All photo credits: Brady Miller
All photo credits: Brady Miller
The holidays are over, the days are short and cold and, if you are like me, you are most likely a few pounds heavier than you were last fall. Even though Covid is still prevalent, the future is uncertain and finances may be tight, if you want to go hunting this fall, now is the time to make the commitment so you can be mentally, physically and financially prepared by the time September rolls around. Here are some tips in order to help organize your offseason into a successful fall — no matter what or where you are hunting. In order to give yourself the most successful, most enjoyable and most memorable trip, your preparation must start now — not tomorrow — and definitely not this summer.
Mental preparation involves research, studying, having intimate knowledge of the area and being confident in all aspects of the hunt. Without a doubt, my research always starts on goHUNT Filtering 2.0. Living out West, in Colorado, gives me close access to a lot of western states and a lot of options as to where I want to go hunting. Some states allow you to apply and draw as early as December and some allow you to buy a tag at a local Walmart or sporting goods store the day you get there. Understanding what state you want to hunt is the first decision and this is based upon your location and all of the data in Filtering 2.0. For me, I always will hunt Colorado because it is a cheap resident tag; however, I also like to try to hunt elk out-of-state. Using the filters to decide which state beside Colorado I can draw helps me keep my money in my pocket and helps me be successful in the draws. After I use the filters to find a unit, then I hone in on specific mountain ranges and drainages and come up with multiple plans for success.
Understanding which roads are accessible, which trails have a parking lot and what drainages are going to be over hunted are assumptions that I try to prove through some calls to local game wardens, biologists, forest service offices and any other local knowledge. My goal is to know as much about the area as the locals do so I can make good decisions as to where to hunt. Mental preparation is about having confidence in your areas, knowledge, gear and body. This type of confidence is built throughout the entire offseason by your research, calls, practice and workouts and through previous experiences on the mountains.
When it comes to physical preparation for a mountain hunt, it needs to start today. Let me be honest with you. I promise that anyone with a fully functional body can hike up a mountain; however, what separates a lot of successful hunters from non-successful hunters is their physical shape. Being able to gain thousands of feet of elevation in an hour or two is way different from the four hours of huffing and puffing someone who is out of shape will take. Being in tip top physical shape will also help with recovery and have you physically ready to hunt each day to its fullest. Being in mountain shape will require work — and lots of it — but I promise if you start now, you will be hunting, hiking and killing machine who gets a way better experience than those people who wait until summer to start working out and shooting their bows or guns.
Though elk hunting on public land is not extremely expensive, it can add up in a hurry. Buying the right gear, purchasing points and your tag, driving from areas as far away as the East Coast, butchering fees and, if you are lucky, taxidermy fees can eventually add up to a few thousand dollars. The earlier you can start putting away money in preparation for the trip, the less financial stress your bank account will undergo in September. Personally, a cash stockpile, or one of those savings applications, help me get some money set aside throughout the year in order to be able to hunt multiple states while still taking care of all the important things in my day to day life. By running some quick calculations, you can easily understand how much money you will need to have around by the time you go hunting, then divide that by the number of paychecks between now and then and be sure to put it away weekly. Your spouse will be way more understanding when you save throughout the year instead of charging a credit card or draining your checking the day before your hunt. Getting some hunting buddies to go along for comradery and to split the bills is also an easy way to reduce the cost of hunting in the Rocky Mountains. Just make sure you have good buddies and splitting the costs has been talked about prior to them saying yes.
Overall, when it comes to preparation for a hunt, everything you do will better your chances to be successful. Using goHUNT Filtering 2.0 to find the best tag you can draw, understanding the layout of the land and being confident in your research, gear, and physical ability will increase your chances drastically. Making sure you start your training early and are in the best physical shape you can be will give you a better opportunity and a more enjoyable hunt. Having your finances in order and saving throughout the year will give you a feeling of accomplishment and increase the chances that your wallet and your spouse will let you go year after year. The time for preparation starts now, what are you waiting for?