All Photos Credit Steven Drake & Annuli Collective
How bad do you want it? It’s time to get down and dirty, and not rely on the horseshoes crammed up your ass. Spring is upon us, but that doesn’t mean we’re just limited to bears; now is the prime time to get out and scout for your big fall hunts.
Whether it’s an open season unit, draw unit or limited entry tag (for the BC hunters), you should be out scouting now. All your free time should be behind the binos or the spotter looking for that special “someone”. If you have an area in mind, start there, and once you cover every possible nook and cranny, try a different unit. You may think you want to hunt a certain area until you see it or maybe even lay your eyes on a genetically gifted animal in another spot.
After pinpointing a few different critters in different areas, you should know what to put in for and what your second draw choice will be. The next step will be to keep getting out and keeping tabs on your mark. Find out where he lives, where he eats, where he drinks, and his common travel routes.
If you’re truly dedicated, you could start cutting and flagging trails well before the season opens. Most people don’t like to do this and figure it’s not so bad bush whacking, but I can tell you personally that if you put in the time, you will get out more, and not only that; you will make it to your destination much faster than beating through the bush when you should actually be hunting.
It’s nice to have one trail cut, but it’s nicer to have ten. Different variables will affect your stalk; not only the animal, but wind and other weather occurrences will be factors. And don’t start cutting or flagging your trail until you’re far enough in the bush that no other hunters are going to stumble across it.
This isn’t only limited to mountain critters. Black bears and grizzlies will be in full swing soon. It’s prime time to get out and glass the high slides. Once you have located a good bear, you should be able to pick a clear route or drainage he will take to get off the mountain. Go to the base and find the best food and water. There is a good chance he will hang out here for a bit before the rut kicks in and he starts cruising for sows.
If you’re lucky enough to hunt near an ocean, go out searching for prime tidal flats where the grass will be tall and plentiful. Mussels and other sea forage will wash up on the shore with the tide, and you’ll find it to be the ultimate grizz buffet. It’s not a bad idea to check the creeks that run down to the coast either, even if the salmon aren’t stacking up in them; there is always a chance an old boar will cruise his familiar ground.
Game cameras are a huge play; they will let you keep tabs on the animal you have been watching, and you may even find something new and better that didn’t grace the glass of your spotter or binos. Make sure you always have a camera and spare batteries when you make your rounds too. When checking them, pull the cam and get the hell out of there – don’t hang around and leave your scent all over the place.
Another big part of putting in the work is getting your ass in shape! Get in the gym, go for a run, climb a mountain; the more work you put in now, the more enjoyable working hard on the hunt will be.
Getting in shape doesn’t just mean trimming the spare tire off your body – it would be a good idea to get in shooting shape also. I’m talking arrows people. Make sure you have everything picked out and you’re not second-guessing your setup the night before your hunt. Ensure all your shafts and broadheads are the same, and you have enough arrow weight for the task at hand.
Now get out and go shooting, and make sure you know what your comfortable distance is before you’re in the field wondering about the shot. And don’t overlook shooting from tough positions and at tough angles. Mountain game rarely give up easy shots. Stacking arrows in the comfort of your backyard is one thing but what happens when you’re tired, sore and shooting from a position you’ve never encountered before? No rest for the wicked. Get ready now and walk tall when the season hits.
Start buying everything you may need. Get your daily food supply together now so you can just pull as you go. Make sure all your equipment is in good working order, and that you have spare batteries for your rangefinder, camera, etc. Last minute runs to your local outdoors store at the height of the season is a recipe for disappointment and stress when that key piece of kit is out of stock.
If you follow this approach, I cannot promise you an animal – but I can promise you that your odds will skyrocket, and you will not only be more efficient in the field, but you will enjoy your time out there a whole lot more. Put in the time now, and save yourself the headaches later!