Here’s what to expect before, during, and after you march into the woods

The rituals of hunting are exciting and familiar for experienced hunters. But if you’re a first-timer, the list of regulations, expectations, and to-do’s can feel overwhelming. But don’t stress out – we’ve broken down the main details. Here’s what to expect when you march into the woods for the first time:

Pre-hunting prep

The first surprise comes before even heading into the woods. Beginner hunters are required to take a hunter’s education course (check your province – this course has a different name in each). As expected, it covers federal, provincial and municipal laws, but what you may not expect is the course’s focus on the environment and the ethics behind hunting animals. While there are differences between provinces, conservation is a central theme across the country. In fact, your licence fee goes directly to maintaining the health of each species of animal and the habitats in which they live.

Naturally, the hunters’ education course includes the proper handling of firearms, most of which is about safety. Learning what NOT to do with a firearm is as important as learning to hit the bullseye. Hunting with a gun (as opposed to a bow) will also require you to get a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL). 

What to wear?

Once you’ve passed the course and gotten your licence, you’re ready to head for the woods. But before you do, make sure you’ve brought along clothing appropriate for the weather. Most elements of hunting are beyond your control – one of the few things you CAN control is your physical comfort. Bring layers for a range of temperatures that can shift from frigid early mornings to blistering afternoons, especially in the Fall. Are your boots comfortable and worn in? Do you have waterproof items in case it rains, or rained the previous night? Uncomfortable or poorly-chosen clothes can ruin even the best hunting day.

It’s also important to be aware of your provincial laws and what animals are in season. Blaze orange is a legal requirement in many provinces during big game rifle season. Be sure to have a hat and vest in your bag and wear them in the woods for safety. To find out when and where blaze orange is required, check your provincial regulations.

Into the woods

One of the most crucial qualities of hunting is patience. There is no schedule for when an animal will appear, if ever. In fact, there is much more waiting than actual hunting. Having the ability to sit quietly for long stretches is essential.

Another crucial skill is the ability to remain quiet when moving through the woods. Animals’ hearing is far better than ours. So is their sense of smell. It’s important to monitor which way the wind is blowing to ensure your scent won’t be picked up.


After the season is finished, you’ll be expected to fill out a post-hunting survey. In many provinces these are mandatory. Where were you? What animals did you see? How was the weather? What animal species did you harvest? The information you provide will help manage and maintain wildlife populations, and protect Canada’s future hunting opportunities.

Finally, perhaps the most important thing to know for first-time hunters is the feeling you’ll experience after harvesting your first animal. Hunting isn’t easy, but the rewards of a successful hunt can last forever.

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