10 Pro Tips for Planning a Hunting Trip
The Hunt of a Lifetime is Much Nicer When You Bring What You Need!
By Carlos M. Lopez
So… you have finally saved up enough money and made up your mind to take that hunting trip of a lifetime. If you have never taken an extended hunting trip …you ask yourself “What do I need? At this point, you probably have already picked a game species to hunt and the state or province where you plan on pursuing that game animal. If you haven’t, don’t panic, you still have time to put something meaningful together but you need to start right after you finish reading this article. In order to point you in the right direction I have listed the top tips to help you plan for that memorable hunting trip you are about to take. If you are going with friends or family members make sure that everyone is on the same page. Make your plans and coordinate your equipment together. Proper planning and preparation will benefit everyone. I can go on and on about this topic, but I will touch upon the main points of groundwork in order to keep things in perspective.
- GUIDE QUESTIONS: If you have hired an outfitter, chances are that they will have most of your hunt planned out for you. Yes, I said MOST. Ask the guide for the absolute essentials that you will need for the hunt you are paying for. Ask about the terrain that you will be traversing and don’t be shy about asking what physical shape you should be in. You will thank yourself later…trust me! Get yourself in better shape months before your trip and you will enjoy your adventure even more. Start out walking, slowly at first and build up to a few miles of walking/hiking and you should be good to go! Don’t hesitate about asking many questions. Make a list of questions so the process goes smoothly and quickly. The more prepared you are, the more enjoyable your trip is going to be.
- PRACTICE: If you are going to use a bow, make sure that you practice and when you think that you have practiced enough…practice some more. Practice shooting in all shooting positions since it is most likely that the moment that you are to take a shot, it will not be in your usual target practice position. Take an extra string and some bow tuning tools. Pack extra broadheads and some practice points to shoot in between hunts at camp to maintain your accuracy. If you are using a rifle put in enough time at the range until you are satisfied that you can accurately hit your target. Practice shooting as far as your personal skill allows you to and know your limits. Remember, practice shooting from different positions. Get yourself an airline approved bow or rifle case to fully protect your weapon of choice. Also, pack plenty of ammunition. If you are somewhat or very remote, you probably will not be able to find what you need when you need it so you might as well be safe than sorry. Another good idea is to pack your favorite shotgun or 22 rifle so you can hunt other critters around camp if you harvest early in the hunt or just to plink around and have fun. Once again, ask your outfitter if you are using one. Natchez Shooters Supplies is great for deals on ammunition and accessories.
- ACCESSORIES & GEAR TO PACK: I have been hunting with a backpack or fanny pack for over twenty five years. I have a lenghty list of items that are always in my backpack. I am used to traveling a few miles with at least fifteen extra pounds of weight. Some of the items that are currently in my backpack are: GPS, Browning knife, Browning High Power LED Flashlight, lighter, maps, eyeglasses, hunting license, bottled water, sports drink, high energy bars, granola bars, trail mix, beef jerky, small first aid kit, an extra portable ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent Unit with extra mats & fuel, Nikon Monarch ATB binoculars w/harness, Nikon Prostaff 550 Rangefinder w/tether, small rope, wire ties, latex field dressing glove sets, plastic bags, Browning headlamp, Hunter’s Specialties QS Shooting Stick, HS Windicator & Headnets, Tink’s Scents & Tink’s Wicks, two camo bandanas, digital camera, cell-phone, HS game calls, extra ammo, field wipes, toilet paper. 5-Hr Energy Bottle, rain-gear and extra AA batteries.(They will work in my camera, flashlight, 2 way radios, GPS & rangefinder.) I also use a Scentote scent eliminatng clothes storage system. When I travel, I use the large Scentote wheeled travel bag & medium travel bag to keep my clothes scent free. Customize your pack with the items that are important or a must for you. I also recommend that you go scouting where you live wearing your prepared pack if you are not accustomed to the extra weight. Try to only pack the items that you intend to use since weight may end up being an issue at the airport or on a guide’s horse or pack mule. Make sure you ask your guide how you should pack and call the airport with questions way ahead of time. Also, don’t forget to pack any prescription medicines you may be taking!
- CLOTHING TO PACK: Another question which may seem simple when preparing should be “What clothes should I bring?” Safety first: pack your hunter safety orange clothing like a mesh vest and hat.The outfitter should be able to tell you what type of camouflage, how many changes of clothes, and how many sets of hunting clothes to pack for your trip. If you are purchasing new sets of hunting clothes, make sure to wash and wear them a few months in advance. Break in any new hunting or hiking boots that you buy as soon as you get them. Pack extra warm clothing if you are headed to a cold climate to hunt or for nights when the temperature drops. If you are going to hunt in a colder climate packing some wool clothing is a good idea. Wool clothing keeps you warm even when wet. Fleece is also very good to help with layering. Extra pairs of wool socks is always a good idea. The same is said for warm weather hunting, get some heat gear and wear looser clothing. Have a few extra changes of clean hunting shirts & pants so you can change more often and minimize scent. You could ask your outfitter if washing machines will be available so you could wash some of your dirty hunting clothes if you have to, this way you can minimize the amount of clothing you are packing.
- PROPER HUNTING LICENSES & INFORMATION: It is up to you to be current with with the rules and regulations for the state which you are going to visit & hunt. Contact the proper state, federal agencies or local DNR (Department of Natural Resources) for the current non-resident hunting information, licenses and fees involved for the type of game and time of year that you are going to hunt in. Most states or provinces have special stamps that must be purchased and non-resident fees that apply. In some states, you have to put your name into a non-resident lottery drawing system, get lucky and pull a permit to hunt that state’s public land during the next hunting season if you are setting out on your own. Most states accept applications until Spring, but some set earlier deadlines. If you are hunting family or friends’ private land, there will probably be some different laws that will apply, get as much information as possible. The Internet has opened up a world of information that can be accessed with the click of a button and there are many hunting forums were you can ask questions with many knowledgable pro staff, field staff, outdoor writers and hunting guides available to answer. Local area farmers, ranchers, and landowners are usually very skilled and accomplished hunters who could share some valuable local hunting knowledge.
- FITNESS & ENDURANCE: I figured that I would include this because it is one of the most common complaints ,(a close second would be marksmanship) that guides and outfitters complain about when it comes to some of their clients. You do not have to be a Triathlete, but you do have to be in some decent form of shape and have ample endurance. If you are not prone to working out, a few months before your trip, you should begin a walking regimen. Starting slow at first, then adding distance to your walking routine as you start to level out and your walk routine gets easier. I personally try to walk at least 3 miles in Forty Two minutes. Do what works best for you, but do something or your guide will walk circles around you. Remember, guides and outfitters do that type of physical exercise almost every day as part of their job. If you are treking & hunting public land on your own you will need to be self-sufficent.
- AFTER THE HARVEST: If you achieve your ultimate goal and harvest an animal, after high fives and pictures, the real work begins. If you are using a guide they will most likely quarter the animal down for transport to the camp, lodge or ranch-house. If you are hunting without a guide, then you know the drill… you will have to do all the work by yourself. Make sure that your cutlery is sharp and make sure to pack a sharpening stone. Pack a small box of plastic bags or better yet…if you have power or a generator, a portable vacuum sealing system for the meat. Also, having a top quality bear proof cooler that seals & locks is a must if you are on your own in the wild. Dry ice is the best ticket for your quality cooler or if you are in a colder climate use chunks of ice or snow. Dry ice will destroy most regular coolers, but not a Yeti or Frigid Rigid cooler. A Yeti or Frigid Rigid are “quality” expensive, but worth every penny because their coolers remove you from the future cooler market for years and years.
- MAKING MEMORIES: Please….don’t….forget….your…camera! How many times have we planned trips, packed and repacked only to realize that you left your camera at home? Sure you can buy another one if you’re at Disney, but you’re out in the wilderness – no camera shops out there. Take many, many pictures. With the modern digital cameras that are on the market today, snapping tons of pictures is convenient and inexpensive. You do not have to be a professional photographer in the field to take decent photos. The more pictures of your hunting adventure that you take, the odds of having a few exceptional pictures increases. You spent your hard earned money and time on this trip, so having fun plus an album filled with pictures is something that you can cherish & share with family and friends for years to come. Another important item that I backpack is a Pelican hard case that seals and protects my camera, cell phone, wallet etc. Also, look into this new item from Hunter’s Specialities: the iKam Xtreme Video & Audio Eyewear. It is like wearing a pair of sunglasses. Now you can capture your adventures with a built in digital video camera with audio and 4 GB of internal memory for up to 3 hours of video. Prescription lenses are also available for an additional fee.
- TOPOGRAPHIC MAPS & AREA MAPS: If you have hired a guide, ask them for the coordinates for the area that they are planning on setting you up in. That way, you can do your homework and become familiar with the types of terrain that you will encounter. You can also pull up U.S. geological maps, aerial satellite maps or get topographic maps from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service to better familiarize yourself with the lay of the land. You could also gather information from state or federal wildlife agencies. They supply public hunting area brochures, maps, and public access lists. You could also request county maps at the local county offices. Also, you could use Google Earth or the Internet. If you are on your own on public land, then having all the aforementioned information will play into a better game plan for yourself. A GPS and/or compass is a must. Make sure that you know how to use them before you leave home.
- MISCELLANEOUS CHECKLIST: This one should be adjusted to your own personal preferences. If you are traveling abroad (i.e., Canada) then you will need your passport and an a valid ID such as a driver’s license. Some of the items listed below you will not need if you are on a professional guided hunt for the most part. The rest are just suggestions that may help point you in the right direction to help you start buying things you don’t have and may need. Outdoor retailers like Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mt., Cabelas or Natchez carry everything needed for your outdoor adventure. Gander Mountain has helpful outdoor check lists at the front of their stores that you can use to shop or help you plan ahead your packing trip depending on the specific game you seek. Just modify this paragraph to what suits you best.
Other useful gear and spare items for an extended hunting trip would be : Shooting stick or bipod, wipes, Allen wrench set, rolls of film if you are not using a digital camera, chemical hand or body warmers, lightweight survival blanket, ear plugs, tweezers, flares, headlamp, hand sanitizer, Multi-Tool or Army Knife, safety glasses, water bottle, bottled water, waterproof stuff sacks, repair kits, rifle sling, rain suit, 2-way radios, spare hat, socks and gloves, hand saw, book to read, hunting magazines, Tylenol or Motrin, Ace Bandage, Visine, candles, top quality cooler, spare batteries, extra flashlights & bulbs, fuel lantern w/accessories, weather radio, life vest,(that fits you) safety whistle, rust inhibitor spray or oil, tent, cot or bed roll, pillow, sleeping bag, Hobo-Tool, unscented shampoo and soap, unscented deodorant etc., A GPS personal locator/beacon like Spot-2 or Fast Find 210 PLB, binocular harness or neck-strap, ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent LED Outdoor Lantern, laser boresighter, game decoys, water purification tablets, Magnesium or any other fire starter, portable folding chair etc….you get the picture…this list could go on and on.
Pack the core items that you always use when you hunt and whatever your outfitter recommended. Execute these tips, plan accordingly and I hope that this article helps you in some way or form. Maybe we will meet on the adventure trail.
Have a great trip………
Carlos M. Lopez
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