The excitement builds in all of us when we have a hunt planned, especially when it is a bow hunt. The anticipation nearly drives us all crazy as the days tick by waiting for the season to open. But are you ready? Do you have everything you will need?
As a guide for R&K Hunting Company, over the past 6 years I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in many bow hunts. I have met many wonderful people who are excited to be in camp, ready to hunt. Here are a few words of advice to those who are considering a bow hunt:
First off, be in the best shape you can be. The level of fitness you are in will directly contribute to your success in the field. Whether that means getting up a hill fast to get in front of a screaming bull, or just being able to log many miles a day for days at a time. This past fall a hunter and I chased bulls for 7 days straight. By the end of the week, we had gone 81 miles on our boots. When spot and stalk mule deer hunting, you may have to climb to the highest peak to glass up a buck. And then quickly get around the backside of the ridge before he feeds out of sight. This does not mean you have to be some Ironman triathlete. But the better shape you are in, the better chance you give yourself for success.
The next thing I would stress is practice shooting your bow. Make sure you feel confident in your shooting abilities. Sometimes we will get people out who have only shot their bows in the last two weeks. Don’t be that guy. You need to practice enough that when that moment of truth comes, it is automatic. So when that bull you’ve been waiting for all week comes screaming in through the trees and stops, all you are thinking about is picking a spot. Practice at long distances, 60, 70, even 80 yards, and when you get that shot at 40 yards it will be easy. Practice from all sorts of positions. I have noticed that rarely do you get a shot standing perfectly straight away, like at the range. Many shots are leaning around trees and kneeling. We will always have targets in camp to practice with during your time there. You never know when a sight might need to be adjusted.
The pressure of the moment, is something I have noticed, many of my hunters are not quite ready for. It may be their first time out west, and nothing gets a persons heart going more than a bugling bull at 10 yards. I have had a hunter sail an arrow over the back of a giant bull at 30 yards. I’ve watched as my hunter shot a big buck right in the antler. We can all lose our concentration at times. But this is what you come for, the excitement of getting close. So when that big old buck stands out of his bed, or a monster bull comes crashing through the trees, try to focus on the shot you have worked so hard for. Take a breath, pick a spot, and release. You will have plenty of time later to check out the antlers when he is on the ground.
When coming out on a bow hunt there are a few items I would recommend you bring along. Your guide will have a rangefinder, but there will be situations when he many not be able to let you know the range. This happens quite often on elk hunts when your guide may be back behind you calling. So bring your own along. Optics are a big plus. Especially if you are hunting mule deer. I would bring a quality pair of binoculars in the 10x range. Leave your spotting scope at home. Your guide will have one and you do not need to be carrying around the extra weight. If you are elk hunting bring along some calls. A bugle, and a few cow calls. Again your guide will have these, but there will be times when you may need them, and its part of the hunt you don’t want to miss out on.
Make sure you do not bring a brand new pair of boots, or cotton socks. Synthetics or wool blend socks are what you need for support and comfort. I had a hunter once come with boots right out the box. He never complained once. I had no idea he had a 3” blister on the the bottom of his foot, but I am sure it was incredibly painful. So break in your boots, bring a couple pairs of your favorite camo, and enjoy the ride.
Finally, come with the attitude to have fun. I get a client or two every so often that is so intent on killing something he misses out on the adventure. Don’t worry about what every animal is going to score. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Take in the beauty of the mountains, and the smell of the fresh air. You will have good times with new friends. And hopefully, in the end, you head home with the trophy you came for. And if not, it will still be the experience of a lifetime.