Randy Nolin is an avid Idahoan hunter. “I go every year without fail,” he says. Elk season opens on October 15th, which just so happens to also be Randy’s birthday. “I intentionally save up my vacation days for the beginning of the season.” Idaho Wild sat down with him to get some insider tips and tricks of the trade to hunting in Idaho. He usually is a big game hunter, which includes elk and deer but also bird hunts and is heavily involved in trap shooting, but we’ll talk about that another time!
What’s your favorite thing about hunting?
Hunting is getting back to our roots. Being out in the open and away from people. There’s peace and quiet and I genuinely enjoy being in nature. There is a satisfaction of providing protein to your family and knowing that it’s all natural. By hunting, you know where your meat is coming from.
What are some common misconceptions?
True hunters don’t just go and murder animals for the fun of it. We don’t even take a shot if we don’t have a clear shot. If the animal is running away, we won’t take the shot. You want to make sure you take a kill shot. It’s humane; it’s not just to feed, it is also for conservation.
Conservation is a way more humane way to kill an animal, then to watch them starve. If you don’t maintain the number in a herd they will eat their way out of that area and with winters you will get animals starving to death.
For our family hunting has brought us closer together. We make it a family event. It also teaches your children safety and how to survive.
The way I always explain to people is by the saying, “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, if you teach a man to fish you feed them for a lifetime.” You teach your children how to provide and take care of their families. If anything happens, or things get bad, god forbid society crumbles, the people that know how to fish and hunt can survive.
How do you go about getting your license?
You can purchase your license anytime throughout the year. A hunter’s education course is included and essential in order to get your license. I usually get mine at the end of the year before or right on January 1, because I like to have it for coyote hunting. You have to get your hunting license before you get a tag, and you need a tag for big game hunting. The tags can be purchased at any Walmart or anywhere that has a fish and game kiosk. You also need a tag for duck or anything that migrates, but those are significantly less expensive.
What to bring
Most people know what to bring for a normal camping trip, you can google a packing list, but these are the things he has found to be most beneficial over the years that might not be as obvious.
The most important thing to bring is a survival pack. You need supplies, that regardless of the conditions, will be able to start a fire. Personally, I carry some 9-volt batteries and wool and you can start a fire almost instantly without worrying about it getting wet. I keep those things in my backpack. Water or a water purifier that allows you to get water out of the creek are essential. With those things you can survive for days.
- Secondary backup rifle in case anything happens to the first one
- Side arm: for your protection and just in case the animal is not dead. You don’t want an animal wounded. You can also use the side arm for signal shots if you need help. There’s a three shot universal signal-you shoot 3 times with 3 seconds between each shot. People around will know it is an SOS. Once they see this, they can come to you to help and it also allows others to shoot their rounds and you’ll know where they’re at.
- 2-3 sets of boots because you are bound to get wet
- Clothes appropriate for the season. It’s either going to snow, rain, or be 86 degrees.
- PRO TIP: Bring a backup pair of clothes with you on the hill. Even in the cold weather, when you’re hiking you’ll start to sweat, and then your clothes get wet and you can end up freezing.
- Knives, especially a skinning knife
- Rope or mule tape
- I prefer mule tape because it packs easier, it’s a flat rope that condenses, very strong, and you can get a long chunk of it in a small package.
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Game bags: Ideally you want to be able to bag and hang your meat
- Need bags so the flies don’t get to it
- To keep the dirt off the meat
- If we’re on the hill and it’s not snowing, I can skin one side of the animal and as I’m cutting the meat off, I can role it in the tarp to keep it off the dirt.
- Having something to clean your scopes, lenses, binoculars
What does a typical day look like?
Rise at dark, come home at dark. Wake up early, layer your clothes, and definitely eat breakfast and pack a lunch. You want high protein, low weight food that will be easy to pack.
Before leaving double check your pack to make sure you have your essential equipment. I’ll get my binos on and make sure my gun is in working order and have plenty of extra ammo.
Then we take off to a hunting location where we think we’ll see the elk, we try to stop a ways away without making noise. We try to set up where we think we’ll have our vantage point and shooting area before the sun comes up. Typically, animals get up for their morning drink and they bed down in the afternoon, and in the early evening they will go back for water for the night. Those are the prime times for being out there.
Depending on location and the weather, for example if it’s foggy and you can’t see, that will determine if you stay out all day or go back to camp. If you’re hunting and have good access to your camp, it’s not unheard of to go back for the afternoon and hang out because the typical animal is not roaming around during that time. My friends and I are usually out all day. If we are convinced that there is nothing in that area, we will up and move to try to find a better area where we think we will be more successful.
Do you use any maps or GPS?
The GPS is the most useful piece of equipment in a brand-new location, or for a new hunter. I use On X Hunt- a navigation app. It shows things such as:
- Private property
- Federal property
- The borders so you know you’re not trespassing
- Land owners name
- If you get an animal, they can travel after its shot, they sometimes cross into someone’s land
- Drop pins to show you where you went
- Backtrack if its gets dark or if you get lost you can turn the GPS on and go back the way you came
- Different settings for maps, shows things like elevation
What is most challenging?
The hardest part is the spotting and stalking part-getting to any area and finding the animal and then getting into position to make an ethical shot. With more people coming out to hunt there is tremendous pressure in the hills, it’s pushing the animal out to tough areas where we can’t get to them on foot.
Most important thing if you’re new to hunting?
Be aware of your surroundings. Always check and double check your background before pulling the trigger, never shoot over a horizon. Make sure you know what animal you are shooting!! Look up the animal and have a good ID of the animal. Be educated and do your research before you go.
- How to make a good ethical shot:
- Take two to three deep breaths and on the last breath let half of it out, gently squeeze the trigger
- When the firearm goes off it should surprise the shooter
- This technique will keep you calm and your heart rate slow in a high pressure situation
- Bring a sling for your rifle
*These experiences have been mostly based on big game hunting.
If you are interested in learning more…
Be sure to read Idaho Hunting Seasons and Rules.
Idaho hunting licenses and tags can be purchased here.