I often receive inquiries from folks who are interested in hunting for the first time, but aren’t sure where to start.

I didn’t grow up hunting, I took it up later in life after I began cooking professionally. So I totally get how daunting it can seem when you are looking in from the outside, and all of those camo-clad men look so informed and toss around lingo you’ve never heard before.

Do not fear! Here is how you get started. And since September marks the beginning of dove hunting season, and the official start of the season for me, I think now is the time to share this information.

Now is also the time to note that I am having a series of Adventure Weekends this fall open to both men and women, and the October weekend still has a few spots left. We’re also offering a special deal for those who come with a friend. It is a nice way to learn new skills or brush up on old ones in a supportive environment with like-minded folks. Hope to see you there!

How to Get Started Hunting

Do: Hunter Education. In most states you are required to take a course and earn a Hunter Safety certificate before you can begin to hunt. Once you do this it should be valid in all fifty states. Some courses can be done online, and some require a classroom component. The International Hunter Education Association keeps a list of requirements by state. This is a great class that will teach you the basics of handling a gun—to always point it away from any given object and always assume it is loaded.

Do: Practice. It is important to know what it feels like to shoot a gun before you take it into the woods. It is also important to make sure your rifle scope is sighted and your shotgun patterned. This can all be done at a shooting range. Often there are people there who will help you if you tell them you have never shot a gun before or need help sighting a rifle. There are also trap fields where you can shoot clays and work on your shotgun shooting.

Do: Know Your Gun. Whether you own a new gun, are borrowing one, or someone simply hands you one to hold, always ask questions. Ask them to open the action before handing it to you, ask them how to load and unload, and know where the safety is and how it functions. Never let pride get in the way of safety. Your local range will likely offer classes on myriad topics to help you understand the basic types of hunting tools—a gun is a tool after all.

Do: Be Well Equipped. You don’t need the fanciest equipment, but earplugs and eye protection are crucial. Think about the environment that you will be hunting in and have the right waterproof, windproof, temperature proof, snake proof, cactus proof clothing and shoes, as needed. Ask the experienced locals and they will enlighten you.

Do: Ask For Help. You likely have a relative or friend of a friend who knows how to hunt. It is far more common than people think. There are also local hunting clubs popping up around the country along with well established organizations that have local chapters—Pheasants Forever, Mule Deer Foundation, and Ducks Unlimited to name a few. There are also clinics and Adventure Weekends like mine, along with BOW (Becoming Outdoors Women) programs for women looking to explore hunting in a supportive environment. And then there are the small mom and pop tackle and gun shops and Rod & Gun Clubs that are more than happy to strike up a conversation with you and help.

Don’t: Let Others Turn You Off. Although there are many seasoned hunters who are enthusiastic about newcomers entering their world, there are some who are a bit rough around the edges. Their overzealous expertise can sometimes be demeaning, or at the very least annoying. There is no need to linger, move on and talk to someone a bit more progressive who is excited to encourage and help you.

Don’t: Break the Rules. The food doesn’t taste as good when you’ve broken the rules to get it. The Fish & Game departments around the country have very sound reasons for the hunting seasons that they set from year to year and the rules that they make. The rules change every year based on close monitoring of the wildlife population, so it is important to check on the rules before the season starts and you make plans. Always buy a license and any stamps or tags that are required and have them on you at all times while you hunt. Game wardens show up in some surprising places and are unkind to poachers. With each license that you buy you are putting money back toward wildlife conservation and promoting sustainability.

Happy hunting my friends, I hope this fall is a wild ride!