Hunting in Harsh Conditions

Every hunter knows that the weather dictates everything. Ever changing weather conditions mean that the hunter could start off with ideal conditions that quickly can turn into a nightmare. Living in the rocky mountains shows just how crazy and unpredictable the weather can be in the fall it can go from sunshine and warm air, to bellow freezing temps and wet snow with very little warning. So being a hunter out here being always thinking about those harsh conditions and it also makes you very aware how important being prepared for those conditions can truly be. So here are some important tips to make your more safe while you are out there trying to harvest some food. Plan ahead, pay attention to your surroundings, and if avoidable don’t go hunting alone. Hunting is hard enough, so lets take some time and make sure we are safe.

Failure to plan, is planning to fail. I simply cannot stress this enough. When you are going out for a day hunting, you need to plan for that day. You cannot think of every possible situation that can arise but you can take basic steps. You need to do more than watch the weather channel when making your plan for the day. If you assume for the worst, when the worst happens it won’t be so bad. If the weather man says sunny days and clear skies, bring rain gear and extra socks. When you think you are going out just for a few hours bring a sleeping bag and tarp anyway. Things happen beyond our control so the more you can do to be prepared for that, the safer you will be. You might go out deer hunting one afternoon, wound a deer and spend all evening tracking that deer. Now the sun is going down, the weather is changing for the worse, rather than waiting for it to be a problem you are already prepared with wet weather gear, a head lamp, and that small survival kit you prepared with the matches and fire starting kit? Now you have a fire going, shelter and a warm place to wait out the weather or the dawn. So again, just think about what you are doing, where you are going, and plan accordingly. Make a small surival kit, include a knife, tarp (for shelter), matches and fire starting tools (matches get wet and run out), and some sort of cordage (I use 550 cord). Combined into a small package these items can greatly increase your comfort and survival should you find yourself spending the night in bad weather.

Since the conditions change so quickly, you need to watch your surroundings constantly. You are already doing that as a hunter, but don’t get tunnel vision and lose track of the world around you. I am guilty of that and sometimes it can get you in a bad situation. Paying attention to clouds forming in the distance, to the wind changing direction, you don’t need to be a meteorologist to know when the weather changes, you see it, feel it and smell it happening. So by being alert to the world around you, you can see problems before they develop. Those clouds forming in the distance show the signs of a storm, you know that its 3:30 in the afternoon and the sun will be going down in a few hours. That means its about to be cold, wet, and miserable soon. So you either need to make a plan on leaving or since you planned properly and were prepared you can make the adjustments you need to stay in the field longer should you chose. When you are making that decision always keep in mind, you still may not have shot anything yet, and after you do and the real work beings, make sure you are doing that under the best conditions possible for yourself. Even if under a trap boning out a fresh kill.

Now I have hunted alone and done just fine, however it was a habit I was quick to break. Having someone with you is more than just having extra accountability, you have an extra set of eyes and ears. Those eyes and ears are attached to a brain and if they see things going south real quick, they are going to typically speak up. Now you have the ability to crowd source options and figure out the best course of action. You were both prepared, you both have paid attention to your surroundings, now you both can make informed decisions that will not put yourself at any further risk. When you are out with someone else, do keep in mind, now is not the time for bravado. If it looks bad and you can leave, leave. If your partner does not want to go, make a big deal about it, this is your life. So having someone with you is generally a blessing, just don’t fall into the trap of trying to tough out a bad situation. It takes no time when you are cold and wet to develop a life threatening condition. Like the weather, life is unpredictable so having someone with you is just a good idea anyway, we all need someone watching our backs out there.

Hunting in harsh conditions is unavoidable. Hunting seasons generally fall around the times of year when the weather is dangerous and hard to keep a finger on. So we as hunters need to be proactive in our safety and make sure we do what we can to mitigate those dangers associated with harsh and unpredictable conditions. We need to plan for the unexpected, we need to be aware of our surroundings and if at all possible we need to make sure we don’t head out alone. Don’t let harsh conditions set the pace for you, stay alert and stay live. Have fun and be safe out there!

John Abshire

Born in North Carolina, raised all over the world and currently living in the Rocky Mountains above Montana. I have spent most of my life fishing, hunting, exploring and adventuring. While the adventure continues I have started to jot a few of them down and write. I Love Fly Fishing and sharing what I know with others. Fish on!

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