Preparing for Hunting Season: Increase your success 10 fold!

Controlling the controllable in Hunting for High success: Click on all the video links to get a better picture of what I am talking about

The more I talk to guys about hunting especially those who are consistently successful there is a pattern that is undeniable: The guys who spend the time controlling the things they can and don’t get flustered about the things they can’t, have success year in year out. I myself have been a big proponent of controlling the controllable and practicing for the game but unfortunately I haven’t mastered the art of not blowing up when things don’t go my way. So I will share with you some of what I do to help improve my success each year.

If you take a look at your planned hunts a go through every little detail about a hunt and dissect the variables you can control out from those you cannot you will see that you can “control” or at least direct many factors that can determine the outcome of that hunt. A word of caution there is a point of diminishing returns so be careful not to obsess over details that won’t yield success. Here are some of the variables I have found when I spend time on them pay dividends.  

Building consistent Arrows is key

Equipment: Most of us know the adage “you get what you pay for”, although I feel it’s important to have the best of what you can afford, I feel it’s more important for you to become intimately familiar with your equipment. It’s important for you know the limitations of what you have so that you can push it as close to those limits when needed. I can write a whole article specifically on each of the items I use an why but that’s not the point here I want you to look at what you have and figure out what can be improved. For example: I spend a lot of time on the tune of my bow and how I build my arrows and what broadhead I am using so that when I release an arrow I know that if I made a bad shot it’s on me and not my equipment. Same with my rifle, I develop a load, dial the scope to that load etc. Hopefully its clear of what I am getting at : you may only have $9 walmart knockoff broadheads but you owe it to yourself and the game you hunt to tune your bow to that head and practice shooting with that head so you know your limitations and can build a level of confidence that translates into success. I want you to keep that word confidence in your mind because ultimately it is the theme for this entire article everything you do towards improving your results builds confidence and that is the #1 deciding factor in success.   

Gear check: Many of us go through our gear before the season and most of us that do will go through it before each hunt and that is great. But I have had more missed opportunities then I can count due to failed equipment. Most of these failures have been due to bow or release malfunctions which were working perfectly before I left for my hunt. Over the years I have developed some tricks to mark my bow so I can do a quick check before each day of hunting. This has greatly reduced the occurrence of failure for me. But of course this only works if you check it. Last season my sight came loose while on a stalk for a big buck in NV and ultimately it cost me that buck. I had plenty of time to do a check of my bow while I was waiting for this buck to work his way to me but I was so caught up in the moment that I didnt do what I usually would. Normally as part of a ritual before I make a stalk I will draw my bow back  and check to see if everything looks kosher and that my release is functioning properly. I also give my bow a few bumps with my fist to see if I hear anything loose. Moreover When I get into position if I’m setting up and ambush I will draw to check my shooting lanes and clearances etc. I didn’t do any of these things before I made the stalk and it cost me. You can hear similar stories and solutions in my podcast with Kip Fowler, whom by the way has mastered that of which I have not and that is not to cry over spilled milk we speak a lot on the subject of which we are discussing in this article.  

it pays to be in good shape to hunt

Physical fitness: I can see the keyboard trolls fingers getting hot already. I feel that when I am in shape and I have done sport specific training: one I feel more confident ( there’s that word again) two I am more comfortable and three I’m more able to complete the tasks need for success. I have two short examples where physical fitness or lack thereof made a difference. I was guiding a client and I glassed up the biggest coues buck I had ever seen way up high feeding in a bowl that was adjacent a finger ridge we could get to “easily”. This position would put us less than 300 yards to make a shot. We began our hike and about 1/3 of the way up my client was tired ( 10 years younger than me BTW) he suggested I go up without him to get eyes on the buck and he’d go at his own pace, so I grabbed his gun and his pack and I went up to the top to get set up and wait for him. I sat there and watched this buck for 35mins before he began to feed away and top over the ridge and out of sight. I went back over the edge to look for my client only to see him still ¼ of the way from the top. Example number two I had an off year and was unable to practice in the normal fashion I would ( you will see some of this below) and I found myself in an awkward position which took a lot of my strength to maintain. I was only 20 yards from a bedded buck and was waiting for him to stand to make a clear shot, when he finally stood I went to draw back my bow and I couldn’t draw it because my arms were so tired from the position I was in. I know that if I was in my usual shape this would have been a slam dunk for me… Not enough to convince you to be fit…? Think about this. Experts will agree there is no substitute for time spent afield… The more time you spend the more chances you have for success period. One thing you can do to maximize the time you have to hunt is spend as much of that time actually hunting and your physical fitness plays a key role in this.  

Mental preparedness: I am always thinking about what I should do and how I should react, in fact all off season I run myself through these mental situations and I recall past experiences to help me make the right decision once I am faced with something in the field. I am just constantly building confidence.  Whether you are sitting in a stand orstalking you need to visualize yourself making it happen. A perfect example of this is sitting waiting for a buck to stand you need to be picturing all the likely outcomes, range all the markers you can remember, look at all the shooting lanes and think about all the body positions he can be in. Then picture yourself making the shot! One of the things that had helped me with this more than anything is bowhunting for coyote in the off season. When I get to a calling spot I pre range 5-10  landmarks that are within my kill zone, I draw my bow back and see what articulations I can make and see what I can clear, I sometime trim branches at this point then I start to call and the whole time I am visualizing the different directions in which he can come from and how I should react if he comes from a certain direction. When on a stalk if and I am unsure of exactly where a buck is I constantly ranging in front of me and preparing my mind if a buck steps out to make a good shot. If you can visualize it you can make it happen.

preseason practice
Shooting extreme angles

Practicing for the game: Practicing life like scenarios may be the number one preparation tool and confidence builder around. Ask yourself this; do you think standing in perfect form 40 yards in front of a block target, on a perfect day, shooting field points accurately gets you prepared for making a 60 yard shot on a 30 degree angle down at a feeding buck while you are tucked up under a jack pine on your knees on a windy day? Let me help you… it doesn’t! So many times I see guys come out to hunt and they tell me they can shoot 80 yards etc. etc. but they are not practiced in the way you need to be and then when they are faced with a shot opportunity they are unable to make it. There is no secret formula here just think about where, when and how you will be hunting and develop practice sessions that mimic that. Shoot from hunting positions, at hunting angles, with hunting obstructions wearing your hunting gear, in hunting weather. Im sure there has been many times where people have looked at me crazy wearing jackets, packs and gloves while I practice. Or shooting from kneeling or sitting positions out in a monsoon but its all-important trust me. It’s important for muscle memory and it’s important for confidence. Don’t sell your hunt short because you are not willing to take the time to prepare. Here is a good podcast with my buddy Ron Nixon who has not been bowhunting for very long but has had tremendous success because he has confidence in his preparation   

Here are some links to some of my preparation:

Elk hunting practice

Practicing finding deer in scope  

Quick check when you draw your bow

Shooting under pressure 1  & Shooting under pressure 2  

Some clips of my practice

Never miss and elk again

Find your effective range