The Critical Hunting Skills You Need Before You Get Out in the Woods

Last Updated on May 19, 2023.
The Critical Hunting Skills You Need Before You Get Out in the Woods

Hunting in woods is as much about preparation, having basic survival skills, and knowing how to use the environment to your advantage as it is about hunting animals. Some skills, such as building a fire, may seem basic, but you shouldn’t head on a hunt without honing these abilities in case you experience unforeseen circumstances. These are the hunting skills you should learn before you get out in the woods.

Don’t Go in the Woods Unprepared

A significant portion of a successful hunt takes place before you even venture outside. You need to invest time learning basic skills critical to your safety and how well you can hunt. 

Skilled hunting requires preparation in terms of what you plan to do and what you’ll bring and developing life-saving survival skills like building a fire or shelter.

Critical Skills for Hunting in the Woods

Knowing How to Build a Fire 

Knowing how to build a fire in the woods is a skill that serves multiple critical purposes. It keeps you warm; you can use it for cooking or sterilize water, and if you are lost, the smoke can help others find you. Practice building a fire before you go into the woods, and never leave for the woods without matches or a lighter. 

Gather all the wood you need first before you light anything. If the wood is damp, pull dead branches from trees rather than the ground and break away wet layers of dead wood for the dry pieces underneath. Find a safe clearing, and start with lighting small, dry pieces of tinder, slowly adding bigger pieces. Once the fire is burning, you can add larger and more damp pieces of wood to sustain a slower, long-lasting fire

Build a fire ring with rocks for controlled heat, and bring coals if you anticipate cooking in the woods.

Knowing How to Build a Shelter

You should also practice building a shelter before you spend time in the wilderness, as unforeseen circumstances may force you to sleep in the woods overnight. First, think of creating a buffer between yourself and the ground, as it is uncomfortable and will rapidly absorb your body heat. You can use leaves, grass, twigs, moss, and pine needles for your shelter floor bed.

Then, build a roof to protect yourself from rain, wind, and frost. Search for a natural feature such as a cave or a fallen log. A log or a rock wall can be used to stack branches against, creating a roof at a sharp angle. Remember, the smaller the shelter, the more it will keep you warm. Be sure you can lie down, sit up, and move comfortably inside, even in a small space.

Knowing How to Navigate

Knowing how to navigate the forest is among the most critical hunting skills to develop, especially if you’re not following a beaten path. You should always pack a GPS, but more experienced hunters can use the sun to get a general sense of the land and find their way back to the trail. At night, the stars that are consistently in the sky, such as the North Star (“Ursa Minor”) constellation, help guide the way. 

You can practice navigation before you get out in the woods by using a simple compass for orientation. As the compass always points north, pick a spot on the horizon in the direction you want to walk. Get to that spot, reorient yourself with the compass, and keep repeating the process until you develop an intuitive understanding of north, south, east, and west. This will become more intuitive the more experienced you become.

Knowing How to Shoot from a Distance

You’re likely to have to shoot from a distance at some point during your hunting adventures in the woods, as you won’t always be able to get as close to an animal as you’d like. Practice shooting from a distance before you head out into the wilderness. Use target practice to get used to picking a spot, as you would on an animal, and train your focus.

Shooting from a distance also requires an understanding of a bullet’s trajectory, an understanding of wind, and a solid rest for your rifle. Don’t rest it against a solid object, but practice using rocks or trees. You can also practice at the shooting range by moving away from the bench and using other objects to steady your rifle. Remember that trigger control is paramount; pull the trigger in between breaths after you exhale. Keep your weapon fine-tuned and inspect it thoroughly before heading to the woods. 

Knowing What to Wear and Pack

You’ll want to camouflage yourself in the woods to avoid detection. Prepare tight-fitting clothes to wear, as your clothing can get caught on branches or twigs, giving away your location. Cut away anything loose that can get caught on a branch, and make sure there aren’t any long, dangling cinch straps on your backpack. 

When you pack, you’ll want to keep it as compact as possible, ensuring immediate access to essential items and making the most of your backpack space. Pack soft things like your sleeping bag at the bottom and heavier things like food or field-dressing items in the middle. Then pack extra clothing in the available space on the sides and essentials like maps, lunch, or rainwear on top. Use the exterior pockets for things like shades or a compass. 

Do Your Homework

Before you head out for the hunt, remember to do your due diligence: check whether the woods are on public or private land, what the hunting regulations are, and whether you need a license. 

Hunting regulations vary between states and localities and stipulate where and when you can hunt, which is vital to know if you’re planning on staying in the woods overnight.  

​In the Woods: Practice Stealth

A hunter must know how to step through the woods using as little perceptible movement as possible. Game animals like deer spot motion easily and will steer clear of any area where human presence is obvious. Learn how to be still for long pockets of time, camouflage yourself, your footsteps, and anything that can alert the animal to your proximity.

Stay in the shadows and away from beaten hunting paths that animals have learned to recognize. Use your navigation skills to find your way and identify animal tracks or trails. When conditions permit, use the sun as your ally by moving with it at your back, so it obscures the view of your prey. If you plan to stay in the woods overnight, look for a place to build a shelter a few hours before sundown, and at night, make a fire to cook, keep yourself warm, and ward off predators.  

Get some advice from experts on hunting because you might get some very valuable tips that will improve your game.

Hone Your Skills

Hunting in the woods can be a thrilling adventure, making you feel one with nature as you practice stealth and blend into the environment while tracking your prey. You’ll need to know more than how to shoot to become an accomplished hunter, however. Learning basic survival skills is critical, and practicing ahead of time in controlled environments ensures you know what to do under real circumstances in the wild.

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