Hunting is a very popular past time in the US and is great practice for preppers and survivalists. Not only will you learn how to creep up on animals, track animals and learn about how adrenaline affects your use of a weapon, but it can also be a great time to practice survival with minimal supplies. Until the time comes when you are hunting because your life depends on it, you should have fun and learn through hunting. Though it may not be that close to big game hunting season in your area many of these things are pre hunt suggestions so they can help you prepare even now for your hunt.
Have the Right Equipment
This is a very important aspect of hunting. Though you need the correct weapon for the type of hunting you are doing, having the correct equipment in your backpack is very important. When going out for a day hunt your backpack should really have enough for 1-2 days. It’s better to have a little more than you need than not enough. Here are some of the things I carry when hunting.
Comfortable and Strong Backpack – First Aid Kit – Flashlight – Fire Starting Equipment – Poncho – Warm Hat – Long Johns – Gloves – Handheld Saw (to cut animal bone or tree branches for a blind or to start a fire) – Food and Snacks – Water – Water Purification Tablets – Glow Stick – GPS (Good to have a compass and map also) – Binoculars – Few Different Types of Knives (one for gutting and skinning) – Camping Eating Utensils – Leatherman – Survival Blanket – Foldable Shovel
Bow or Gun (whatever I am using to hunt usually a bow) – Pistol (For Self-defense if Archery hunting, make sure it is legal in your state) – Bugle Tube(If Elk Hunting) – Range Finder – Camo Hat, Pants,and Shirt – Warm Socks – Camo Jacket – Good Hunting Boots (Comfortable and waterproof are the best) – Pocket Knife – Wallet with Drivers License, Hunting License and Tag(for the animal I am hunting) – Car Keys – Cell Phone(Set to silent or turned off, If no service then you may not need it)
There are other things that I probably should have and hope to get before the next time I go hunting. There are also things that may fit your hunt that I have not listed. Every hunt is different so the equipment you need will change. If you are hunting for whitetail deer in Southern AZ warm clothes may not be necessary. Remember to tailor your gear to your hunt.
Do Some Pre-Hunt Scouting
To be successful in a hunt you must know where the animals are and how they are moving. There are many different ways to do this. I normally like to go to my hunting location a couple weeks to a month before the hunt to see how the animals are moving. I find game trails (actual trails used by animals, and yes they like to make things easy just like humans do) and walk them to find out if they are being used. Normally it is quite easy to tell. Just look for droppings and hoof or paw prints and assess when these were left. Scouting can be even more important if you really don’t know the area and never hunted. Scouting will also help you to know what types of equipment you should have. You will also be able to find less human traveled areas. This is important because many times after the first few days of a hunt there will be more pressure on the animals to move to a less hunted area. This is what happened last year on my elk hunt. We saw many elk the first 2 days in some of the areas we had scouted, then the 3rd day there was nothing and it was frustrating. We had to actually hunt about a mile away right where the elk had moved to. The hunt got much more fun at this point as there was much less people and a lot more elk. The one drawback to this is that the terrain was much more difficult in this area, but it offered more exercise, which is a plus.
Though I personally have never used a trail camera many people have them and swear by them. I don’t believe these can be used during hunting season so follow the rules. Also there are two big problems with them you can forget where you put them or they can be stolen. So here are two suggestions write down the exact coordinates where all trail cameras are placed and devise something to lock them to the tree to make it harder to steal. Much of the hunting I do is elk hunting so being able to track a bugle and being able to call elk in with your own bugle is important. As these are the main things I use to find elk I don’t really have as much need for a trail camera. I could see them being very helpful with other species of animals from deer to coyote to mountain lion.
Find the Water
As water is important to humans it is equally important to animals. If you are in an area that gets rain everyday or that standing water is everywhere, this may not be as important. In areas I hunt this is essential. Though it may rain for a whole day the ground will be dry a day or two after. Many times there are forest service built tanks for animals to drink from as well as valleys where water may pool or even small streams. When you are scouting water is just as important as finding where the animals are moving.
If it really starts to get warm and the animals move to water you will be able to easily change your hunting spot and style to be able to get an animal coming to and from water. It is much easier and quicker to be able to go to where the water is rather than having to search for it during your hunt. Searching could cost you a whole day or longer of hunting. You will also want to check your state hunting laws and regulations regarding sitting or putting blinds up around water and tanks. This might be a little off topic, but there is also hunting etiquette regarding hunting near other hunters blinds or where they are sitting. If you find another hunter don’t sit down 40 yards from where he is, try to give some space as he may have taken a long time to find his ideal spot. Respect other hunters and their space.
Practice With the Weapon You Will Be Using
This is extremely important and the most likely reason I was not successful on last year’s elk hunt. Practice, practice, practice and practice makes perfect are two very important sayings when it comes to hunting. This is even more important when it comes to archery hunting. It is great to be able to set a target out and measure or range your distance and hit a bulls eye every time, but this does not always translate to a hit when you are actually hunting. When you have an animal in your sights or scope your heart is pumping and your adrenaline is through the roof. This is tough to simulate, but if possible is best to practice in high adrenaline situations. You will also want to practice with obstacles and in odd positions. I only had one shot last year (the one I hit but didn’t get) where I had a perfectly clear shot and could use my range finder. Most shots will be quick shots, shots with branches and sticks in your way or even from sitting, kneeling and prone positions.
One of my favorite ways to practice with my bow is to put up my target and just walk to a random location where I can shoot at the target. I don’t range my target; I just estimate how far it is then shoot at the target. This simulates many shots you will get while hunting, where you will not be able to check the distance, but rather you will just have to estimate distance based on instinct and estimating distance over and over. The last exercise I like to do to hone my distance estimating skills is to estimate and check. If I am hiking, scouting, or even hunting, but not seeing any animals I will pick an object and estimate distance in my head. I will then check it with my range finder.
This has helped me to get much better at estimating distance. I am now usually within 3-4 yards of actual distance out to about a 100 yard target.
Let People Know Where You Are and How Long You Will Be There
This is really more of a safety precaution, but can be very important. I would say for the most part it is not smart to go camping and on a long hunt alone. If you are able bring people and other vehicles with you. Last year our hunting camp had a guy walk up to it and ask us for help. He had decided to come camping to blow off some steam after a bad week. His vehicle would not start and we weren’t able to help him get it going. He was all alone and had no cell phone coverage where we were. We were able to give him a lift to a rest stop by the highway so he could talk to his wife and find a way to get his truck towed or at least fixed. He was lucky that we were camped about a half mile from him. In a more deserted place it could have become a real problem.
So this just helps with my next point of safety. Make sure people know where you are going to be camped and how long you will be there. If you were to break your leg while hiking from your camp there is a much better chance search and rescue will know where to find you or at least they will know where to start. With search and rescue knowing at least where to start this could save a day or two of searching and could be the difference of life and death if you are not well prepared.
Check the Hunting Regulations to See If Anything Has Changed
The hunting regulations of your state can change from year to year so make sure to check for any changes from the year before. The Game and Fish may have changed a rule or redrawn the unit boundaries. I know one of the changes in AZ not that long ago is that you are now allowed to carry a self defense pistol with you even when archery hunting. The pistol can’t be used to hunt, but only for self defense.
It would be a real bummer to get charged with poaching or something else and not only not be allowed to hunt again, but possibly go to jail and have to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer. Ignorance of the law is not a good defense when it comes to courts. If you think a Game and Fish Warden is just a rent a cop you might want to think again, they have quite a bit of authority. Treat them the same way as you treat a cop (or any other person for that matter) with respect.
Make It An Experience Not Just a Hunt
At the moment we are not forced to get our food through hunting, so make it not only a learning experience, but also a great experience. Hunting is a great sport for camaraderie. Some of the best times I have had while hunting and camping are just setting around the fire talking and just hanging out. We will usually take off a whole week to go hunting and it is very refreshing to be away from all the noises and speed of life as it is today.
What I was always told is that if you go out and expect to get something every time (even more pertinent with archery hunting) you won’t have any fun. Think of getting an animal as more of a bonus. The great part is being able to spend time out in the wilderness honing your skills as well as getting to spend times with loved ones and friends out by the fire. Cherish all the times you have while hunting not just the times stalking your prey.
If you follow these rules you will not only be more successful in your hunting, but it will also be more fun and memorable. It is great to be able to admire all the great things God has given us while we are able to enjoy it and it isn’t just a way of life. If we practice our skills of prepping now we will be able to successfully use them later when things are out of hand.