What firearm should I use? How do I field dress an animal? What do I do with it when I get home?
When you're completely new to hunting, questions can overwhelm you. Most outdoor enthusiasts have family or friends to answer questions like these and show them how to become a successful hunter.
But if you don't have that someone to get you started, there are several programs available in Alberta designed just for that—the novice hunter needing a mentor, no matter your age.
The AFGA has close to 100 affiliated clubs in the province, totalling nearly 26,000 members. These are serious men and women with a passion for the outdoors. Joining a local club puts you in direct contact with experienced hunters and shooters. Be bold-go to a meeting. Make new friends and don't be afraid to ask the questions bouncing around in your head about hunting and getting started. You just might have a line up of people wanting to help you! www.afga.org
AHEIA delivers Conservation Education, including Hunter Education in Alberta. With resource centers in Calgary and Edmonton, they feed an army of volunteers anxious to teach new hunters everything they need to know about getting started and being successful. AHEIA also offers Youth Conservation Camps and an Outdoor Women's Program. Why not learn with other hungry minds about everything in the outdoors, including hunting? Although hands-on experience is usually best, online courses are offered too. www.aheia.com
ACA facilitates the annual Taber Pheasant Festival, which includes a novice hunt. Sign up for free and get first-hand instruction in the field before heading out to try to harvest your first pheasant. Qualified instructors and dog handlers make for a great learning experience that will leave you wanting more. www.ab-conservation.com
The Waterfowling Heritage Program is a national education program that matches qualified mentors with eager first-time hunters for a hands-on learning experience. In Alberta DUC facilitates the sharing of knowledge. The rewards are as meaningful to the mentors as they are for the novices they take out! www.waterfowling.com and www.ducks.org
Delta Waterfowl offers First Hunt events-a comprehensive immersion into the waterfowl-hunting heritage. Day one is full of skills training, including waterfowling, gun safety and wing-shooting, introduction to duck and goose calling, decoy placement, retriever training, duck identification, and more. On day two, new hunters pair with an experienced mentor for a trip to the blind. After a successful hunt, the new hunters learn to handle, clean and cook their harvest. This experience, from skills development to the shooting of a new hunter's first duck (complete with a duck dinner!), provides a rich and powerful introduction into waterfowl hunting. www.deltawaterfowl.org
Most experienced hunters get just as much enjoyment (if not more!) out of helping new hunters be successful as doing it themselves. There is a mentor for anyone looking — just ask! A hunting mentor can also help you with the next step on the hourney to hunting — where! Check out the next article in our Start Harvesting series: Finding a Place to Hunt.