I'm an avid fisherman, a beginner gardener and in general someone who loves to do things for himself. Hunting is something I've wanted to try for a very long time (minus the 5 years that I was a vegetarian), and this year I finally got around to getting the proper licenses and doing it.
Here in Ontario it's not a trivial process to be licensed to hunt with a gun. One must first pass the RCMP's course for unrestricted firearms, then pass the Ontario Hunter Education Program, and then apply to multiple government agencies for licenses. The background check for getting a gun license is at least as extensive (and probably more) than for getting a passport. The hunting license is pretty trivial once you have that, but there's an array of licensing options to sort through. I took my training courses back in May only finished getting all of my licenses in mid-October -- two weeks before deer season opened. (My experience was a bit non typical because I needed an extra medical clearance, I expect it's a bit quicker for folks who don't.)
After getting my licenses it was time to gear up. There's a lot you need to be properly equipped to hunt. In the end I purchased:
- Sweat whisking pants/shirt
- Long, cotton underwear+top
- Two pairs of thick socks
- Blaze orange hat/vest
- Two-layer camo jacket
- Camo gloves
- Thin undergloves, for extra warmth
- Hunting knife
- Small maglite
...and still had to borrow waterproof camo pants, a rifle and misc. things (ground blind, chair, gun stand, etc.) in order to be fully equipped. I decided to buy a gun for myself this year to get some more hands on time with my friend's gun to figure out my preferences a bit. Excluding the course/license fees I spent about $250 on gear.
I set aside 3 days for hunting this year, and one for getting comfortable with the gun I'd be using. I rolled into town Sunday afternoon and spent some time with my friend's Remington 700, 7mm rifle. It had already been sighted-in so all I needed to do was get comfortable with it. The first thing that was surprising to me was how heavy it was -- a 7mm is NOT a small gun. I don't know the exact weight with the scope but even in a seated position with a gunstand it was impossible for me to hold it still. With that said, I was surprised at how easy it was to shoot and at my accuracy (at a paltry 50 yards). With a 3 shot clip I had about a 3" spread -- for a pro that would be terrible but given that it was my first time shooting a high powered rifle I was quite pleased. I later learned that a 7mm is generally considered hugely overpowered for deer hunting, so next year I'll likely buy something more reasonable and lighter. I shot off a couple of clips without issue, but on the last shot I managed to get whacked by the scope from the recoil. I had a been warned this would happen to be at least once, and then I would get laughed at -- both of those were true.
The person that I was hunting with is good friends with some folks who own a good portion of land in a rural area of eastern Ontario. They were kind enough not only to let us hunt on their land, but to feed us a huge breakfast every day.
In Ontario, you may hunt between 30min prior to sunrise until 30min after sunset. Factoring in time to shower, get ready, drive over, walk out & get comfortable this meant that we were getting up at 4am and leaving the house at 5. Each day we were sitting down in the blind before 6am and ready to load our guns as soon as it was legal to (you can't load your gun until 30min before sunrise, either). It was below zero every day but other than the tips of my toes and fingers I stayed quite warm by wearing about 5 layers of clothing.
All three days of hunting went pretty much the same. We walked in prior to hunting time, made calls until 9am or so, and then headed in for breakfast. We'd come back out around 10/10:30 and spend the afternoon watching the birds, napping on and off, and just relaxing. (Let me tell you, if you've never had a nap while bundled up at -3C in the middle of the woods, you're missing out. It is freaking amazing.) Around 3pm we'd start focusing again, as dusk is when the deer will start to become more active again. We'd sit as quietly as possible, make calls, and do whatever else we can to bring the deer in. On the final day we found some fresh tracks in the afternoon and were very hopeful that it would return that night. Unfortunately, each day ended without even seeing a deer.
Going in I expected to be very disappointed if I came out empty handed, but that was not the case at all. Even though I regularly fish, have a yearly garden, and occasionally hike I haven't felt this close to nature since I was a cub scout. Spending nearly 12h just sitting, observing, and thinking about nature gives me a new level of appreciation for it. Whether you hunt or not, I can't recommend the experience of observing nature enough.