There will always be unforeseen obstacles in any hunt.  Unpredictable weather, nocturnal trophy animals, or worse yet, equipment failure?  Does your hunt end with a list of things you wished you would of done different?  How about the list of items you wish you had packed or practiced with more?  A few examples that come to mind are folks heading to the field with first time gear, like a brand new tent that you fumble to put together clumsily.  Or that new lightweight sleeping bag you just bought that wouldn’t keep you warm in Hawaii.  How about the list of stuff you wished you would have remembered to pack like a simple toothbrush, or a rain jacket for midday thunder boomers.  What about the shooting scenarios we face for the first time during the hunt which result in zero table fare because our lack of due diligence.  For example, you neglected to tune your bow for third axis and sent an arrow off its mark on a steep uphill shot.  Or your rifle saw no time at the range and the scope was bumped leaving you shooting warning shots rather than finding its mark.  What about the stuff you bring that you didn’t want to bring; most importantly the extra twenty pounds you packed on from a long winter and now you’re lugging useless body fat every step you take into the mountains.  Your body is your best weapon.  This vehicle transports you to all your outdoor adventures and motors you through God’s country. 

This weapon gets overlooked by busy people focused on scouting for their upcoming hunts and updating their inventory of hunting gear.  Like any weapon, you have to dope or dial in your weapon and take precious care in order to be deadly come fall.  Let’s discuss how to tune-up your body for hunting season and look at some creative ways to dope your weapon with some realistic shooting scenarios for perfect practice.

The number one weapon in your arsenal gets the nod first.  Your body serves you, so serve it up with some weekly conditioning that mimics the demands of the woods.  Load your pack with exactly what you plan on hunting with and strap on your hunting boots.  You need to adapt to the exact weight that will be on your back everyday and nothing will duplicate the specificity of hiking rough terrain with weight on your back like humping the hills with load.  A good rule of thumb is to strength train a couple times a week and wrap your week up with one or two “hunt ready” hikes.  You can ramp up the duration or intensity as the season approaches.  There is no question that any training you do will not come without some sort of personal sacrifice on your part; sleep, TV time, or some other weekly activity that does nothing to make you ready for hunting season.  Sacrifice produces reward!  Between all your training, the other weapon needs some fine-tuning so let’s go over perfect practice shooting scenarios.

All my western animals harvested involved shooting my bow with a daypack or bigger strapped to my shoulders and waist.  If your practice involves a level ground range, zero 3D targets and no pack, then you’re setting yourself up for heartache.  I shoot at uphill and downhill targets with varied terrain and through varied heart rate conditions.  You will never shoot an animal in a controlled environment so why on earth would you practice that way?  Practice shooting in boots, hunting pack, and at 3D targets placed at various distances and angles.  Most rangefinders have an inclometer built in, but I usually shoot my first arrow based on my best guess and then the second shot with the rangefinder.  This will teach you to judge distance and cut better.  The term “cut” is the horizontal distance to the target, gravity only acts perpendicular to the earth’s surface. Thus an arrow is only acted on by gravity for the distance that it travels parallel to the earth, or rather only the horizontal distance.  This results in having to aim low for both downhill and uphill shots.  So if that big bull is 60 yards below you, and the pitch is greater than 45 degrees, chances are that you’re going to end up with a 50 yard shot or less.  Learn your cuts now.  This same advice is applicable to the modern firearm crowd.  The other item of your due diligence when it comes to uphill/downhill shots is making sure your third axis is dialed in on your bow rig.  Many of today’s archery sights have this adjustment, and if they don’t you can still shim your sight to insure proper set-up.  This topic could take up a full article alone, so to save you time do some Internet research or take your bow to your local pro shop and ask them to help you.  For those Do-It-Yourself types look up the Hamskea Easy Third Axis Level and make sure you have a plumb-bob line set-up.  The third axis tune will make sure you don’t miss left or right at steep angles and will improve your ability to tighten the noose around your next big game mountain quarry.  Once you’re proficient at different angles and you’ve learned your weapon, make sure to shoot with an elevated heart rate.  Most folks underestimate the level of difficulty of making a solid shot that entailed holding your breath while being slightly out of breath.  Experiment with your breathing, your heart pounding, your pack clinging to your body, and make this happen in a dynamic mountain terrain and you’ll be more confident in your set-up.

No matter your choice in weapon, your body will always be your number one.  Fine tune all your weapons and gear and leave nothing to chance so when you return from your fall hunts, you have plenty of meat in the freezer instead of a laundry list of things you should have done differently.