Another year and another Fall hunting season lies ahead of us. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been doing some serious e-scouting, crushing workouts, and making sure you’re proficient with your weapon. Maybe you’ve even got out on some scouting trips. It’s pre-season hunting prep time and I love this just as much as I love hunting season. I don’t know if it’s because of the anticipation it holds, being proactive in the process, or if it just helps make hunting season not seem as far away as it is. Whatever it is, it plays a vital role in consistent success in the field. Pre-season hunting prep leads to a positive mindset and a positive mindset leads to filling tags. There are a few things I like to stay conscious of as I go through this process each year.
Hunting Prep 1: Acknowledge Your Shortcomings
One of the most important things to focus on throughout this pre-season hunting prep process is progression I feel. Evolving as hunters and ultimately moving forward on all fronts. A crucial part of moving forward and progressing is acknowledging our shortcomings. It’s easy to just pat ourselves on the back and only focus on the areas we excelled in throughout the season. While these need to be acknowledged, we don’t necessarily get better from knowing what we did right. We get better from knowing what we did wrong. This is going to involve a whole lot of honesty and humility on our part.
We need to look back and truly ask ourselves where we fell short. If you made a bad shot, what exactly happened and what can you do to avoid it from happening in the future? Last year I missed a great early season buck on a high country hunt in Utah. And the reason being was I fell out of my shot process and forgot to level my bow. Since then I’ve made it a point to be very intentional and present in my shot process and have filled the 3 archery tags that followed my time in Utah. A great friend of mine suffered on that same hunt physically. He literally sounded like he couldn’t breathe and was slow as molasses whenever there was any sort of incline or decline. Taking that bit of feedback, he went home, did the work, and absolutely crushed it this year in Idaho for spring bear. It was a night and day difference, but one that only came because he acknowledged his shortcomings.
Hunting Prep 2: Acknowledge Your Milestones
Throughout this preparation process it can be hard to truly see the progress that we seek. We are blinded by our own ambition at times. And if we aren’t seeing progress sometimes motivation can suffer from it. I’ve been there and found myself saying things like “is this really working though?” Which leads me to wonder if it’s even worth doing. Because of that it’s important to also acknowledge your milestones, no matter how small they may be. They serve as positive reinforcement.
If you’re trail running to build your endurance for the mountains, try keeping time, and tracking your progress. While you might not feel any different, you might realize that after a few weeks your time has naturally decreased. When shooting your bow, try measuring your groups or taking photos of them at various distances. You might be surprised to see your groups have shrunk an inch. And also, take a look back on your previous hunting seasons. We covered reflecting on where you went wrong, but take a second and also acknowledge where you’ve gone right. How you’ve likely gotten better and better with each passing year. This can be something as small as getting within bow range of a deer in 2021 with no shot, to you getting a shot and missing in 2022. That right there is a milestone that needs to be acknowledged. Milestones are fuel.
Hunting Prep 3: Leave Your Comfort Zone
We are conditioned for comfort and all have our little comfort zones. Whether it’s scouting the same old country that we’ve been to 100 times or shooting at the same ranges at the same distances time and time again with perfect form. They are there and we love them. While staying within these walls makes us feel much more adequate for the task at hand, leaving them is the only way to progress and grow. Forcing discomfort on ourselves will push those walls out even farther than they are.
A great example of this is that friend of mine I mentioned earlier that struggled on the Utah hunt with me. He got to that point because the guy just loves lifting weights. It’s the core of his comfort zone in terms of fitness. Cardio was beyond that boundary and he never crossed it, because he didn’t like doing cardio. This led to the struggle and opened his eyes to leaving his comfort zone. Dude is a beast now.
The point here is that it’s real easy to just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Just going through the motions and basking in the comfort of it all. I get it and am absolutely guilty of it myself. Staying in my comfort zone doesn’t take as much work. It’s easier. Few things worth having ever come easy though. As hunters, we are wanderers. So, don’t be afraid to wander beyond those walls we build up.
Pre-Season Comes and Goes
For many of us Fall hunting season is a time that we cherish. A time that we literally look forward to every single day of the year. Taking advantage of this pre-season hunting prep is a true fire way of getting the absolute most out of these precious times we hold so dear. Just like hunting season though, they come and go. Once the pre-season is gone, it’s gone and whatever we did or didn’t do will show face in the mountains. Stay one step ahead in preparation so you can be two steps ahead on your hunts with the right head on your shoulders. Good luck out there.