Growing up in Colorado, big game hunting was a rite of passage.
My pre-Sniper training was shooting gophers (not golfer’s) with my .22 rifle. They were small, moved fast, and at unknown distances. Ideal early marksmanship training.
When I turned 14 I was able to legally go hunting for the first time. I was with my grandfather and shot my first elk with a Ruger .30-.30.
There are those that can’t comprehend the concept of why people love to hunt. But for those of us for which it is a life-style, we totally get it. The idea of heading out into the ravages of the wilderness to see if we are able to fulfill mankind’s most basic instinct; to be the predator and successfully “bring home dinner.”
But this can also be a very risky endeavor and there are several things that you should not only prepare for, but also perform when heading out into the wilderness.
Before Heading Out
It is always preferred to go hunting in pairs at a minimum. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I love hunting alone. It really increases the stakes and adds to the challenge of the hunt.
But it also drastically increases the risk of injury or death. So make sure you do the following at a minimum before heading out.
- Make sure you have all of your gear to ensure you have plenty of water, food, proper clothing, fire starting equipment, signaling devices, fully charged batteries, first aid, and the ability to make shelter. A great rule of thumb is you should be able to live in the wild for at least three days. *Don’t count on the fact your cell phone will function if/when you need it*
- Watch the forecast to know exactly what to expect when it comes to the weather. If you hunt in some of the areas I do, you know that Mother Nature can get violent in minutes and turn your hunt into a life-threatening situation. Also be wary of unpredicted lightning/thunder storms as well as major precipitation that may roll in.
- Do a detailed map study and tell someone where you plan to be hunting. Of course, this will probably be different once you are tracking your game – but if you get in trouble it will at least give a search party a location to start.
- Have a stop time, or as we called it in the SEAL Teams, a drop-dead time. This is when you plan to return from your days hunt. Then tell someone this is your plan and that you will contact them upon your return. In addition to the above if you haven’t contacted this person/person by this set time, then they should assume the worst and enact a search.
On the Hunt
If you are a true hunter you are heading into Mother Nature’s wrath and you better be ready.
- Keep your eye on the sky. As I spoke of earlier violent weather can roll in rapidly. You may only have minutes to make a decision that will keep you alive.
- Watch your six. When I’m out hunting I look behind me every few paces. Don’t be naïve to think that you are the only hunter out there. Just because you have a high-power rifle and an elk tag doesn’t mean that there isn’t a four-legged beast that is also looking for dinner.
- Unless you are very familiar with your area, confirm your current location with map/GPS every hour. If you find yourself way off course, attempt to update your new location to someone. If you are unable to make contact, place markers on trees of your new course.
- Stay ahead on your hydration and food consumption. It is easy to not want to drink water when it’s cold or you are successfully stalking your prey. Just understand that your body is not only physically exerting itself but also burning up precious water and calories to keep your core temp up.
Take the Shot?
This is a situation that every experience hunter will eventually face. Do I take the shot? The following factors have to be considered before pulling the trigger:
- Time of day. Will you have enough time to get your kill dressed and out? The hunt isn’t over until you and the meat is safely home – which can be the hardest part of any hunt.
- Yes, again with the weather.
A great outdoorsman/hunter should be ready for any occurrence. That said things can happen that are beyond your control and you may need help.
- If you are injured or having a medical emergency you need to perform self-aid. This is doing everything in your power to address this medical problem as immediately and effectively as possible. You will be glad you carried the extra first aid equipment if you ever find yourself in this situation.
- Make communication by any means necessary. Phone, radio, signally devices, fire, etc.
- Plan on being in your location for quite a while until help arrives so do what you can to establish a highly visible shelter and continue to monitor/treat your injuries.
Be a survivor, not a statistic,
Former Navy SEAL / 4Patriots Contributor