Planning, preparation key for major hunting, fishing trips

When it comes to any trip involving considerable effort – and expense – Paula and I tend to research and plan thoroughly.

That said, when the time finally arrives for a memorable excursion, we enter it with the mentality that chances are it won’t go as smoothly as designed on paper. You have to roll with the punches during a hunting or fishing trip, dealing with weather, lost luggage, maybe even a truck breakdown or, as was the case for me during a spring gobbler trip to Kansas a few years back, illness.

But you can tip the odds of a great hunting or fishing trip in your favor by doing everything you can in terms of planning and preparation.

Paula and I have already finished the planning mode for a couple upcoming trips over the next two hunting seasons, and now we’re transitioning to the preparation side of things.

Next fall we’ll trek to Newfoundland for a return trip, and this time I’m not even taking a rifle. It’s Paula’s turn to take a moose, and we only have room in our freezer (and our checkbook) for one moose. Although I’ll be the non-hunter this time, I’m looking forward to getting back to The Rock as much as Paula; the land and its people are special.

We’ve done our due diligence in selecting an outfitter, and fortunately there are several reputable guides from which to choose. If you’re looking at any kind of guided hunting or fishing trip, do your research. The Internet is a great starting point; reviews of a guiding operation from hunters and anglers are often readily available. But go well beyond that. Talk to the outfitter and ask questions – success rates and cost, obviously, but the little details as well. Try to get an idea of what a typical hunting day might entail and how it matches up with your physical abilities.

And what’s the typical shooting distance? Paula has already started stretching out her comfort zone with the .270, and there’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be good out to 200 yards – and maybe beyond – by next September.

Connect, too, with the outfitter’s references. If they don’t have any or are hesitant to offer them up, that’s a serious red flag. I’ve been fortunate over the years to chat with many hunters and anglers ahead of any major trip, and the info I’ve gleaned was usually valuable in prepping me for a successful outing. I’ve made some good friends along the way, too.

It’s always a good sign if an outfitter sends along a list of references that includes hunters who weren’t successful during their trip. You can get a good read on the effort made by the guide, the amount of game seen, and other information related to the operation.

After you’ve made your choice and lined up a guide/outfitter, you need to really make a serious effort to prepare for the trip. It’s largely in your hands and you can up the odds for a successful trip by bringing your A game to the table.

Fly fishing for tarpon for the first time? Put down your 5-weight, grab a 12-weight rod and start practicing. A Wyoming archery antelope hunt? Practice, practice, practice – especially on the windiest of days. Stretch out your effective shooting range, and don’t kid yourself that it’s longer when the moment of truth arrives. Connect with your outfitter on the most appropriate gear for your trip, including what caliber of rifle.

And most of all, get yourself into the best physical condition possible. There’s no bigger waste of money than booking a western hunting trip and showing up 40 (or more) pounds overweight, unable to climb the mountain even when you know there’s a bugling elk up there ready to play. You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.

I’m now in a position where it’s time that the talking stops and the walking – literally – starts. In 2019, I’m booked for a dream hunt that will definitely be out of my comfort zone if I’m not in the best shape of my life. I’ll be hunting mountain goats in British Columbia, and that kind of hunt demands going vertical to where the white beasts reside. If I’m not ready to tackle the mountains, I may as well stay home.

It’s going to be a challenge, for sure. And it’s going to hurt. I will be two years older in 2019, and the calendar was already an enemy. It’s going to take a serious, dedicated, consistent effort to get in the kind of physical condition where a billy is in trouble. And I’ll have to extend my comfort zone with the rifle, out toward 300 yards.

I’m looking forward to it all. The workouts. The shooting sessions. The sweat. The pain. Even the dietary changes.

It’s all part of the process of planning and preparing. I’ve done it before, and I will again this time. I have to in order to make the kind of memories that bring dreams to life.

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