting or bowhunting, even when the states don't require you to wear orange. The reason is simple. You're more visible with orange and less likely to get shot should another hunter see movement in your direction. Camouflage is great if you bow hunt or hunt birds because it breaks up your outline.  Know your state's regulations on orange and follow them.  Usually an orange hunting vest and hat will suffice.

Be Quiet and No Perfume

Animals can hear and smell much better than we can. That means keeping your voice low, saying very little, and removing as much scent as possible from your clothes and skin. Needless to say perfumes are right out. You can avoid scents by washing garments in unscented laundry detergent, using unscented soaps and shampoos, or using all the hunter scent removal stuff.  I don't wear perfume and make up, so this isn't a problem for me, but if you do, stop using the stuff a few days before hunting.

Learn to Use the Equipment You'll Need

You should be comfortable using any equipment you take into the field.  Whether it's a compass, binoculars, GPS, survival kit, or your rifle.  Hunting isn't the time to get familiar with stuff you depend on.  Spend weeks (or months) familiarizing yourself with your equipment and know how to use it properly.  Not sure what you should bring?  Ask your significant other.  He or she may be able to guide you in your choices.

I hope you find this guide helpful for your first hunt, and good luck!

-- MH Bonham