By Bill Krenz

Every serious hunting writer sooner or later writes a piece on the importance of carefully planning and preparing for major hunts. Invariably though, the mainstream of the article will be on all of the physical preparations that are necessary for an enjoyable hunt. Things such as organizing your gear, tuning equipment, checking hunting regulations and getting your body in shape are all highly stressed.

But, I’ll tell you something. Even though getting all of those physical pre-hunt plans and preparations together is extremely important, in my opinion the most important pre-hunt preparation is getting ready MENTALLY. To my way of thinking, nothing is more important.

Getting ready mentally means getting your head together before the hunt to calmly and correctly deal with circumstances and situations which you will likely encounter during your hunt. It includes such things as learning as much as possible about the animal(s) you plan to hunt, getting mentally prepared to cope with adverse weather or generally tough or nearly impossible conditions, becoming mentally “phyched” to put out whatever is necessary for a successful hunt, getting mentally prepared to make those few good shots count and generally putting thoughts and expectations together so you are truly prepared to enjoy and appreciate the entire experience. 

I’d be willing to bet more hunts are screwed up or ruined because hunters aren’t prepared mentally than because they aren’t prepared physically. Far too many hunters overlook mental preparation.

The first step in mentally preparing for any hunt is to do your homework on the animal to be hunted. Go to the local library. Find books on big game. Digest what biologists have to say. Read studies. Discover how often pronghorns need water, why elk migrate, what caribou eat, when deer mate, how far bears travel in a night or millions of other tidbits helping you to be a better hunter. The best book I’ve ever found containing this sort of information is one published in 1978 by Stackpole Books entitled, “Big Game of North America—Ecology and Management.”

I’ve also accumulated a file of clipped-out magazine articles on various big game species I plan to hunt. I have files on elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, mountain goat, antelope, black bear and so on. During pre-hunt planning I enjoy going over the file on a particular animal. It probably includes hunting tips and techniques, biological studies, fish and game hunter success reports and favorite magazine articles.

In addition to researching animals you plan to hunt, it’s equally important to research the conditions you will be hunting in. Knowing ahead of time what kind of weather to generally expect and what type of terrain you’ll encounter helps you cope mentally with that weather and that terrain. Just having good raingear won’t cut it. Be prepared mentally for the rain. Before the hunt prepare by thinking about hunting in the rain. Mentally decide it won’t bother you. It won’t get you down. It’ll dampen your clothes, but not your spirits. When thinking about the hunt beforehand don’t always picture perfect weather. Imagine some rain, wind or snow. I’ll make dealing with bad weather, when and if it comes, much easier.

Your pre-hunt preparation should also dwell on the expected, and unexpected, difficulties of that hunt. Are animals going to be hard to find? What if they aren’t where you plan to hunt? Are you mentally, as well as physically, prepared to take it in stride and move to where they can be found, or will you just give up? Are you mentally prepared to climb mountains all day for 10 days to get one 30-yard shot? Are you mentally ready to sit on a bear stand six hours a day for a full week until that big, glossy bruin walks into your bait? Only some serious, introspective thought before the hunt can totally prepare you for what it might take. Only mental preparation can pull you through.

To eliminate nagging “missing doubts” while hunting, the hunter must be mentally prepared for the types of shots that will be offered in the field. Again, it’s a matter of having your mind realistically prepared with some serious pre-hunt pondering. Before the hunt, imagine realistic hunting shots and opportunities. Forget seeing picture-perfect, broadside bucks standing in a clear meadow and looking the other way. Instead, think about making shots at feeding or sneaking bucks through narrow openings in dense aspens or rough sage brush. Concentrate on the fact that you will get only a single shot. Block out any thoughts of a second arrow. You won’t need it! Your one arrow will be perfect!

Thoughtful and thorough pre-hunt preparations are extremely important to the success of any hunt. But, be darn sure that you prepare both physically and mentally. And when it comes right down to it, it’s probably mental preparation that’s the most important. If you’re really ready mentally, you’re really ready.