Whether you are new to hunting altogether, or are a hunting mentor to a beginner, squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, dove, goose, antelope and bear are the easiest animals to pursue for the novice.
The seven animals on this list all find themselves here for various reasons. They may be easier to locate than other game or easier to get in close to. Some of these animals require little more than an armed hunter afield to harvest, while others may require more effort or different skill sets to acquire. Let’s take a closer look.
Squirrel hunting is the quintessential beginner game species because they are everywhere, can be located relatively easily, can be hunted with different methods and hunted with small caliber rifles or small gauge shotguns which are both easier on new hunters.
Many seasoned hunters have cut their teeth chasing squirrels through oak forests, honing their accuracy with low-recoiling rimfire cartridges. Hunting squirrels also teaches new hunters other skills necessary to move on to larger game, such as walking through forests as quietly as possible as well as identifying camouflaged game.
Squirrels are often hunted with a spot and stalk method, where a hunter will begin by finding a squirrel rummaging the forest floor for hard mast such as acorns, or moving among the branches of the forest canopy. Squirrels can also be easily drawn into a bait pile, as hunters in states that allow baiting can attest. In this scenario, the hunter may simply still hunt a bait pile and wait for the squirrel to come in to feed, often taking them unaware.
Pheasants find themselves on this list primarily because they can be found in as many as 40 states, and 21 states actually stock pheasants for hunting purposes. Pheasant can be hunted with pointing dogs, but can also be done with a few friends pushing a field to flush the pheasant into the air. Pheasants are taken with shotguns, allowing for a spread of shot to help hit moving birds.
Practice with clays to hone your abilities for taking moving game. Pheasants are medium sized birds and your first flushed pheasant will present a challenging and exciting quarry. Pheasants are also very tasty table fare, adding a strong incentive to your hunt.
If the state you hunt in offers a dove season, you are in for a satisfying and educational begining hunt. Doves can be hunted by pushing fields and flushing the birds, or still hunting over a field and simply waiting for the doves to fly by as they move frequently throughout the day.
Mourning doves are small birds and are generally taken with light recoiling shotgun gauges. Though their smaller stature presents a challenging shot, they can be readily harvested with prior range practice. An upside to hunting mourning doves is the quality of their meat, which is delicious. A small group of hunters can take numerous doves, and a cookout is likely to follow your hunt.
Another migratory bird that beginning hunters can successfully harvest are the different geese species that populate North America. Geese are larger birds that generally fly in flocks, offering multiple, ample-sized targets to the hunter. An added incentive, Goose breast is a tasty meat that hunters will enjoy baked, grilled or fried.
Geese can be problematic for farm owners, who are more likely to allow access to their farms for hunters hoping to harvest these pesky birds. Geese are generally decoyed and called in to the hidden hunter who can take easier shots as the birds begin their descent to the decoy spread. Since geese are generally hunted over fields, retrieving dogs are not necessary, unlike ducks hunted over water.
Like squirrels, rabbits are everywhere, can be harvested using multiple techniques, and are generally taken with lighter recoiling firearms. Most rabbit species are considered excellent table fare, offering a nice reward at the end of a hunt.
Rabbits are generally harvested during a drive, either with dogs or simply with hunting partners but may also be taken using a spot and stalk method. The lighter recoiling shotguns or rimfire rifles are less daunting to beginning hunters, and moving through forest trails and agriculture fields keeps younger hunters engaged.
If you live in a state with a healthy Antelope (Pronghorn) population, you have likely seen them grazing the flatlands. Antelope have excellent vision and are the fastest land animal in North America, but because they spend so much time out in the open, they can readily be harvested by a rifle hunter. The trick is to get as close as you can without spooking the antelope before taking a shot.
Using a spot and stalk method on antelope can teach beginning hunters about wind and how to move without detection. Antelope are medium sized game that do not require the hardest hitting rifle cartridges, allowing for newer hunters to be more accurate. Antelope is also a tasty game species.
Black bears are the largest and most dangerous species on this list, but can be readily brought into close range when hunting over bait piles. Not all states allow baiting, so know your regulations, but if baiting is on the table so may black bear. Be sure to cook bear meat thoroughly since, like pork, bear meat often contains a parasite called trichinosis which can survive if the meat is undercooked.
Larger game means larger caliber rifle for both ethical and efficacy reasons, so practice with the rifle you intend to take afield to ensure a successful and rewarding hunt. Remember, taking a bear at close range over bait is possible, but bears are heavy, so plan on having a friend or two ready to help break down and pack out your harvest.
Turkey, duck and coyote all deserve consideration as easy animals for beginning hunters.
Turkey hunting is generally done by the individual, not in groups. If you are new to hunting and have not yet found hunting partners, turkey hunting is a solid option for a successful, solo hunt. Hunted with a shotgun and generally decoyed and called, there are some skills to learn to harvest turkey. The food quality of turkey makes these skills worth learning.
Duck species can be found all over North America, and many duck species are excellent on the dinner plate. Ducks are usually decoyed and called over water, generally necessitating a retrieving dog, and are fast on the wing. These attributes make duck hunting somewhat challenging for the beginning hunter, though this is mitigated by their numbers and range across North America.
Not generally harvested for their culinary excellence, coyotes are still moderately easy game for new hunters based on their habitat range. Coyotes can be found in every state except Hawaii. Coyotes can be driven, hunted using spot and stalk methods but most commonly called in, baited or a combination of the two.