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Taking care of your family, what's a veteran to do?

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

An estimated 800 to 2500 business are closing their doors every day depending on which sources are cited. With times becoming tougher than any other in recent memory many find themselves in a position they never expected and don't agree with. As more and more people find themselves laid off or have their hours cut there are a limited number of methods available to most people if they want to support their families. For some filing for unemployment is an option, perhaps SNAP benefits, section 8 housing, or food banks can also assist many. Like many vets, I found myself in a bit of a rough patch last year. My primary method of drawing an income was impacted by Covid like most other people. My wife was also injured at work and was therefore unable to work for 7 months. What little money Worker's Comp was willing to pay her took the same amount of time before it was processed and we received it. As such I found myself attempting to tighten our financial belt and make our money stretch as far as possible. Especially since I tend to like being self-sufficient when I can, and wanted to earn what my family needed.

Taking care of my family

If your like me you will try to find the best way of taking care of your family. The way I decided to take care of my family was to help limit my grocery bill by supplementing it with fresh organic food sources gathered directly from the wild. Yes, that means I started fishing, hunting, and gathering wild edibles. This was of course from all the places in the state, in the manner, and at the times it is legal to do so. There were just a few small problems. First, while I have fished in the past and even have some fishing tackle I am by no means an expert. Second, the one time my dad took me hunting for squirrels in West Virginia we never saw one. Third and finally, I have no idea what safe wild edibles look like. With that in mind, I turned to my strengths. Now it may be hard to believe that a stunning specimen of manly Infantryman like me is a bit of a nerd, but it really is true. I have always loved doing research, once something strikes my fancy.

So I fired up my computer and started trying to figure out what I needed to do. Now in North Carolina where I live there are several resources on the state wildlife website. I was able to download an electronic copy of the regulations digest and schedule the required hunter's safety course. I was also able to make contact with a wildlife resource officer who answered several questions and attempted to point me in the right direction for many things. North Carolina also has a cool "Getting Started Outdoors" training class for new hunters to help them develop some of the skills they will need in the field. Unfortunately due to Covid the only course I found available was on the other side of the state and on a date I was not able to attend. So what other means could I find at my disposal? Books and magazines are two sources of information and the library can help with those. I decided I would not ignore those, but since it is the modern age of course I turned to the internet. YouTube and Facebook are great resources. There are videos on YouTube that cover almost anything you can imagine and Facebook has numerous hunting groups.

The drawback is that no matter what kind of research one does at the end of the day you NEED to get out in nature and see things for yourself. You need to walk the area you will be gathering edibles and hunting animals in. You need to familiarize yourself with the waterways you will be fishing, trapping, or crabbing. It is essential for you to figure out what specialized equipment might be required depending on the terrain, flora, and fauna in your area. And of course, you can't find wildlife by looking at pictures or maps. You have to scout an area to find any traces of signs. I should point out also that at the time I started all this I only had a few weeks before deer season started. So since most hunters start scouting an area in January for the season starting in September I was a little behind.

I decided to post some questions about a variety of topics on the many FB groups I joined hoping that some of my now fellow hunters might be willing to help a newbie. And honestly, I was hoping someone might be willing to mentor me. There is only so much you can learn from videos and books after all. I am happy to report that some really generous people responded. For example, I mentioned that I did not have a tree stand and would need to find a good location to hunt from the ground. One great guy just gave me a free tree stand. I was blown away by that since I had been pricing them and knew I couldn't afford one at that time. It wasn't even used. It was brand new and still sealed in the original box. Admittedly it wasn't the top of the line most luxurious high-speed gear there is, but that didn't matter to me. This hunter went out of his way to help me and that spoke volumes about his character as far as I am concerned.

Cost of Hunting

By the way, while we're on that topic. Many hunters will tell you how expensive hunting is, or how you'll never save money on your groceries by hunting. BULL. Yeah, it can be very expensive if you allow it to be. However, you don't need all that special fancy-schmancy stuff. You can use it and much of it will give you an advantage, but humans have been hunting without it for thousands of years. This is especially true if you have access to private land to hunt without a lease. Luckily like many vets I still have a good deal of Army issue equipment like a load-bearing vest (LBV) and a rucksack for example. But I digress.

The cost of hunting will vary by state. Each state has the right to decide what a hunting and fishing license cost. In North Carolina they can be purchased separately or at the same time in one license. If you aren't interested in fishing then the hunting license fees will typically be broken down into a few different areas. I haven't done a large amount of research into the fees associated with other states, but here there are many options. Small game, big game, bear stamp, federal duck stamp, game lands, trapping, inland fishing, coastal fishing, unified, subsistence, annual, lifetime, and many others are available for differing prices. Hunting license fees are an integral part of a states conservation plan since the vast majority of the funding used in conservation projects is derived from them. Be sure to thoroughly explore what the options are in your state and obtain the correct license for the purpose you intend to pursue.

Best hunting equipment

When it comes to the best hunting equipment there is never a shortage of hunting gear sites. You will also find thousands of opinions on what the best hunting equipment is. Everyone has an opinion based on their own needs and experiences. However, I'm sure that even if you have never spent time hunting, fishing, foraging, hiking, or camping you have at least heard the name of many name brand stores. You can find some great deals on used hunting equipment through Facebook, Ebay, Mercari, yard sales, and many other places. Be careful though with any piece of hunting and camping gear you find. As with anything you need to inspect all the items you find carefully and research the brand and model of them to ensure the quality and fitness for use. As I spend more time learning these skills I will post reviews of some of the fishing and hunting gear I use so that all of you can decide if you want more information or to try that same gear for yourselves.

In conclusion

There were a few extremely generous hunters and several who offered advice and pictures of what to look for. Sadly these examples of human compassion were far outweighed by the overwhelming number of people who would rather ridicule new hunters for not knowing something or just make pointless jokes. For example on one of my scouting trips, I spotted something I thought might be a rub. For those of you like me only just learning a rub is a sign where a buck or male deer will rub their antlers on a tree to remove the velvet coating on them. It also marks their territory in an attempt to intimidate other bucks. Since I have never seen a rub in person I took a picture with my phone a posted it on one of the FB groups I joined and asked others if it was in fact a rub. One of the responses was, "8 ft. tall beaver," not very helpful to someone who was trying to learn. Another response was "Your mistake was thinking FB and the internet could make you a hunter."

Obviously, you will never be a hunter if you never venture into the wild. However, if you, like me and at that time, know nothing about what to look for or where to find it, a little help is needed. The help I did receive from other hunters is greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, I failed to bag a dear or black bear this season. Now with only a few weeks left in rabbit and squirrel season, I'm working to bag my limit of them and hoping to come across a feral hog as well. Then I'm looking forward to turkey season later this spring.

Sure I could always hire an outfitter and schedule a guided hunt, but if I had that kind of money I wouldn't be trying to save money on groceries would I? In all this time a recurring theme has been running through my mind. There's no way I'm the only one in this position. I can't possibly be the only person hurting financially or simply interested in learning a new skill. There must be others who want to learn more about this kind of thing with no family or close friends to teach them. So I decided that I would share my experiences along my journey with others and hope to make their situation easier. I'm certain that during this time I will make some serious blunders, and hopefully bring some laughter into your lives as well. That's the wonderful thing about ignorance. Ignorance can be cured with knowledge and experience. So while I know very little now, together we will learn what's needed. I plan to post pictures and videos of the things one needs to know or avoid, reviews of books, magazines, and equipment, and any tips I learn along the way that will help other new outdoors people enjoy the wonderful world we live in. Eventually, I would even love to schedule some free hunting, fishing, or gathering trips with other people desiring to learn. However, I will need to develop the skills those people will want to learn first. So please join me on this journey and feel free to comment and or share this blog with others who may want to learn with or laugh at me.

P.S. Here are some helpful sites. Especially the charity sites who work with vets through experiences outdoors.

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