Here’s what you need to know before marching into the wild (if you want to avoid nasty surprises!)

Players never start hockey season without preseason training. Likewise, no hunter would march into the woods without making sure their body, equipment, and mind are fully prepared. It takes time and training to hone your muscles, sharpen your focus, and prep your gear to ensure you’re as comfortable in the wilderness as the animals you’re hunting. Here are the three main areas you should be working on before the season starts.

Get in shape

Are your legs ready to take on the burden of hiking, pursuing, and crouching? Hunting requires a combination of cardio endurance and muscle flexibility, so start putting the miles on your boots now so that you’re ready for those long walks (and occasional runs). Strolling around your neighbourhood won’t cut it, unless there are plenty of hills. Park trails are better than sidewalks for honing balance on uneven terrain. Don’t forget to break in new boots – you don’t want to be dealing with blisters while trying to focus on your shot.

Arm strength is especially important for bow hunters, who need to draw and hold their bow steady. And how are you going to haul an animal out of a ravine if you can’t lift it? Like your legs, you should be working out your arms and back to improve raw strength and avoid strains.  

Get in the zone

Your mental readiness includes everything from mapping out where the hunt takes place, to the strategies for tracking the animal, to your focus when the moment arrives to take the shot.

Use web-based maps to chart your territory. Do you want a more popular spot, or a more difficult place to reach where there may be fewer hunters? Many apps also have aerial views that reveal what kind of terrain you’ll be facing.  

Scout ahead for where the animals are likely to be. Where do they eat and drink? Which areas are they more likely to avoid? Don’t be shy about asking farmers and adjacent landowners; they often have intel you won’t find on any map.

As you get ready to take the shot, run a mental diagnostic on yourself to determine these questions: Is my breathing steady? Am I gripping my rifle or bow properly, or am I too tight? Are my legs and hips aligned and flexible enough to remain in position?

Get your gear up to speed

The most important piece of gear is your hunting license. This differs from province to province and depends on what you’re hunting. Fill out the paperwork well in advance to avoid long delays.

Do a test run. Going to a range beforehand with your gear accomplishes two things: You become familiar with the feel of your rifle or bow, plus if something isn’t functioning properly you get advanced warning.

Tuning your bow or rifle before hunting is as important as sharpening your skates before stepping on the ice. You want as clean a shot as possible, so sight in your most important piece of equipment and make sure it stays that way.

Don’t forget to pack the right clothing and any medications. Temperatures shift a lot from early morning to afternoon, especially as the Fall approaches. 

The further in advance you start preparing your equipment and yourself, the more you avoid discomfort and increase the odds of making a kill. 

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