As humans we are not born with hunting instincts, everything has to be learned. There are different ways to shorten the learning curve but the best teacher is experience. Experience tells you where to look for game and how to walk through country. It dictates when to stalk and when to wait for a better opportunity. Experience tells us when we can get away with drawing our bow and when to shoot. It teaches us how to execute the perfect shot and to not let buck fever take hold. Experience affects everything we do in the hunting woods so the question is how do you gain more experience?
The obvious answer to gaining more experience is hunting as much as possible but it is more than that. It is making the most of the days you do have. Plan to hunt places that have good game populations where you know you will be able to spot and then stalk game. Big trophies will come when you have put together the right skill set to locate, stalk and then execute shots on intended species. It takes practice and trigger time so when you do get that shot at the monster of your dreams, you have been there before.
You can gain tons of experience just by picking high opportunity hunts. My favorite experience gaining hunts are for antelope. The open prairie hunts for antelope offer tons of opportunity. In most decent antelope areas you can expect to find and stalk five bucks a day or more. Think about it, I probably don’t get five stalks in a whole season of elk hunting but hunting antelope I can get five a day until I fill out. With multiple antelope stalks under my belt by the time elk season rolls around my skills are sharpened and I can usually get a good arrow in an elk with less opportunity.
Other good experience hunts are for whitetail does. Here in my home state of Montana there is a surplus of whitetail deer. The season runs from September to January with some areas offering five tags over the counter. You nonresidents are welcome to a lot of these tags as well. The key here is to mix these high opportunity hunts in with your trophy hunts.
During season is not the only time to gain experience, for us hardcore hunters it is year round. You gain experience from practicing and building confidence. Whether it is hundreds of rounds through your rifle or thousands of shots from your bow you learn what it takes to make a good shot. That experience builds your confidence and come season that buck is in trouble.
I gain a lot of experience and mental toughness in my training. Making insanely long trail runs makes me stronger mentally. I have to keep pushing, putting one foot in front of the other. I have to earn all my miles and keep my mind in the game. It is nearly the same mindset on a tough hunt. I have to keep hunting, keep pushing hard and keep my mind in it. Things are going to get tough on a long hunt and the moment you let your mind give in, it’s all over. Use your off season to push your mental barriers so when it comes down to having enough for a tough hunt you know you have it.
Experience will show the way to consistently harvesting trophies you just have to listen. You have to pay attention and learn from your experiences. After spotting animals remember where you saw them and what they were doing. Try to transpose that information into new spots. When a stalk goes bad, figure out what went wrong. Hindsight is 20/20. Use that to your advantage when thinking through your stalk. There is always a right answer or something you could have done different. Did he wind you? You should have come in at a different angle or held off and waited for better wind. Did he hear you? You should have taken more time on the stalk. Really think about your stalk and learn from it. Take that information and apply it to future stalks. The more hunting experience you gain the better hunter you will be.