It is with near certainty that your great northern adventures will introduce you to a state of being wet, cold, and miserable. As we travel down the path towards becoming savvy outdoorsmen and women, we generally progress through an evolutionary process of dealing with this state. In their infancy, people often are not experienced enough to avoid getting wet – and thus cold and miserable.
If you’ve been shooting long enough, you’ve seen someone get kissed in the forehead by a recoiling rifle scope, or maybe it’s even happened to you. There are a few factors that lead to this unfortunate and totally unnecessary incident. Improper rifle setup and improper eye-relief come to mind immediately. But, in my professional experience, the bigger culprit is almost always improper recoil management, which is a direct result of not learning and applying the fundamentals of marksmanship properly.
There’s a spectrum of approaches when it comes to achieving your goals. One end of the spectrum is defined by deliberate practice so you continually improve until the goal can no longer avoid you. The other end involves banging your head against a wall. These two goal posts can be labeled Persistence and Insanity – there’s often a very hazy line separating them.
Imagine if the key to success in the mountains is your lungs. Simple enough, right? Breath work is an overlooked fundamental skill when it comes to shooting. Unfortunately, “Break the trigger at the natural respiratory pause” is about as in-depth as people go. At 10,000 feet of elevation with a small house on your back, those natural respiratory pauses are about as short as a tinder fling.
As I stood motionless like a soldier in the lineup waiting for the sun to paint its beautiful morning picture in the Virgin morning sky, I listened carefully to the deep, throaty bugles off in the distance. The New Mexico mountains had captivated me and my drive to kill a good bull elk in these mountains was indescribable with words. My mind was made up that I was not driving all the way back to Ohio empty-handed, my Gold Tip arrow was going to get bloody and my tag would be punched.
With the mountains and trails still held tight in winter’s icy talons, I obliged to begin my new lease on archery at the only available indoor range in town. I figured significant change wouldn’t occur overnight, but taking the approach of one arrow at a time, I could begin to eventually see a gradual improvement. I was about to be proven wrong.
When it comes to improving your hunting skill-set, I’ve found that there is no better offseason practice then bow hunting predators. To me, it was obvious that it builds confidence in your shot, your ability to read sign, and play the wind. One thing I never counted on was that it would improve my success with other species and how I called to them.
In the hunting community — particularly with those who aim their pursuits at more mountainous terrain — talk of planning is omnipresent. You cannot escape reference to this, whether in conversation at your local bow shop or in the media and content you consume.
The low-lying Alaskan sun began to feel warm on my neck as we slipped into a moss-covered boulder field from the thick alder patch below. Arrow nocked, I glanced at the sparse grass blades rustling beside me, indicating that the morning thermals continued to strengthen.