CHEYENNE -- Between buying the license and going afield there are many details to address which can make or break a hunt. Now is the time to see to those all important details.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department hopes every license sold results in an enjoyable hunt. Unfortunately the agency can’t make it snow to bring the elk down, but it can offer some suggestions from scouting to conditioning to help put meat on the pole.
“Studying maps and talking to friends who have been there is a good idea, but nothing beats on the ground scouting of your hunt areas before opening day,” according to Gary Fralick, G&F wildlife biologist in Thayne.
In his popular deer, elk and moose hunting areas of the Salt and Wyoming ranges, Fralick has seen a striking correlation between scouting and successful hunts.
Scouting on foot can also play an important part in a pre-season conditioning program. The G&F encourages hunters to prepare their bodies for the demands likely to be encountered afield. Hikes are good conditioning and the time to get reacquainted with hunting boots. Work-outs with new back-country footwear are mandatory prior to going afield. Being sentenced to camp by blisters is no fun while companions work bugling elk.
Hunters are cautioned, though, not to “over scout” their prime hunting area. A lot of human activity close to opening day can drive big game to inaccessible terrain and spoil the hunt. Be subtle and let your binoculars and spotting scope do the work.
Likewise, ease your back into hunting season. Begin with a light pack on evening strolls. Work up to your fully loaded pack and even more on your scouting trips if game is coming out on your shoulders.
Maximize your chances of getting to the trailhead with pre-trip vehicle and trailer maintenance. Tires road worthy? Spares hold air? Chains functional? Horse trailer springs solid? Now is the time to address any procrastinated repairs. The ultimate frustration for an avid hunter is to break down as the rest of the orange-clad brotherhood zooms by.
OK. Say your vehicle gets you to the trailhead. Your body gets you several grueling miles into the wilderness. Your scouting puts you 200 yards from a regal bull or monster buck. It’s no time to wonder if your rifle is sighted in. Take care of that in August. Some rifles stay sighted for a decade; most don’t. Ignoring an hour or two on the range could render all other hard work moot.
Although out-of-whack shotgun scopes are not a worry, putting the pattern on the bird can be. A little trap shooting -- range or hand thrown -- is always a good idea. But a better first step is discovering how your scattergun patterns with a combination of ranges, loads and chokes. Shotgun patterning targets are available at some gun stores, but plain targets such as wide packing paper or large pieces of cardboard actually work better. The goal of patterning is not “sighting in” the shotgun, but learning if your shotgun is distributing enough pellets to kill the bird in the densest 30- or 36-inch circle on the target.
Patterning a shotgun up to 50 yards, also reacquaints waterfowl hunters with confirmed distance.
The exercise has served to enlighten goose hunters that the 40-yard shots of last winter look more like 70 yards or so when measured. The G&F is planning patterning and range estimating clinics in Goshen County. Dates and location will be announced.
As the bumper sticker proclaims, “A bad day hunting is better than a good day at work.” But a good day hunting is better than any day. Help insure that with a little pre-hunt preparation.