First Steps Afield

Published on: Sep. 18, 2013

about when you didn’t have all the knowledge you needed, too (we all have at least one!). For example, I once got stuck in a deer stand until long after dark on a winter night because a herd of deer had moved into my field to feed. I had never considered a scenario where I would be trapped by deer. I intended to hunt that spot again and didn’t want to spook the deer. I decided to howl like a coyote to disperse the herd. It worked. I’m not positive that would be considered a “best practice,” but it’s a great way to illustrate how learning to hunt is a process that involves trial and error.

Give Positive Feedback and Recognize Intent

We all remember playing Marco Polo in the pool as kids. You would move in the right direction by listening for cues from those around you. The same is true for learning to hunt. Your friend is attempting to translate his or her new knowledge into behavior. Do your best to recognize those first steps, and let them know you can see them gaining skill.

I took a friend hunting one day, and we had to navigate a muddy trail to reach a ground blind. I was picking my steps carefully to avoid making too much noise, but, more importantly, to keep from falling on my backside. I glanced behind me and noticed my buddy silently contorting himself to place his feet in my footsteps. He didn’t know the exact reasons for my movements, but he knew he should do what I did. After the hunt, I thanked him for his stealthy (albeit awkward) entrance into our hunting grounds and explained why I had walked that way.

Everyone likes to know they are on the right track. Explain and encourage as often as possible. Your friend will begin to feel more confident and focus on doing the right things, as opposed to just avoiding mistakes.

Identify Your Hidden Knowledge

You know things that you have probably forgotten you had to learn. It is a dynamic known as unconscious competence and it means that you have learned skills that are now second nature to you. So you may have to remind yourself to explain things to your hunting partner that you think are obvious.

On a trip to our deer stands, my friend was confused about why we were

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