In 2019 there are five things I want to make absolutely sure I get out of my hunting season. For me, these are the keys to having a great season or at least being able to look back and feel great about the passing season.
I love finding and exploring new country as much as anyone but for me, I also really enjoy rolling into old stomping grounds with good friends knowing right where to look while reminiscing on past hunts in the same canyon.
Another hunt I want, and will always have is something new. For me it about discovery, I love the research side. I love trying to find the right unit or the right tag and then spending hours scouring OnXmaps and Google Earth to find the unknown. The feeling of not really knowing what’s around the next bend or over the next ridge. The feeling of killing a big bull in an area you found 100% on your own and have never been to is one of the top feelings you can gather in your hunting quest. Also, it’s a fact that the meat of said elk tastes better.
One for Me
Every year I look forward to spending some quality time in my own head. Some years it’s only a quick weekend trip or sporadic deer hunts, and other years it is 10 days in the backcountry. Either way, it is important to me to have those trips. As a natural introvert, I realize I probably enjoy these more than others. I truly encourage everyone to spend some time in the outdoors alone, and preferably overnight. I believe its something that once you cross the chasm of feeling uncomfortable can really teach you a lot about yourself.
One with You.
This year if I had to say there was something I missed it would be that I didn’t do enough hunting with others. Ironically a year ago when I looked back on my previous season and was planning 2018 I just knew I wanted to hunt solo more. I had actually planned to hunt with friends but due to busy schedule ended up having to cancel on those hunts. This year I wanna make sure I schedule in those hunts with friends and people who I enjoy spending time with. It can be easy to see friends and say “we should do this” but unless you put it in the calendar it can be just as easy to let those empty promises slip through the cracks. When you set a trip or a date or a plan in place you not only make sure you are more likely to follow through with those plans but you also get the added benefit of looking forward to those plans with those people. This could be making sure my wife and I spend time on trips just for us or setting time aside for hunting with old buddies.
An Adventure Through and Through.
This last one may be a bit arbitrary to me but with every year I want to have an adventure that pushes me. My top 20% of experiences could probably fall mostly into this category. On a lot of different levels seeking the next adventure is what pushes me to become better and honestly what gets me through the day to day of life. Again, this is different for everyone, but for me, adventure tends to be in the mountains. We could probably do a deep dive into the correlation of risk and adventure but the overarching theme of adventure seems to have elements of risk and unknowns. Adventure has and probably will come from various pieces of every hunt or trip I go on, but as I look forward at my plans for 2019 I want to make sure that element exists at sufficient level.
Overall this is how I am thinking about my 2019, it should be said that this could involve many hunts or only a few. A lot of these principles overlap, in fact, it is very likely that they do. In years past my true adventure has been with old friends, while other years I have had epic adventures while solo and exploring new area’s. These are merely the piece that I hold dear and want to ensure within my season.
It should also be noted that one thing I have started doing is making sure I have a safety net in place. It’s no news that I love chasing big bulls. Like many, I still struggle with the urge to search for the biggest bull in the land whilst also feeling the weight of an empty freezer on my trigger finger. A successful September to me is spending every day in the elk woods, yet I rely on elk meat to get me through the year. Since moving to Montana I have been fortunate to be able to have a plethora of doe and cow tags to fall back on. I highly recommend for those who can, to put a safety net in place. This could come in the form of a late season cow or spike tag or maybe a few extra doe tags. For me, this has allowed me to focus on setting high standards and not feeling like my family is going to go hungry for my selfishness. Not only has this allowed me to enjoy my adventures more, but has also over the years allowed me to hone my craft by spending more time in the woods.
Focus on Experiences
As most of you know I preach buying tags, not gear. By this I mean spend money on experiences first and not material things. Good gear can be necessary sometimes, and I even have times where I follow the philosophy of “buy nice not twice.” However, there is a plethora of evidence to show that we hold memories and experiences in higher regards and receive more long-lasting value from them than material objects. This is why it is important to have hunts to look forward to, part of the experience of the hunting for me is the expectation and romanticization of a hunt if you will. Thinking about an upcoming adventure can be as rewarding as the hunt itself. The same could be said for planning a hunt. I truly love the research and scouting that goes into a new area that I have never been before. Not only do I think this is one of the most important skills to becoming a great hunter but for me, it adds to the adventure of it all as well.
Less is More
It seems like every year I try to plan fewer trips but spend more time. It can be easy to watch others on their Instalife and want to book my schedule solid every week in a different state. If that is your cup of tea, great! For me, I need to remember what I want out of each season. I think I am still at that point where I would rather spend 10 days discovering a part of the country and truly combing it over for great buck or bull more than shooting five bulls in five states. That’s just me, you may be different and that’s fine because we are all at different points in our evolution as hunters.
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