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7 tips to prepare for an epic hunting experience

Honing your tactical skills on a hunting trip is an enjoyable way to stay sharp.


Ty Dillon with a mountain lion he shot.

Photo/Ty Dillon

By Megan Wells, Police1 Contributor

What better way to get some quality off-duty trigger (and personal) time than setting out for a hunting trip? If you’ve never prepared for hunting before, it can be more daunting than you’d expect. Here are seven tips for getting the most out of a hunting experience through proper preparation.

1. Choose the right gear

From using the right backpack for your equipment to packing it appropriately, choosing the correct gear for your trek will shape your hunt. Depending on which species you’ll be hunting, everything from the pattern of your camo to your game calls will need to be picked with precision.

For Ty Dillon, an avid hunter and professional NASCAR driver, clothing is a huge factor in gear selection.

“I absolutely hate being cold, wet or a combination of both. I always aim to overdress and take layers off if needed,” ,” Dillon said, adding that the right footwear is also important. “If your feet are cold, your body is cold.”

Pro tip from search-and-rescue coordinator Sean Curtis: Cotton kills because it doesn’t wick water away from the body. Don’t wear jeans or sweatpants while hunting, ever. Rather, find material that keeps you warm, and repels water.

Essential hunting gear

2. Prepare survival gear

Preparedness for the unexpected is just as important as preparing for the expected. In the event of an emergency, it’s crucial to have sources of fire, water, and food.

Learning the basics of survivalism can be a huge asset to any hunter. In addition to bows, fishing rods, and guns, most hunters bring along tools like a compass, GPS, browning knife and rope, at minimum.

3. Learn the area you’re hunting

It’s always important to know what terrain to expect on your hunt. Understanding the lay of the land will help you pack the correct gear and allow you to prepare physically for the trek you’re about to endure.

“When in doubt, scout,” Dillon said. “I read as much as I can or talk to as many locals as I can. If there are trail cameras available, I go back and look at as many pictures and videos as I can.”

In addition to the aforementioned GPS and compass, consider bringing a topographic map for navigation, as well.

4. Exercise in preparation

Working out is an important component of on-duty success, so this should be no problem. But let us reiterate – fitness is crucial for a smooth hunting experience.

Even if you’re used to walking around with a duty belt, odds are you aren’t wearing it to go on multi-mile hikes in challenging terrain. If you’re hunting without a guide and harvest an animal, you’ll need to be prepared to quarter the animal down and pack it home. Even with the sharpest set of tools and best equipment, this requires a ton of endurance.

5. Bring friends with you

It’s fun to bring someone along to share the enjoyment of your hobby.

“It’s important to invite friends and family to enjoy the outdoor experience with you and help pass along our hunting heritage,” Dillon said. “It also makes it that much more fun if you take an animal that trip. The camaraderie in hunting is unlike any other sport.”

6. Make a plan and stick to it

Tell a friend or someone at home what your hunt plan is. Make sure your plan includes a “call 911 by” date and time if you have not shown up.

“It’s a huge world in the mountains – thousands of square miles – and things can go wrong. Make every effort to stick to your plan,” said Curtis. “Deviation from this important detail can be the difference between life and death.”

7. Make a checklist

Planning eliminates last-minute stress. Make your checklist days or weeks ahead of time. This will give you ample time to verify the condition of your equipment as you lay everything out for the hunt. Hopefully, your bows or equipment have been pulled out since last season, but giving yourself ample time to pack allows you to correct any last-minute surprises with your equipment.

Hunting is a great sport and an enjoyable mode of tactical training for law enforcement.

This article, originally published on August 16, 2016, has been updated.

The Police1 Lifestyle content series is written for the off-duty police officer. Here you’ll find content on everything from the latest automotive and entertainment trends to tips and tricks for financial planning – all written from a police officer’s perspective, with an eye toward what makes you unique even when you’re not on patrol.