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Marcus Gores Sep 3rd, 2019

How to Prepare for Hunting Season – Mental & Physical Training Tips

HUNTINGsmart! hunt season preparation
A hunter is only as good as they prepare to be in the time leading up to their hunt. Preparation for hunting can be bucketed into three different categories; mental, physical, and gear preparation. Because hunts differ from state to state, and among many species, I will focus on mental and physical preparation.

Successful hunters are typically those who put in many months, weeks, and days of practice and training. We rarely ever hear about hunters tagging a 350 bull without ever shooting their bow before season or getting their multi-mile hikes in.

What it Takes

Mental preparation goes hand in hand with physical. When your body hits a breaking point, you need the mental strength to push through and climb that mountain or pack that last elk quarter out. When training for hunts, there are some hunters that use other hunting seasons to build up the strength for the big hunt. Turkey season prepares hunters for spring bear season. Spring bear gets hunters ready for deer season and so on. I personally do not find this method very practical as there are many different challenges both physically and mentally among the different types of hunts.

The method I find most effective is to set goals for your desired hunt and train towards them.

Physical & Mental Preparation

The first portion of physical would be conditioning. Know the terrain you are hunting and get used to it. Walking on a treadmill will not prepare you for climbing 3,000 feet in elevation chasing elk. You have to actually get out and put the miles on your boots that you plan to mimic during hunting season.

HUNTINGsmart! Texas Hunter Safety Education Course
HUNTINGsmart! Texas Hunter Safety Education Course

Get your Official Texas

Hunter Safety Certification

Official Texas Parks & Wildlife Online Hunter Safety Course, required for all hunters born after Sept 1, 1971. Designed for Texas Hunters & State Approved.

Get your Official Texas
Hunter Safety Certification

Official Texas Parks & Wildlife Online Hunter Safety Course, required for all hunters born after Sept 1, 1971. Designed for Texas Hunters & State Approved.

When setting your physical goals, be sure to make it realistic. If you start your training off by trying to hike 10 miles on your first day, this will most likely deter you from achieving your goal. Each goal is a stepping-stone and should increase each time one is achieved. For example, start your hike off with no weight and light gear, making it 3 miles without pushing yourself to exhaustion.

HUNTINGsmart! hunting prep hiking

Take Things Up a Notch


Once you’ve completed your first goal two or three times, take it up a notch by adding distance. For example, when you reach your anticipated hunting season distance goal, you should exceed that distance by a mile or two – this will prepare you for the unexpected days that surpass your own expectations of daily miles. I typically put in 14-18 miles a day during archery elk season. My training starts at 3 miles in spring and I get to my 14 mile mark around early summer. Once early summer hits, I then introduce weight into my hiking. This will prepare you for hauling around your gear and packing your harvest out of the woods.

During the course of your conditioning you will be simultaneously increasing your mental stamina. You should find confidence in knowing you have been putting in the miles and doing it with the weight you plan for. Knowing you can do it is half the challenge, which you are now preparing for.

Get to Know Your Gear


The second part of physical preparation is using your gear prior to your hunting season. Whether this is a rifle or a bow, you should be shooting regularly. Ensuring you are comfortable with your weapon of choice, groups you are shooting, and distances you are accurate from is very important prior to getting into the woods.
I typically archery hunt more than rifle so I will go over my routine prior to archery season. I will service my bow prior to getting any arrows in; making sure the bow is clean, strings are waxed, all alignments are correct and arrows are flying straight is the first step. Once the bow is ready for practice, I start at 20-yard distance and get 30 arrows in. If my sights are still on from the previous season, I move back in increments of 10 yards until I get to 50 yards. I shoot 20 arrows from each distance (20, 30, 40, 50 yards) as often as possible. When I have a bad group or a few arrows out of whack I will continue shooting from that distance until my group is cleaned up.

Mental Focus While Shooting


Mentally you must focus on many things while practicing shooting. Not flinching, breathing, not gripping the bow too tight, making sure the bow is level, steadying your bow, etc. I try to go through a quick checklist prior to sending each arrow down range.

    1. Is my bow level?
    2. Is my anchor point correct?
    3. Is my hand gripping the bow too tight?
    4. Am I breathing steady?
    5. Is the correct pin on the target location?

Then I release. Each arrow takes me roughly 15 seconds to shoot once I am in full draw. This mental checklist helps me prepare for the opportunity during season when I have a big bull in front of me and my adrenaline is pumping. Calming down and going through each point will help lead to a clean and successful shot.

HUNTINGsmart! hunting prep bow

Stick to the Plan


The last part of mental preparation is not seconding guessing your game plan. If you’ve prepared for the hunt and done your scouting, you should have faith in yourself. If you are not finding the animals you are after, keep at it. Not doubting yourself is huge when in the field. When you hunt solo, it is even more difficult to not second-guess yourself. To work on this, you must put the time in to scout the land for animals or use your mapping systems to help assist on your hunt. Knowing where the water sources are, feed sources and where the animals are getting the least amount of pressure will help keep your spirits up and overcome the mental game of doubting your strategy.
I hope these tips I use are helpful in your upcoming hunts and reward your efforts with success in the field.

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