What motivates you to get outside and hunt? Is it the physical and mental challenge, connection with the natural world, or just getting away and enjoying camaraderie with friends and family? Identify your key drivers, and use them to set the basis for your goals. When done right, goalsetting can be one of the most valuable tools to help you perform better and have more fun when going on your next backcountry outing. Setting goals can be useful in many aspects of your life, and let’s be honest, there are tons of articles and books out there on how to set good goals. I’m going to hit on the main elements, and how to help you get some perspective when developing your goals for the next hunting season.
What makes up a good goal? I try to check and make sure my goals are:
- Realistic – If you make goals too difficult, or if their success requires a large factor of luck, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Failing to meet goals can have a negative effect on your attitude and ability to succeed, so make sure you give yourself a reality check first. If your goal to kill a 400 class bull requires you to get drawn for a specific hunting unit, and requires the bull to walk in front of you on one of the few days you devote to hunting this fall, then it is not very realistic. Don’t expect God, your local Department of Fish and Wildlife, or the roulette wheel to help you achieve your goals. Make a goal you can control.
- Specific and Measurable – You need to know definitively when you have achieved your goal. Making goals specific enough so you can keep a scorecard of where you are throughout the year, and track your progress.
- Balanced – Few people can set one imperial goal that drives them through the hunting season without causing detriment to other factors of life. Make sure your goals take into consideration your overall happiness in life for you and your family.
- Efficient – Make sure you are getting the most bang-for-buck out of your goals. For example, I have no fitness goals this year. I have not been hindered by lack of physical fitness for the last few hunting seasons, and my previous task-based goals have become routine. So, I can realistically say that I am at a level of maintenance. This year I’ll focus on weaker areas that will be more impactful to my hunting success.
- Task-based – Your goals should be a call to action. Sometimes your goal can be somewhat nebulous, but you should be able to break it down into a goal consisting of actionable items.
For the Hunting category of my goals for this year, I’m choosing to focus on
- Increase balance of time with family
- Contribute to conservation and sporting community
- Woodsman skills
- Expand my hunting opportunities
I have long hours and travel a lot for my day job, so it makes it tough to spend time with my two-year-old son that seems to sleep about as many hours per day as a koala bear. If I’m working in the office, I can be gone for work before he is up in the morning, and I sometimes get home after he has already gone to bed in the evening. I’m usually on the road a couple days per week as well. Come hunting season, I feel pretty guilty leaving for a week at a time to chase elk. I’ve realized that I need a goal to make my favorite recreation activity is sustainable and balanced with my family life. This year, instead of taking time to go hunting, I’m going to trade time for hunting. To do this, I am going to track the time I spend away hunting and make sure I pay those hours back to the family, within one month. I’m also going to make a communication plan so my wife and I can prioritize our family schedule, and optimize the time we spend as a family during the hunting season.
To increase my contribution to conservation and the sporting society, there are a lot of organizations out there that have a pretty good structure for volunteer activities and charitable donations. I’m setting my goal for donating $xxx (sorry I’m not going to disclose my actual number with you) towards conservation and sporting stewardship, and volunteer at least 20 hours of my time. To keep things interesting (I like to throw in “wildcard” goals each year), I’m going to read two books with views on hunting and conservation that oppose my opinions. This will hopefully help soften some of the sharp edges of my opinions and help communicate with non-hunters.
Regarding woodsman skills, I like to throw some fun and more easily achievable goals for good measure. Easier goals can provide additional motivation, since so that you can check off goals throughout the year rather than just at the end. Last year I did some backpacking trips in late August, and some hunting in early September that got me into some plants that I was not familiar with. It also made me realize that plant identification was an area that I was lacking. So this year, my goal is to be more proficient at identifying trees, berries, roots and other plants that may be useful to me in the backcountry. I hope to benefit from improving my knowledge of what can be used for food, shelter, and tools, or identifying plants that may indicate a presence of wildlife. My goal is to be able to identify ten tree species, ten berries, and ten flowers/roots/bushes, and understand how they could be significant to wildlife or myself. I’ll achieve this goal by reading two books on the subject, and using field guides on my hiking and scouting trips this summer.
For most of my life, I have primarily hunted Washington, Montana, and Wyoming. But I have begun to wonder why I have overlooked Idaho. It seems pretty odd to think that I have driven across it several times a year in search of game, when Idaho itself has so much to offer. But in reality, there is a finite amount of time and energy to put towards hunting preparation, especially if you are like me and hunt primarily DIY on public land. But again, I have recently found that I will be making several trips to Idaho this year for various obligations, and this will be creating a great opportunity to become much more familiar with the Gem State. My goal is to scout and prepare to hunt Idaho next season. To prepare this season, I will make two dedicated trips to explore and scout an area, read all regulations to become proficient, and utilize my previously planned trips to Idaho by creating time to do some hiking and scouting on each outing.