There’s snow on the ground here in Colorado and the fall hunting seasons are still fresh in our memories. In fact, many of us still have late season hunts to look forward to. But as soon as one season ends, we begin working on the next.
With a New Year on the horizon, there's plenty to do in preparation for your 2021 adventures. In our previous article, we offered some ideas to make the most of the off-season. But perhaps most importantly, it’s critical to keep up your archery and rifle practice. As hunter’s, practicing with our weapons is something that deserves a good deal of our attention – year round.
One of the most important elements of ethical hunting is being prepared and confident with your weapon. That means more than just a quick sight-in the week before your hunt. When guiding elk hunts in western Colorado, I have witnessed more than one botched opportunity for no other reason than lack of familiarity with a weapon.
In fact, just this year during the 2020 2nd rifle season in Colorado, my friend Eddie and I were guiding a hunt for an outfitter friend of ours. On the second day of the hunt, Eddie's client wounded a bull standing broadside at 160 yards. As it turns out, the hunter hadn't practiced with the rifle. This unfortunate situation could have easily been avoided. When taking the time away from work and family, plus all the expense to embark on a hunting trip, it seems like a waste to go unprepared.
Whether your upcoming hunt is the trip of a lifetime or an annual occurrence, you owe it to yourself and the animal to put in plenty of practice time. Here are a few things to consider as we prepare for a New Year of hunting:
1. Finalize Your Setup
If you’re making changes to your archery setup or rifle loads, this time of year, early in the off-season is a great time to do it. Don’t put it off and go into the summer still undecided. The last thing you want is to feel rushed trying to dial in your system right before opening day.
Over the next couple of months, spend time with those new arrows or bullets. And remember – you could spend eternity tinkering with these decisions. At some point, you’ll have to make a decision. Do it soon, giving yourself plenty of time to dial it in and then practice.
2. Get Familiar with Your Gear
Do you plan to be hunting with a new backpack next season? How about a new binocular harness? As you spend time at the archery or rifle range over the next few months, you should also think about your hunting gear, clothing and accessories.
When your hunting gear is settled, give yourself plenty of time to get familiar with it. How does your rifle sling work with your backpack? Can you comfortably draw your bow wearing that new jacket?
When the weather gets warmer in the spring, take your gear out into the field for some test runs. Don’t forget to practice with your bipod or shooting sticks. Wear your hunting gear to the range for practice. All these little things can cause hang-ups in the field. When it counts, you’ll be doing it out of breath and heart pounding. Will you be ready under pressure?
3. Find Your Confidence
The benefit of starting these things early in the year is that there’s plenty of time to practice without feeling rushed. Little by little over the next several months, become confident in your weapon and how it works with the rest of your hunting gear. Don’t leave yourself any surprises.
Hunting is full of uncontrollable factors. So by the time fall hunting seasons arrive, it’s a great feeling to be prepared. That confidence in your weapon is one less thing you’ll have to worry about. Confidence is an important part of maintaining a positive mental attitude throughout your hunt, which subsequently, is a key ingredient to success.
Gearing Up for Your Next Hunt
As you gear up for the next big adventure, please let us know what we can do to help. From game bags to boots, and cook systems to knives, the hunting products we carry are items we have tested and personally use in the field.
By Ryan McSparran
Ryan is an outdoor writer based in Colorado, and is proud to be a part of the team at Hunting Gear Outfitters.