Yesterday (Oct. 25, 2018) I went on my first Public Land hunt of the year. I got my kit packed (stand and the essentials) ready for a long hike in. Only I made some mistakes, well not necessarily mistakes…more like some miscalculations and gross over estimations. Which was perfect, because it was the perfect day and perfect spot for pointing out some problems that I hadn’t anticipated. Better now, close to home, then on an out of state hunt in Kansas for example. A lot of things went wrong. A LOT. So hopefully this will help you in your planning.
12:30p Depart Home
2:00p Hike into the PLA. The hike was approximately 1 mile of hilly terrain.
3:00p Set up my stand and hunt till dark.
7:00p Hike out and head home. (Leaving stand for the morning)
Next Morning – do it all over again.
What actually happened:
1:30p Departed home
2:30p Hike into PLA
2:45p Encounter does. Delayed hiking.
3:40p. Reach Halfway point. Contemplate all my life decisions.
3:45p. Throw temper tantrum – not really but almost….
I’ll start at the beginning. I packed all of the essentials and on this level I did pretty good. Of course, I took a few items that were not needed such as a first aid kit, but you can’t be too careful.
My first mistake was overestimating my abilities and leaving later than expected. My wife had a big presentation this day, so I had to pull child duty that morning. Ultimately this gave me a late start. My plan, as mentioned, was to hike about a mile into a PLA and hunt the last half of the day. I had also been sick leading up to this day and had not expected my energy level to be low and thus extremely slow. Also, on the drive I encountered some really sloppy muddy roads so even this piece took longer than usual. After starting the hike in, I was also delayed by a deer encounter; several does. So, by the time I was planning to be seated in my stand, I was only halfway there and pretty well gassed. This got me to thinking about a couple of things 1) how long I would actually get to hunt that night and the quality of said hunt. 2) Success and the energy that this would require (remember, I had been under the weather for a few days) and 3) Food. I mean, I was supposed to be setting in the stand at this point. So, I decided to stop, eat my PB&J and contemplate all of my life decisions up to this point.
This is where I turned lemons in the lemonade. I decided to scrap the hunt and save the spot for a day when I could head in early with a “full charge”. Then another problem. When I put my pack back on my climbing sticks shifted and I could feel the pressure of the load on my hips and one hitting me in the back of the leg, so I was forced to pitstop yet again. I re-packed the load, re-contemplated life and hit the trial again scouting all the way. Having never scouted this spot for deer I learned a lot about the area. When I reached the road, I had recalled that there was a small tract of public on the other side. I took a gamble that this tract was often overlooked as it was not marked from the road (thanks OnX) and so small that most people would avoid it. About 100 yards in I felt like I walked into a deer oasis. I had thick cover with beds, rubs and stand worthy trees. It was perfect. Oh, and did I mention it was right off the road!
All of this is to say that you should be prepared for the following when you go far away to hunt.
Don’t overestimate the importance of making a trial run with your kit. It may look perfect and it may work for a short jaunt but is it good for a serious haul? After 1.5 miles and bruised hips I am heading back to the drawing board on this one.
Expect that things will ultimately go wrong.
Especially on public land where you have more variables than on private. Life in general, other hunters, etc. Be rigidly flexible (not what I am best at) but be prepared to make changes based upon what you find and give yourself as much time as possible.
Be mentally prepared.
If you have hunted long, then you know how much of a mental game it truly is. It would have been easy for me to have headed straight back to the truck, went home and marked the spot with a big red X never to return. Instead I made the best of it. I stayed till nearly dark, found a new convenient spot that I could hunt with a South wind. I needed a South wind spot in my repertoire, so this worked out wonderfully!
Always have success in mind and be prepared.
I don’t just mean from a thinking positive standpoint – though this is absolutely paramount. Think about what you will need to have if things do go right and you shoot a deer. How much time you will need, if you’ve made a commitment, such as, being home in time for dinner with the in-laws? Or as in the situation above, where I was already gassed from the hike. 5 trips in and out , on this particular day, with my gear and my harvest would have been an awful experience. Plan for success and be prepared.
The 8 Point