Before you hit the trail, you'd better wrap your mind around these hunt-savers. The West is no joke. It can be overwhelming if you let it be. Make sure you're prepared before you embark on the hunt of a lifetime.
The Right Camouflage
Camouflage patterns have become extremely effective in recent years, helping you blend into any surrounding with added realism and depth. Try Realtree Max-1 XT or Realtree EDGE for your western big game adventures.
Silence of the Bows
String silencers have long been part of the bowhunting regimen, killing the guitar-like twang of the bow string. Today, the silencing craze has addressed every other part of the bow as well. "Active" stabilizers use "visco-elastic" materials or silicon fill to pull unwanted vibrations from your bow's riser. Several makes of limb silencers absorb potentially harmful and noisy vibrations from that part of the bow. Silencers have also been designed for the cable guard, to apply to accessories such as quivers and sights, as well as other areas of the riser. String silencers themselves have undergone a revolution, becoming more effective than designs of old, further quietening your bow without taking away speed or accuracy. Add the newest bow silencers to your bowhunting outfit this year to learn the real meaning of the term "deadly quiet."
Western hunts can take you into rough and desolate country. A break-down out here can turn into a major disaster. Do yourself a favor before this year's big hunt and have your hunting truck serviced and checked carefully by a certified mechanic. All fluids, battery, belts, hoses, and parts such as bearings and water pumps should be inspected closely. Tires should be checked for rock splits or side-wall bulges that can lead to a blow-out later. In fact, a fresh set of quality tires always provides added peace of mind. Assemble a second spare tire when venturing into extremely remote areas, and toss a plug kit, portable compressor and canned "fix-a-flat" behind the seat. Spare belts and hoses are also a good idea. Jumper cables, tow strap, and a "high-lift" jack act as extra insurance. Be prepared for the worst and hunt without worry this year.
It's a common question asked of big game guides across the West. What's in your pack? Bare minimum, there will be a knife for dressing game, and a sharpening steel to keep it sharp. A length of parachute cord helps hang meat until it can be packed out, and a plastic trash bag holds tenderloins or other prime cuts. A surefire way to create fire is also an important part, including waterproof matches, cigarette lighter, and fire starter. Add an emergency space blanket and rain gear for inclement weather and extra socks to keep feet dry. A camera and film are ready to capture a successful hunt. A GPS unit and topo maps help keep the way, plus a flashlight for when it's dark. To round it off, a water bottle or two will usually be included, or a filter to create safe drinking water, and enough snacks to get you through the day.
There's a common misconception afoot that spotting scopes are needed by only serious trophy hunters. This is not necessarily true. The West can be rough and treacherous, and a spotting scope can trim it down to a manageable size by helping cross a deep canyon or steep hillside without investing valuable time and energy. Is that distant deer a doe or buck? Is that tan spot a bedded elk, or a light-colored rock? A spotting scope reveals the answer instantly, without moving closer. Too, many western hunting areas now come with deer or elk antler-point restrictions, so even if you are only hunting to fill the freezer you must know certainly if that buck wears three points on one side, or only two. Even if you are not a trophy hunter, an investment in a spotting scope can save you much time and energy while hunting.
Pop-Up In Strange Places
The bowhunter just never knows what kind of ambush opportunity will arise. Scouting and hunting can reveal an unexpected hotspot where a prime ambush assures a close encounter with game. This might include an active elk wallow, a secreted water hole or spring pounded down with sign, or a fence break funneling game movements. Many of these sites come without a suitable tree to hang a stand from. These are prime locations for a portable and instantly deployable pop-up blind. These come in a multitude of options, from extra-lightweight models that are easy to pack into a remote area, to larger models that allow you to share a hunt with a spouse or child. Invest in and keep handy a pop-up blind; you just never know when it might come in handy during your long-awaited western big-game bowhunt.
Heavy hunting pressure or warm weather makes game reluctant to move. When game proves difficult to locate or spot, try a subtle two-man drive to get game up and moving. One hunter posts himself to guard escape routes from an obvious swatch of cover, another still-hunting through that cover in hopes of approaching game. The driver is as much in the game as the blocker. The object is not to induce full-out panic that can create an uncertain moving target. The hope is that a sage old buck or bull will simply slip out ahead of the driver, giving the blocker a certain walking shot. This easy and effective method requires common sense and planning, but can nudge a bull from a patch of aspen, or a big muley buck from a cedar header. Persistence pays in the end, moving from one likely patch of cover to the next to find success.
Keeping it Cool
They call it "buck fever," losing your cool under pressure and muffing what should be an easy shot. It's all about nerves and stress. You want that behemoth badly and this makes you nervous. You're stressed because you're afraid he'll get away. You're wound so tightly in all this nervous energy you do exactly what you fear most: muff the opportunity. The key to keeping it together is talking to yourself; in your head preferably, or at least very quietly. Talk yourself through the steps needed to perform a successful shot. Remind yourself to remain calm, take your time, steady the cross-hairs, squeeze the trigger, and so on. This slows the thought process, takes your mind off panic and fear, and offers confidence. Remember to talk to yourself when buck fever strikes, and making a once-in-a-lifetime shot becomes easier.