A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to try backcountry solo hunting. To me, this meant getting a tiny tent, hiking several miles in the forest to my camping spot, then hunting from there. I watched as everyone else did this and it seemed easy watching everyone else. For me, it ended up being a process to get to this point. To become comfortable enough to hike into the forest, pitch a tent, stay by myself, get up in the morning in the dark, and head out was a process. These were the steps I took to be comfortable hunting alone.
How to Prepare for a Solo Hunt
Determining Your Level of Comfort in the Forest Alone
To some, this may seem simple but, in my experience, after hunting with a variety of people, this is a daunting task. I have nearly always felt comfortable hiking or walking outside in the middle of nowhere alone. But are you ever really alone? I always carry my phone and check in with someone a few times daily. In my second-year backcountry hunting, my primary spot did not have cell service, this is not something I am comfortable with, so I bought a Garmin InReach so I could press the SOS button or call if I needed help.
What if you are not comfortable? Find a good hunting buddy who either has the same comfort level in the forest or who is willing to be with you as you gain comfort. For many, gaining comfort is simply a matter of spending more time in the field. As I scout my areas and spend time on the trails, the hunting grounds become like a second home. It is important to note that some people may not get here, or it could take a long time. If you are in this category, think about what makes you feel unsafe, and carrying a handgun, pepper spray, maps or other items will alleviate what is making you feel anxious in the field.
For me, the things I carry to feel safe are my InReach, my phone, the various mapping software programs on my phone, a headlamp, extra batteries, extra food, water, a whistle, and pepper spray. My boyfriend feels safer if I carry a handgun, so I do for his piece of mind. Just to be transparent, I live in Colorado and to date, our predators are coyotes, mountain lions, and black bears. Based on their behaviors here, I do not feel threatened most of the time. This would be different if we had an active wolf population or brown bears.
Your Comfort Level in the Dark Alone
There is a stigma among some people that only women come back to the house before dark from a hunt and I want to start here by saying I have seen many people, both men, and women who do not want to be outside in the dark alone or with others. This is something that most of us can work on, but it may take time. When I started hunting, we always hiked a few miles in the dark. Sitting in the dark for the first time and hearing elk bugle or cow call around you can be intimidating.
Becoming more comfortable in the dark alone will take a series of baby steps. I recommend starting with spending some time during the summer in your hunting spot with friends or family, walking the trails, and camping there if you can. Having familiarity with the land in the light will help you with being there in the dark. Then move on to being there in the dark, going to the bathroom, or gathering wood close to camp with your headlamp. My second recommendation is to start short walks on familiar paths close to the dark and move progressively later and later until you feel comfortable being there in the dark.
We all have felt uncomfortable at some point in our hunting/hiking careers in the wild, dark or not dark. If your goal is to solo hunt, this is something that you must overcome, and it can be by working on your level of comfort over time by slowly pushing yourself. On my first solo scouting trip with my tent and all my equipment, I pitched my tent next to my car, and in the morning when I hiked out to scouting, despite hunting here for many years with others, I had to convince myself to walk down a trail I had come back many times alone on. Feeling anxious is normal as we push our boundaries.
What do you think about our tips on preparing mentally for a solo hun? Have you ever been hunting alone?
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