A client shares his experience on a fall deer hunt.
My Experience with Learn to Hunt NYC: A First-Timer's Perspective
I've never been hunting before, and in the fall of this year, I decided to give it a go. I've always been curious to see if I could track game and harvest it, not only because it feels like the responsible thing to do—I've been a meat-eater all my life, but never once have I actually been a part of getting that meat to my plate—but because it seems like an incredible adventure. I live in Brooklyn with my wife and son, and while I love city life, it can sometimes feel very routine, and very unnatural. Hunting seemed like a powerful way to experience the great outdoors in a new and profound way, and so after some hemming and hawing, I decided to look into it.
I found Learn to Hunt NYC online, signed up for the Apprentice Hunt, and waited for the weeks to tick by. I was hoping to harvest a white tail deer, but after everything I'd read, I tried to keep my expectations in check.
So here's my experience. I'm a writer by trade, and my day with Fisher was so noteworthy—both the good and the bad—that I asked if I could share my experience on his site.
If you're part of the "too long; didn't read" crowd, here's a summary: it was an incredible day, and an experience I feel really lucky to have, and I can't wait to go back.
If you want the details—and I understand now why hunters looooove to tell stories and try to re-live their adventures!—here you go:
Training in the Morning
We started out the day learning how to shoot. I have a good amount of experience with bows—I live near an archery range, so once every month or so I'll go and let off some arrows—but I chose to use a crossbow, because they're so much easier to use. They're incredible accurate, too—even though I had never used one before, Fisher helped me sight it in, and within a few minutes, I was shooting accurately. I'm a decent archer, and aiming with a bow is certainly easier than it used to be, but within ten minutes of instruction from Fisher, I was putting bolts on a dime at 30 meters. That did a lot for my confidence—one of my fears before the trip was that I would wound an animal without actually putting it down, so knowing that I could put the bolt where I wanted it made me feel a lot better about things.
This felt like the "easiest" part of the day—after all, we were just hanging around, shooting crossbows—but it was actually the most important, and when we were up in the tree stand later in the day, knowing the weapon and how it worked made a world of difference for me.
Foraging and Tracking
After a quick lunch, we went out to do some foraging and look for deer sign. Fisher is a born teacher, and able to convey complicated topics very easily—which is great, because I have a ridiculously short attention span, and I need to learn quickly or I get distracted. We learned about how to look for hard mast (deer apparently love this stuff), how to read trees for deer rubs and read the ground for deer scrapes, and what local plants look like after they've been grazed (and if all that sounds mysterious, Fisher will make it easy to understand).
This part of the day was a lot of fun. I hadn't really thought much about it—I had been so obsessed with the actual "hunting" part of the hunting trip, that I overlooked it—but it's now one of my favorite parts of the event. Within only a few minutes of learning about the woods, it looked like an entirely new environment to me—and so busy! I live in the city, and I'm used to things being loud and busy, but I wasn't used to things being quiet and busy. That was a surprise. And that's how the woods revealed themselves, even after only a few minutes—completely silent, but busting with activity. Even if we had spent the day simply foraging, that would have been a worthwhile trip.
The Hunt, Part I
Finally—we're ready to head into the woods! We suited up and drove to one of the spots Fisher had scouted. That's one of the many things I'm grateful to Fisher for—it's not obvious at first, but Fisher has put an incredible amount of work in before you even show up. Not only has he spent a lifetime hunting and developing skills (and learning to navigate the licensing process, which he'll help you with), but he's explored much of north Jersey looking for areas where deer thrive, setting up cameras to record their movements and increase your odds of success, and assembling tree stands to create vantage points. When you work with a capable hunting guide, you're really just showing up for the *last* part of the hunt, because so much of the "work" has been done beforehand. Hunting isn't just heading out into the woods—there's a lot of complicated lead-up to that, and it's great when you can have someone do it for you.