I plan on taking the hunter safety course even though I am exempt in my state. My weakness is not firearms and firearms safety, I am a NRA Instructor. I am week on where to hunt, how to track, how to process the animal and such.
Re: Hunter Safety
The hunter safety course emphasizes on what is an ethical shot, this is absolutely important and why taking the course is the law and so vital for hunters. I returned from my elk hunting trip this year with my father-in-law and he is a retired law enforcement of over 40 years. He was grandfathered in and did not need to obtain the Hunter Safety Course from his State.
He was also a a firearms range instructor for his police department. All that being stated, he made in what was my opinion unethical shots during our trip. I have the utmost respect for him as a military veteran, but he was never taught growing up and harvesting deer what they teach you in hunter safety course.
The Hunter Safety Course offers many useful information on hunting laws that are beneficial, and advice on hunting, ethical shots, and hand outs on proper game handling and processing.
Re: Areas to Hunt
My best advice is to study the hunting area maps and use your summer and spring to scout the areas nearby to familiarize yourself what the areas are. This can be great fun and you can practice looking at bedding areas, tracks, etc (this is what I did).
I suspect this may take a few years of familiarizing yourself with your areas and seeing game with your eyes during off-season and correlating where they are on the designated Hunting area.
I have a topo maps, and a GPS/SD card telling me all the public land, state land, and private land info.
I also rely in the harvest reports now because they are absolutely vital for my future hunting from now on. I am empty handed this year because I ignored the harvest reports success rates. They matter.
I also only been in Wyoming for just a few years and my best resources have been stopping at my nearby fish and game office and asking the wardens and staff for help on area questions and advice (like please tell me where the elk are, LOL). I had a warden tell us if the elk had moved down yet, and they even marked a map for me the elk's migratory routes. That helped out big time.
Don't be alarmed if other hunters don't share their locations where they hunt, it's not being unfriendly, this is like an unwritten rule to many like a closely guarded fishing hole. Don't get me wrong hunters are friendly with each other and often when in the same public land areas help each other out with info.
Believe it or not I watched videos on processing game animals. After landing my first deer last year I feel very comfortable doing it again.