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I have, on occasion, let slip certain comments that convey my absolute seething contempt of the hunting community, so perhaps it seems odd for me to pursue this hobby.

But rest assured, my complete and total disdain for a certain class of hunter is entirely the result of firsthand experience during my taxidermist days, not a blanket condemnation of everyone who wants to take part in briefly escaping the pinnings of industrial agriculture, connecting with our most universal cultural heritage as members of the Homo genus, and supporting conservation.

For those who aren't familiar with the subject, a big chunk of the money for conservation in the US comes from hunting and fishing. While the exact percentages vary by state, the various permits and taxes on boats, ammo, guns, etc. are a major financial contribution for preserving and managing wildlife habitat.

Furthermore, if people are using public lands for hunting and fishing, that puts pressure on the local government to 1.) Keep that land public instead of selling it to developers, 2.) Preserve it as actual habitat rather than letting logging companies strip sections to replace with pine monocrops.

Land that can support a breeding population of large herbivores is also protecting thousands of beetles, butterflies, fish, amphibians, birds, and other small animals that just aren't charismatic enough to the general public to get land set aside for them. When a big box store is pressuring the local government to let them bulldoze that stretch of scrub, telling them no because it's an important bastion of habitat for a 1 inch butterfly is a really hard sell. Telling them no because it’s actively used recreationally by a chunk of their voters is a lot easier.

Biologists working in publicly managed land determine how many deer hunting tags can be issued, and hunters either buy a tag outright or enter a lotto to obtain a tag for that specific area, depending on the state/area.

This system is great overall and has brought deer back from the brink of extinction in the Northeast, and alligators in the South. It really works! With a couple of caveats for certain states' predator 'management' programs, I have basically no qualms with taking part in supporting this form of conservation.

The biggest problems in the hunting community mostly stem from private landowners. These folks have trail cameras all over the place and get downright proprietary about the bucks that wander through their land. Predators that help keep deer at healthy population levels by eating fawns get shot on sight. After all, we can't have competition killing what might be a deer with cool antlers one day. e_e

Hunters like this have no concept of the ecosystem as a whole and only value what they can extract from it, while sanctimoniously holding themselves up as paragons of conservation due to the aforementioned 'hunters-are-funding-most-conservation-in-the-US' factoid. They hold swathes of private land and preach about all the good conservation work they do right up until they get an offer on the land from a developer, and then all those lofty ideals are exchanged for cash. It's almost like we can't count on private landowners to be good or even vaguely adequate stewards of biodiversity.

Well, I'm sick of this. Right wingers should not have as much of a monopoly on hunting as they do. Let’s all band together to make hunting gay so they stop going outside.

Getting into hunting is tricky when you don't have family or friends who do it. And let's face it, at a certain level of leftist political awareness and giving a shit about people you don't personally know, you aren't likely to make many friends in the general hunting community. There's really great people out there, don't get me wrong, but there's also a bunch of the worst motherfuckers you can imagine. Are you imagining a terrible person? Nope, worse than that.

So, how do you learn to hunt all alone? Through YouTube all things are possible! This will do terrible things to your recommendations and ads though, so you might want to consider making a side account or turning off your history and any tracking.

You'd think having been a taxidermist's apprentice for several years would give me an advantage, but this is less useful for actual hunting than you might think. I did go on a walk or two with a hunter while he pointed out bits of sticks and ground that were important though, so I've got that firsthand experience going for me.

First step is figuring out what the rules and requirements are for your area! This part is universal in the US; you'll need to take a hunting safety course so you can get a hunting license.

The first part of the hunting safety course can be done online in Florida, and in quite a few other states too. It's a pretty hefty course, but don't get intimidated! It's free, you don't have to do it all in one shot, and it's not hard. It’s there to teach you what you need to know, it’s not a test you didn’t study for.

Next step of the safety course is to schedule an in-person field day(also free).

There were 30-ish people in the class, which took place at a prison. Although 8am-3pm was blocked off for the class, we were out at 1 and there were several breaks. There was a very easy multiple choice test, and the people who managed to fail it anyway were handed back their sheets to try the marked questions again. That's worrying for us as a society, but it's great news if the term 'multiple choice test' scared you.

We also all fired a .22 rifle to get more practice with the safe handling of a live weapon. I missed every single shot at the target 15 feet away! This also didn't matter at all. They aren't testing you for marksmanship, although I did get a delicately concerned question from the instructor if I intended to go hunting *this* year.

No equipment or money is needed to get the permit, and it's good for life and in every state. If you think you ever might want to try hunting, you might as well get this bit over with!

The next step is acquiring a rifle, and given my level of disposable income, that might take some time.

Actually, that's not entirely true. We can do homework~

And by homework I mean wander around in the woods looking at stuff. But like, look at stuff with a mission.

I've taken some pictures of sign I saw, but in all honesty some of this stuff simply doesn't photograph well.

Deer aren't hanging out on the well traveled trails much, so you'll probably want to find a game trail to follow.

I think in some areas this doesn't suck, but in Florida it kinda sucks. Think less "relaxing hike through the woods" and a lot closer to "jungle trek without a machete and while trying to be quiet".

A lot of hunters who move to Florida give up on the whole concept.

The places deer like to hang out are the same places ticks enjoy, so watch out. They take hours to actually transmit a disease so you don't need to be paranoid while hiking, but do be very thorough when checking after you're out of the woods. Aside from the horrors of Lyme disease, the Lone Star tick can cause you to become allergic to meat.

While not dangerous, chiggers or 'red bugs' are absolutely miserable to encounter. These miniscule mites aren't quite microscopic, but you won't see or feel them climb up on you. By the time you know you fucked up they've already dropped off.

They crawl somewhere dark and sheltered like the edge of your socks, underside of your knee, or band of your pants. Once they feel safe they inject your skin with digestive enzymes to dissolve it, slurp up the skin slurry, and vanish before you start itching like mad for the next 3 days.

Chiggers like damp, rotting wood, and they move very fast. If you find a likely place for them, try placing the tip of one finger on an old log while looking very closely. If you picked a good spot you just might witness them swarm towards your vulnerable flesh~

Do not sit on old logs in Florida.
Don't do it.
Don't stand on them either.
In fact, be a little wary about old wood benches in parks too.

Also try not to stand on rotting branches. This is easier said than done, but if you notice a big branch that fell apart when you stepped on it, don't pause in that specific spot to look around.

If you're in an area where a big tree fell and has been rotting for so long that all the ground around you is mulch, you're in danger. Move, they can't get you if you keep moving.

Other than that, be cautious about fuzzy caterpillars as there are a number of species with nasty stings. The puss moth is the most serious.

What else? Oh, plants!

Barbed vines, those are so inconvenient. It's not uncommon to find them on the edge of forests like a barricade. Sometimes they're wrapped up with something innocuous like wild grape so you don't see them at first.

Florida has a lot of cacti with inch long spines, so try not to step on those. Saw palmetto, those leaves can cut you up. Stinging nettle, that stuff hurts like a nasty insect sting. There's poison ivy too I guess, but I've never had actual trouble with it here.

Oh wow I'm not selling this very well, huh?

Look, if you go out into the woods you might see cool bugs!

Anyway, here's a particularly obvious deer bed.

This was in a little island of tall brush and trees in a grassy area, and all I did was follow a trail to it. When they aren't doing errands, deer hang out in sheltered areas like this where they can see out but it's hard for anything to see in.

Also found some deer droppings, though they're old and dried out.

Perhaps next time I'll have some luck finding a rub, a small tree that male deer rub their antlers on~