Step 1: Take A Hunter Safety CourseSafety should always be #1 when you are a hunter! In order to buy licenses, tags, and permits in the US, you need to be certified in Hunter Education. Here, you can find a list of requirements by state: http://www.ihea-usa.org/hunting-and-shooting/requirements/state-provincial-information. You will need about a week to dedicate to your safety course but it is the most important thing you need to do before you ever step foot in the field. Your hunter education certificate is valid in all 50 states (you don't have to get one in each state if you do out of state hunting). Some states allow an "apprenticeship program" which would allow you to hunt with a "mentor" without having your hunter safety course. But its best if you just get your certificate, considering every state is different.
Step 2: Decide What Type of Hunting You Would Like to DoMajority of the states in the US have 1 breed of turkey (there are four types in the United States), some form of deer (there are four different types in North America), and waterfowl. The type of animals you hunt usually depends on the weapon of choice. Waterfowl would be very difficult (although not impossible) with a bow. Josh and I hunt whitetail deer, mule deer, all four breeds of turkey (Eastern, Merriam, Rio, and Osceola), elk, antelope, and we bow fish in the summer. We usually travel to 5-6 different states each year to hunt the variety of animals that we do. We also travel abroad to New Zealand and South Africa.
I would highly suggest watching some hunting YouTube channels (hint hint: youtube.com/bowmarbowhunting) to determine what animals you want to hunt and what type of hunting you want to do (spot and stalk, tree stand, ground blind, etc). This will determine the gear that you will need! Personally, I like ground blind hunting and spot and stalk!
Step 3: Shadow Someone / Get in the FieldWhile taking your hunter safety course- let the entire class know that you are new! You would be surprised at how many people will be willing to help you in your new endeavors, especially if you don't have any friends or family to help! The most ideal situation would be to shadow someone on one of their hunts. This allows you to experience everything from scent control to reading the wind to how to walk in to your spot as quietly as possible. A lot of these tips can also be found on YouTube but there's nothing like a hands on experience. I recommend shadowing someone before you ever buy any sort of equipment. You will learn very, very quickly if you are cut out to be a hunter just by sitting with someone (also- offer to film them, this will allow them to have their hunt filmed and will allow you to go out and sit with them).
If you don't meet anyone during your course, you might meet someone at your local Archery Pro Shop. There are also hundreds of different chapters of wildlife organizations throughout the country. I have listed several below, go to a chapter meeting- you would honestly be surprised at how willing people will be to help:
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation https://www.rmef.org
National Wild Turkey Federation http://www.nwtf.org
Whitetails Unlimited https://www.whitetailsunlimited.com
Mule Deer Foundation https://muledeer.org
Ducks Unlimited http://www.ducks.org
If you absolutely cannot find someone to shadow and you are having trouble learning via YouTube, I would recommend enlisting the help of an outfitter. Please note- this should be your last resort as they are expensive, BUT you will have access to spots that are already set up for you and you would have a resource that you could learn from while visiting their lodge!
Step 4: Visit A Pro Shop / Buy GearDepending on how Step 3 goes- you will probably need to visit a pro shop to get some camo and gear before heading out into the woods. That being said- you don't have to spend $1,500 on clothing. Depending on the state and type of hunting you will be doing- your camo will vary. We have 3 main set ups: turkey gear, early season gear, and late season gear. When I first started out, I bought the gear that I could afford for the season that I was starting in (turkeys) and then added to my collection the longer I hunted. We wear Nomad camo, it's the warmest stuff I've ever worn, super high quality, and won't cost you an arm and a leg: https://nomadoutdoor.com. The color of camo will be very important as well and that is something your pro shop will be able to help with.
Ok, so what is a pro shop?? A pro shop is where you can find one on one advice from trained professionals who hunt and fish. You can find this at a big box store like Cabalas; however, most of their employees do not have the training a person at an Archery Pro Shop would have. In order to find a pro shop in your area- simply search "archery pro shop" or visit this website: https://hoyt.com/archery-dealers. Hoyt only sells their bows at pro shops (it's also what we shoot), so if you enter your zip code, you will be directed to all the Hoyt dealers in your area. Those are the shops I would go to first.
Once you have located your pro shop, dedicate about 3 hours to visit and shoot as many bows as you can! The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is that you will only be as good as your equipment is! I would personally recommend looking to spend roughly $2,000 on your first round of equipment needed to start hunting between your bow, arrow rest, quiver, arrows, broadheads, camo, and treestand/ground blind etc! Here is a list of everything we use: http://www.bowmarbowhunting.com/sponsors/
Josh and I shoot Hoyt! However, you can't go wrong with any of the bows that are currently on the market. Find a bow that you like (color, grip, price range, etc)! Your pro shop will also be able to help you with the correct arrows and broadheads for your bow poundage and draw length. Make sure your pro shop also paper tunes your bow- that is vital for accuracy with archery. Just remember, you get what you pay for in this industry.
Step 5: Know the LawsNatural resources and wildlife are extremely protected- as they should be. Every state has an annual handbook that comes with seasons, dates, times, bag limits, rules, regulations, public land boundaries, etc that every single hunter needs to follow to a T. Failure to do so can result in fines, loss of hunting privileges, and even jail time. There are online versions for these wildlife law handbooks and every hunter should review them every season to ensure they are following the most up to date laws and bag limits. If you are traveling to hunt out of state- ensure that you are reviewing their laws in the state you are traveling to!
Step 6: Practice, Practice, PracticeTaking a life is a very serious matter and should be taken very, very seriously. You need to be as proficient as you can be with your weapon! I recommend shooting at least 2-3 dozen arrows a day at various yardages. If you don't have room at your home or apartment to practice, find a local archery range (indoor or outdoor) to practice at! You should also practice in the gear that you will be hunting in- it's very different to shoot with late season gear on compared to shorts and a tank top. Obviously you don't always have to practice like that but at least once or twice before you go into the woods.
Step 7: Get Hunting
By now- you should be ready! Whether you are tree stand hunting on private ground, spot and stalk on public land, going with an outfitter, whatever the case may be- everything should be all set up! Obviously you will always improve as hunter with every single hunt you go on. I improve on stuff every time I am in the woods. The most important thing to remember is that you are entering the animal's world. They have been bred to survive and beat predators and other hunters. If you do have a shot at one, make sure you are calm, collected, and make the best possible shot on that animal that you can- because that is what they deserve. They don't deserve to suffer. They don't deserve to be wounded. Yes, it happens to all of us but please take all measures to ensure that it doesn't happen to you. Be as prepared as possible! Watch as many shows and YouTube videos as you can. Confidence will develop over time and soon- you will have fresh, wild game in the freezer!