It’s that time of year when draw results are being announced and you can finally start preparing for that long-awaited hunt that you’ve been putting in for year after year. But if your hunt is in a different state, getting prepared is more than just paying for the tag and license. There are a lot of things you must consider before setting out on your journey—many of which could mean the difference in notching a tag or returning to tag soup.
Here are a few tips on how to prepare for your big hunt:
If you have limited time, a successful hunt often depends on the ability to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. That makes it even more important to be in good physical condition.
If your everyday life doesn’t include much physical activity, start walking, jogging, climbing stairs or join a gym.
If you have a regular cardio and strength training routine in the gym, change it up by getting outdoors and trying trail running. This works different muscle groups and helps get you used to the changes in terrain that you’ll encounter on your hunt.
Instead of taking the ATV to check trail cameras, take a hike!
Wear your hunting pack while hiking, but add some extra weight that replicates what you might be carrying during the hunt.
If you’ll be hunting with friends or family, try to get them involved in the exercise.
Practice, practice, practice to ensure a great shot
Whether you’re hunting with a bow or a gun, the more you practice, the better you’ll shoot when it counts.
Shoot wearing the clothes you’ll be hunting in.
Practice while standing and sitting in different positions.
Shoot at different distances. If you might be taking a 200-yard shot, practice at 200 yards.
If you’ll be hunting from a ground blind or tree stand, make sure to practice from them so you be aware of blind spots, what position you might need to be in, and any possible visual obstructions. And remember…ALWAYS wear your harness in the tree stand!
If hunting with a gun, practice using shooting sticks or other stabilizers.
Try to guess distances while walking then pace it off or check with a range finder to see how well you guessed. You might not always have the chance to range find in the moment.
Make sure you have appropriate clothing and shoes
If you’re hunting in a different state, the weather is likely going to be different than what you’re used to that time of year. Identify what type of clothing and/or accessories you will need for your hunt.
Check the average temperatures for when and where you’re hunting to identify what you might need.
Waterproof rain gear is always good to have on hand.
Be sure to have clothes you can layer. Cold mornings can turn into hot afternoons. You’ll need to adjust your clothing throughout the day so you’re warm enough in the morning, but not overheating in the afternoon.
If snow is possible, a pair of leg gaiters will help keep feet and lower legs dry. Leg gaiters are also great gear to have to keep your legs dry when dew is present, or when you're walking through brushy areas.
Look for camo patterns that match the terrain you’ll be hunting.
If you decide new boots are needed, make sure to purchase them early enough to break them in; it takes around 50 miles to break in new boots. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of nowhere with blisters and aching feet!
Make sure you have the correct hunter orange clothing if required by the state you’re hunting. Some states require hat and vest, some just one piece of orange, and many are now allowing hunter pink instead of orange.
Check your hunting equipment to make sure it’s in working order
Well before your hunt, make a list of all equipment you’ll need. Take inventory of what you have, and determine what you need to get. Check all equipment for damage or wear that might cause problems during a hunt.
Make sure your gun scope is sighted in properly, and determine how much your bullet will drop at various distances. Practice using the same ammo you’ll be using on your hunt.
Check arrows for cracks by lightly bending. Toss any damaged arrows into the trash.
Make sure you have extra arrows and/or replacement broad heads or blades, nocks, and fletchings.
Make sure rangefinders, flashlights, GPS, and other electronics have new batteries.
Make sure your game calls are in working order, and still sound accurate. And if you’re new to calling, practice, practice, practice!
Refresh your navigation skills and know how to properly read topography maps and use a compass.
Consider purchasing a personal locator beacon or satellite messenger if you’ll be doing a backcountry hunt.
And a few miscellaneous items to take care of…
Make sure you have the right license, tags and/or stamps for hunting.
Know the hunting rules and regulations for where you’ll be hunting. Obtain printed rules and regulations books or research online. And if something isn’t clear, call the state’s fish and wildlife office to get clarification.
Many states require hunters born after January 1, 1972 to have their Hunter’s Education card. If you don’t already have this, check with your local wildlife department on class schedules. These often fill up quickly, especially closer to hunting season starting.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.