Hunting is hard work, and the start-up costs can be high. In much of the country, just getting access to good hunting land can cost a lot in time, money or effort. You can hardly blame curious newbies for asking for help, and in fact, I encourage people who have never hunted before to find a mentor and ask for some help getting their hunting efforts off the ground—it can be really difficult to just decide to start hunting and then go do it without someone to show you the ropes.
But sometimes you don’t want to be someone’s mentor. Sometimes you just want to reap the rewards of all the time and effort you’ve put in, and you seek solitude—or, for myriad reasons, you aren’t able to help out. Or maybe you’ve spent a small fortune on a duck lease and your casual-hunter friends keep wanting to tag along for free, and the mooching is driving you crazy.
Whatever your circumstances, you have a handful of options when people keep asking you to take them hunting.
Take them if you can. If you have the time and are willing to put forth the effort, you can offer someone the incredible gift of your time and knowledge. Introducing new hunters to the traditions we value is important to keeping hunting alive in the U.S., and we all need someone to teach us. If you can and want to be that someone for another hunter just starting out, you should absolutely do it.
Say no gently. Be kind, and give an excuse like “The farmer gave me permission to hunt, but I can’t bring any guests” if you feel the need, but be aware that the more excuses you give, the more chances someone has to shoot them down.
Direct them elsewhere. Many states have mentored hunter programs through the state DNR, including the excellent Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) organization. These kinds of programs can get total newbies started down the hunting path by providing some of the knowledge they’ll need and introducing them to other like-minded individuals. You can refer new hunters here and even accompany them to a BOW event—they have loads of classes that even experienced hunters and outdoorswomen can learn from.
Give them a boost. If you’d like to help but you can’t physically take a newbie hunting, you can walk with them through some of the process in other ways. Consider accompanying them to a hunter’s safety course (yes, they’re still offered in-person in many places). Take them to the range and teach them to shoot your hunting firearms, and later, help them pick out and purchase their own firearms that will be appropriate for the type of hunting they’re getting into.
Charge ’em. If you’re in the situation where your friends like to hunt, but they haven’t put forth the money or effort to procure their own lease and just want to hitch a ride on yours for free, consider setting a fee. Explain that this property and the food plots, tree stands and other improvements you’ve made on it cost you X number of dollars per season, and you’re happy to share the fruit of that labor for a small fee per hunter per day. You’re not running an official hunting sub-lease here, so be aware of liability concerns and make sure everything is covered insurance-wise.
Start small. For brand new hunters, consider a small-game hunt, a predator hunt or an upland bird hunt, depending on what you have available in your area. Many landowners won’t allow extra deer hunters on their property, but they often are fine with allowing you to bring someone along to hunt squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, hogs, quail or other game that far fewer hunters are pursuing. A long, slow still-hunt through the woods looking for squirrels is an excellent introduction to hunting—a new hunter will learn woodsmanship skills and have plenty of opportunity to practice safe gun handling, and you can squirrel hunt on public land after deer season is over and have the place almost to yourselves.