With Guest Blogger Willi Schmidt
September is one of my favorite months of the year. To me, it means one thing: archery elk hunting and the beginning of hunting season in general. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a little boy, and that passion has not dwindled since then. I do all I can to prepare for this special time of year so I can be as ready as possible if and when an opportunity presents itself. That requires getting my gear ready, practicing with my bow and firearm, making sure I have the essentials and emergency gear, and maintaining the most important piece of equipment: me.
Following are some of the more important pieces of gear I prepare as well as some of the routines I go through for the upcoming season.
Practice, practice, practice
I try to shoot my bow regularly throughout the year, ramping it up to every day in the summer to make sure I have the confidence to make a clean shot when an opportunity arises. I also head to the rifle range a couple of times in the summer and fall to make sure the scope is dialed in and accurate. Hunting is not perfect, and a lot can happen out of my control when the arrow leaves the bow or when the bullet leaves the barrel. I owe it to the animal to have confidence in my equipment and know the sights are dialed, doing everything in my power for a clean kill (harvest). I want to make sure my muscle memory is solid and drawing my bow or shooting the firearm is second nature when I get ready for the shot.
Perfect the call
One of the things I love about archery elk hunting is the calling aspect and trying to entice a bull into bow range. I practice a few times a week with both cow calls and bugles to sound as good as I can in the woods. I have a few favorite podcasts I have saved regarding elk talk that I listen to every year, just to help me brush up my techniques. This also gets me fired up for my upcoming hunts! There is a lot of competition out there with other hunters. If I can sound better and more realistic than the next guy, and can understand the different calls the elk make, my odds should be better.
Several weeks before my first hunt, I go through all my gear to make sure it is in good working order. If something needs a repair, waterproofing, or replacing, I have enough time to order it and get it in. With today’s supply chain issues, this is more important than ever. I check my tent for holes and waterproof the rain fly. I make sure my backpack is in good working condition and all the accessories are functional and in place, like my water bladder, side pouches, and rain fly. I wear my boots often to keep them broken in and make sure my boot laces are in good shape. I make sure I have a backup pair handy as well. I ensure my replaceable blade knives have plenty of new blades, as well as a small sharpener just in case.
Light the way
Whether it is an elk hunt, deer hunt, or waterfowl hunt, headlamps and flashlights are vitally important. I am often heading out well before daylight and returning after dark, sometimes with a heavy pack. Setting up decoys or stumbling around in the dark is not fun and can be hazardous. The Radiant 300 Rechargeable Headlamp and INOVA T8R Rechargeable Flashlight by Nite Ize have become my go-to illumination devices throughout the years. The red light feature is super nice as it doesn’t spook game like a white light, while reducing the night blindness that happens with a bright white light. I make sure they are all working well, and that I have a backup headlamp and charging cords or backup batteries just in case.
Scope it out
I make sure my binoculars, rangefinder, and spotting scope are all clean, the eye cups work properly, and the focus rings work well in advance of heading out. If something isn’t working and I can’t fix it myself, I want to allow time to send it in for warranty repairs and make sure it is back before the season starts. I make sure I have a backup battery for my rangefinder. If that fails in the woods, it could ruin a hunt.
In case of emergency
Many of the items I go through are items I know I am going to use on a hunt. I also make sure I have an emergency kit for those unforeseen issues that may arise. Of course, I have a medical kit that includes Band-Aids, antiseptic ointment, a blister prevention kit, ibuprofen, and other medical items, but I also include a small roll of Gorilla tape, electrical tape, Allen wrenches, and Nite Ize Gear Ties and S-Biners. Experience has taught me that these items can pretty much fix the majority of problems that arise on a hunt. Whether something comes loose on my bow, a zipper breaks, or a wheel well liner on my truck comes loose, I can make my gear usable on the hunt until I can get it professionally repaired later.
The most important piece of equipment
At the end of the day, I can have the best quality weapons, optics, boots, backpack, and the list goes on, but if my body fails me, none of that matters. I pride myself on my consistency of working out throughout the year so I am ready and physically fit for any hunt. My focus varies throughout the year, from building strength to endurance, and then cardio as the season nears, making sure that my body will not be what holds me back. I don’t follow any specific programs, but I do incorporate some CrossFit, running, hiking, and walking with a weighted pack, and do a few 30-45 minute AMRAP sessions per week. I may need to run to the top of a mountain to get ahead of an animal and make sure my core and legs are strong for hauling a heavy backpack up or down a mountain on uneven ground. Hopefully I am making a few trips with a heavier pack to camp after a successful hunt!
This is my favorite time of year. In fact, strategizing and preparing for the upcoming season is as much a part of the hunt as the hunt itself. Here’s to a successful season!
About Willi Schmidt
Willi Schmidt has been a hunter his entire life, turning his hunting passion into a TV Show, Pure Hunting. He has hosted Pure Hunting for 10 seasons. Pure Hunting is about the adventure, camaraderie, and authenticity of a hunt. In addition to his passion for the outdoors, he is a husband, father, avid golfer, and fitness enthusiast. Willi and his family live in Bozeman, Montana.