As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change, hunters across this great nation are preparing for their respective seasons in mind, body, and spirit. Guns come out of storage; decoys cleaned and repainted. Bows are shot and deer silhouette targets are popping up in suburban backyards. Deer, of course, are considered big game. However, most deer hunting across the country takes place locally or in an area relatively close to a hunter’s home. For the purposes of this article, we are going to discuss a distant trip for big game. You may have saved your money and put a deposit down with an outfitter or guide in the Rocky Mountains or Canadian wilderness, or, you may have pooled your money with several friends and are trekking “out west” to camp and hunt on public land. Both types of hunt require serious preparation on your part.
Get in Shape
This is very important, especially if you are hunting in a mountainous or hilly region. The worst feeling in the world is watching a trophy walk out of range because it took you too long to get where you needed to be or to steady yourself enough for the shot after getting there. Time spent hiking with a pack, jogging or even walking stairs at work on your lunch hour will pay dividends.
Prepare a List, Check it Two, Three, Four Times
Another terrible feeling is arriving at your destination, unloading your vehicle or unpacking your bags, and realizing that you have forgotten an essential piece of equipment. A range finder, binocular or even rifle sling left behind can cause big problems when you are hundreds of miles from the closest store. If you are going with an outfitter, ask about the necessary gear you will need. If going on your own, do a ton of research on the Internet and ask people who have done it before.
Remote Scout the Area You Will Hunt
Google Earth and the plethora of mapping and satellite photograph websites and software available today mean that it is easier than ever to become familiar with an area even if you’ve never seen it. You will spend less time doing this if you are going on an outfitted hunt, but you should still be familiar with camp areas, trailheads, proximity to “civilization” and an idea as to the type of terrain you will be expected to conquer. If you are on your own, look for areas that you would expect to find your target species. If you are hunting elk, for instance, look for open meadows adjacent to thick timber. Note any agricultural fields the elk may be traveling to and possible areas to set up an ambush. Find easy access points other hunters may prefer. Finally, time spent on the phone with an area biologist will be some of the best time you spend, as they can both identify and eliminate areas you should try.
This is something many people skip or don’t think about, but is essential to ensure that your expectations are met and that you get the most out of your “trip of a lifetime.” Questions to ask yourself, “What are your goals for this hunt?” “Will you be happy with a doe or cow?” “How about a representative buck or bull?” “Will you be satisfied with any game, or is this a limited draw area where you should settle for nothing less than a trophy-level animal?” Contrary to what you may see on TV, even out west, trophy bucks and bulls are not found in every draw and lounging on every mountainside. Deciding ahead of time what will make your trip a success—even if that is just the experience—will ensure your relaxation and enjoyment.
What do you do to prepare for your first big game hunt? Share your tips with us in the comment section.