Hunt Smart, Hunt Safe (Part I)

Keep It Simple, Keep it Safe

By Kevin Reese

Until he no longer could, my step-father made K.I.S.S. a routine part of his father-son advice. “Don’t make it harder than it has to be—KISS, KISS, KISS! You don’t already know, pop meant “Keep It Simple Stupid.” I would never dream of calling anyone stupid but honestly, for years, I thought it was my name. Seeking to break the label’s stranglehold, as perhaps was his strategy, I undertook opportunities to keep things simpler and do them smarter, hunting including. It wasn’t an easy road at all. For much of my early adult life, as a young Marine clear up to dating the woman who later would become my wife, my step-father also called me “The Great White Hunter.” Meant as half-insult, half-term-of-endearment because 99.9 percent of my hunting time was spent not killing, not strategizing properly and employing the KISS method—of course, this was also because my hunting mentors at the time were virtually non-existent. Hunting was something I took up on my own. That said, even when I figured things out and started bringing home sustenance, he never relented on the nickname. By then I knew it was indeed his term of endearment for me. He loved to tease. He was a good man. Still all of it was valuable guidance—keep things simple, do thing smarter. If you’re new to hunting or simply trying to get a little smarter and be a little safer on the hunt, walk on the rocks I’ve stumbled on and embrace today’s technology. Here are a few ways to begin doing just that.

There’s an app for that…

Ask hunters what one of the most effective game calls in the woods is and if they’re honest they’ll say their smartphone. More than one hunter has been busted, blown a shot opportunity and even trashed the hunt of a lifetime while Facebook-ing, Instagram-ing or taking an array of selfies. A social media debate I couldn’t pull myself away from cost me a shot on an 11-pointer standing broadside no more than 10 yards in front of me—I looked up and there he was walking away. I nearly cried and to be honest, before writing it now, I had never told anybody. It was a stupid thing to do and it cost me dearly.

Your smartphones certainly holds benefits, even for hunting, but social media shouldn’t be part of your plan. There may be no harm in updating people or taking a selfie when you get out to your favorite spot or are packing things up but when you’re hunting, turn off the volume and put it away!

Notice, I did not say turn it off. Indeed, I keep it on. Things happen and if need be, I want calling for help to be as easy and as quick as possible. Waiting for the phone to power up and find a signal may not mix well with those efforts. I stay off my phone while I’m hunting but I also keep it at the ready.

Using your smartphone’s GPS, especially with a map app, not only helps you navigate your hunting ground, it also may make it easier for that emergency contact to locate you or guide first-responders there. Something as simple as a shared tack-drop on an app’s map can, and has been, a life-saver.

Luck = Preparation + Opportunity

Iconic writer, speaker and conservationist, Shane Mahoney, often talks about “wild places” and “wild creatures.” His words, demeanor, passion and ability to story-tell or reminiscent of the likes of Jack O’Connor and other still-active writers like Jim Zumbo and J. Wayne Fears. Even small tracts of hunting land are absolutely wild and the creatures inhabiting such spaces, just as wild—Mahoney is spot-on. As a result, outdoor experiences continue to be largely unpredictable—this is different than being prepared.

Luck is little more than the convergence of preparation and opportunity, hopefully good but sometimes bad. Case in point, I did not predict I would be struck twice by a copperhead but I wore snake boots so the consequence was nil. Preparation and opportunity had led to the strike. Preparation dictated the outcome—little more than fodder for a good story.

Conversely, I knew an area had been rooted up by feral hogs and a trail camera (more on their benefits in part II of this article series) had given me insight as to when activity was most prevalent. I showed up early and so did a large boar. I was prepared. Before I rounded an angle on the edge of a tree line, I slowed and crept until I could see the area. Sure enough, he was there. A careful 100-yard stalk ended when I sent my arrow deep into the vitals of the largest boar I’ve ever recovered, over 350 pounds. I used insight technology provided and was prepared in my strategy, stalk and shot placement.

Buddy up/gear up

Hunting smart means using the right tools for the job, including people. It’s always better to hunt with other people. Maintain a means of communicating with them before and after the hunt, as well as if something goes wrong. A friend hunting without a safety harness fell from his treestand many years ago. He was able to call his hunting buddy from a tree stand a few hundred yards away. The call and his friend’s emergency assistance minimized the potential for paralysis and just may have prevented much, much worse.

Whether you hunt with others or are bent on going it alone, gear can also make or break a hunt. Your gear can (and should always) include the right clothing for the environment. Dress for warmth, to keep cool and to protect from threats like venomous snakes, thorns and even rain or snow. If you’re hunting from an elevated platform, always wear a safety harness.

Choose your archery or firearm gear carefully. Ensure you have practiced, can carry and operate your tool of choice safely and choose your arrow setup or ammunition wisely, with paramount consideration for the game you are pursuing. And, if opportunity meets preparedness, shoot well within your level of confidence.

Hunting smart also means taking responsibility for your safety. The folks who love you likely need you to come home safely. While your smartphone is a great tool, it won’t stop bleeding or prevent infections. Carry a first-aid kit and field-dressing kit, complete with protective gloves, in your pack. One other piece of gear I never leave home without is a compact battery-pack. If my phone is low on power, I can charge it remotely. Hunt long enough and you’ll hear some hair-raising horror stories. Don’t be THAT hunter. Sure, pack light but take what you need. After all, hunting smarter means more than apps, ammo choices and arrow setups, it means coming home when it’s over.