I am so fortunate to have passion in my life. Hunting the wild places the West has to offer drives me year-round to become better. I learned a long time ago the harder you work at something the better you get. Harvesting trophies on public land, self-guided is the ultimate challenge and if you want consistent results it takes year-round commitment. It means that now with season wrapping up is your time to put in work. It’s time to pick up your training, work at your research and improve your shooting. You want to come into next season the best version of yourself you can be. You want those huge next level mind blowing trophies? Right now, the off-season, is the time for preparation!
Hunting season may be wrapping up but to me that means we are coming into the heart of tag season. It’s time to figure out where we will hunt and where we will apply for in the upcoming year. Next season can be won or lost right here in the application process. The better the tags you end up with, the better your odds of finding and harvesting a monster. Now, that being said I do hunt a ton of easy to draw and OTC tags but it is important to plan out your season and know you will be hunting. Everyone’s application process is a bit different and you have to figure out what’s right for you.
My plan for next season is to break down the year and foresee what tags I have a good chance at as well as putting in for a handful of really good, hard to draw tags. I am archery exclusive so I only look for these opportunities. I apply for a couple of early season mule deer states, then elk hunts, next are muley rut hunts and then late season opportunities. I spend a ton of time every year looking at different states, the hunts they offer and odds. I start in the MRS of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journals, then I look at the different states’ websites as well as mixing in Boone and Crocket and Pope and Young records. I want to find where the big ones are coming from as well as where there are good populations. I then start to looking on google earth and maps to find where mountain ranges sit and where there is good public land. From this break down I am able to figure out where the best tags are and where the best opportunities for me lie.
A huge part of my success comes from my physical fitness. It sharpens my mind and gives me mental toughness to keep pushing on a tough hunt. It gives me the confidence in my body to push hard in any situation. It also helps in those opportunities where you need to cut off a moving herd of elk or make it to that big buck before dark. Being in great physical shape helps me keep hunting hard on a tough mountain hunt on days 9 or 10. Focus on getting into good shape this off season and I promise it will pay off.
I like to break down my physical make up into three different categories, strength, flexibility and endurance. Strength is important for the mountains, climbing up and down and carrying a heavy pack. It also helps stabilize you on uneven terrain preventing injuries. Flexibility is new to me over the last couple years but I have now realized how important it is. Being flexible has really helped prevent tweaking my back and keeps me from pulling muscles. This is now a huge part of my physical fitness. Endurance is the final piece of the puzzle and is what I spend the majority of my training on. It’s what carries you in the mountains, mile after mile. It’s what gives your muscles stamina to keep pushing. It also helps in your recovery after a hard day of going for it, the next day you feel good. It also helps me sharpen my mental game. I train hard continuously and keep putting one foot in front of the other not letting myself give up; the same thing is needed on a tough hunt. Don’t sleep here guys; physical fitness is a huge asset come season!
The last part of my game I am constantly working on is my shooting. I work year-round on becoming the best shot I can be with my bow. A successful hunt will always come down to making your shot. I like to make any upgrades or changes to my setup this time of year. I continue to practice and try and improve my execution. I don’t want to just hang up my bow for the season and lose any progress I have made; I want to improve and build on my skills. I join winter leagues and shoot a couple tournaments this time of year to keep sharp. I also enjoy hanging out with good archers this time of year sharing ideas and theories about shooting. Also, make sure to look at your setups and your form this time of year and make changes to be better. Making changes is tough on the ego because you seem to get a little worse before you get better. You just have to believe you are making the right move, keep with it and you will become a better shooter in the end.
Okay it’s the off season and it’s our opportunity to become better. Put in the work now to see the results come season. Make sure to check out EBJ’s next issue where I am able to expand on each of these subjects for a more in depth look.