By Dan Staton, MC, CSCS

Welcome to 2013, a new year and a fresh start. Fall flew past us all and now we have the opportunity to make this year better than last. For many, these plans involve healthier habits regarding nutrition, exercise, and weight loss. Or perhaps a career change, a move up the corporate ladder, and maybe something even more exciting like beginning of a new business venture. For a handful of hardcore hunters, there’s even goal setting for better hunting outcomes for the year. Yes, setting some hunting goals might sound over-the-top, but if you’re like me, you have very limited time in the field each year, and success hinges upon clearly defined objectives. Taking the time to lay the ground work for a successful season isn’t complicated, but carving out a few minutes to plan your work, will allow you to work your plan throughout the year.

Goals must be specific to preserve razor sharp focus. If you want to lose weight, make sure you list how much. What will your body fat percentage at when fall rolls around. What kind of conditioning is necessary to achieve this? How much stronger can you get this year, what will it take to accomplish this? You want to kill a big bull next year? How big? Do you want to shoot a Boone and Crocket caliber or perhaps something over 300 inches? Whatever goal you have in mind, just make sure it is specific and measurable, so that at the end of the season, you can look back and know for certain whether or not you reached your goal.

All your goals are now specific, make sure that they are also realistic. Sure, we all want to have 6-pack abs and kill a 400 inch bull, but if the goals are too dream like, then you might end up frustrated and disappointed. For example, on the public land that I hunt, it wouldn’t be very realistic for me to set a goal of shooting a 400-inch typical bull. That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen, but the odds are extreme, and if I set that kind of goal every year, then I am going to eventually throw in the towel and forget about setting any goals at all. The trick is to set realistic goals and to keep them high enough to make you work at it, but not so high that success is unlikely. Obtainable goals are what we need to keep us out hustling the competition year round.

Jot it Down
We need to put our goals in writing to make the process come to life and so you can review periodically throughout the year. Write down the goal, and then follow it up with the necessary list of due diligence that will enable you to accomplish the task at hand. Let’s say that your goal is to harvest your first elk with a bow this fall. In order to do that, you may need to find country that holds good numbers of elk that you can hunt. You may need to join a gym so that you can train everyday leading up to the season so you’re physically fit to tackle the mountains. You might have to join a winter bow league to get the necessary year round practice. Maybe you’ll need to scout twice as much as you plan on hunting or hang double digit trail cameras out. Study maps, call the biologist, and talk to other hunters. Whatever those steps may be, you need to figure out exactly what it’s going to take to make it happen and then start planning when and how you will accomplish each in order to reach your ultimate goal of harvesting that elk. Break down each goal for the year into monthly tasks. This will serve as your daily and weekly checklist that you can record your progress so the goals stay on your radar.
As another year approaches, do not squander the opportunity to renew your hopes and establish a clear and concise vision. Pick up a pen, grab some loose leaf, and dial in exactly what you plan on achieving in 2013. Set goals for health, fitness, career, family, and hunting. Just taking the time to consider your objectives will allow you to look forward to a season that you will never forget.