Maybe your hunting partner is tied up at home or work. Perhaps you want the freedom to go wherever you'd like and focus solely on you and your tag. Maybe you're the only one in your family or friend group that enjoys hunting. It could be that you enjoy being on your own. Whatever the case, hunting solo is an increasingly popular way for folks to get out and enjoy the outdoors. You need to be mindful about hunting by yourself. Some risks come with hunting alone. Here are a few quick tips to help you safely prepare for your next solo hunt.
Take a Scouting Trip
This doesn't mean a scouting trip to find the big buck or bull in your area. That's great too, but remember to scout the area for your well-being. When hunting alone, you need to take extra precautions. You need to know where the water is, where potential camp spots are, what the trails are like (if any), how the road access is, if you have cell reception in specific locations (more on that later), and what the weather is going to be like in that hunting area, etc. This trip doesn't need to be a long one. A quick overnighter should do the trick. Though this takes time away from scouting for animals or even uses up an extra vacation day, it is 100% worth it. You'll then come back home with a better idea of what gear you need, how much you'll need to pack if you're backpacking, where you'll be able to camp, and how far you'll need to or be able to hike, and much more. Going into hunting season blind will waste valuable time figuring these things out during the season. Take the time to do it in the pre-season.
I'd recommend taking this trip a week or two before your actual hunt. That way, you can get a good read on what the water, weather, and other timely situations will be like during your hunt. Take this trip seriously. It will pay off huge dividends once the season starts.
Practice Being Alone
This sounds like a weird tip, but being alone in the wilderness can take a huge mental toll on you. If you take the scouting trip in the tip above, you'll have a perfect chance to practice camping and being alone. If you cannot do the scouting trip, go on a low-key, one-day campout in a non-threatening, accessible spot. It's only one night, so no worries if something "bad" happens. You can get home quickly and easily. The trick will be being comfortable with this for 3-10 days, or however long your hunt will be.
One of the most challenging things about solo hunting, in my opinion, is sleeping at night. Solo camping brings out the little kid in you. You feel entirely exposed; no one is around to help, your mind thinks of everything that could go wrong, and every single noise sounds like a bear will bust into your tent. This, too, takes a little bit of practice. Get a few solo nights camping under your belt, and you'll be good to go. A set of earplugs and melatonin also does wonders.
Know Where You Have Phone Coverage
We live in a world with incredible capabilities as far as technology is concerned. Phones have become a critical part of a hunter's toolkit with GPS mapping apps and expanding cell phone coverages. If you hunt in an area where you can get good cell reception, you eliminate more than half of the hazards that come with solo hunting. Having cell reception means you can call someone in case of an emergency, check in with your spouse/family regularly, and gives you the option to call in the cavalry when you get a big animal on the ground. Check your provider's website to see cell phone coverage maps. You'll be surprised at how far you can go in the mountains and still get decent cell reception.
Safety is the number one priority. If you don't get cell reception in your hunting area, consider a satellite phone or something similar. Yeah, it's a bit of money upfront, and you have to pay a monthly service fee (usually), but it's worth it. It's a huge safety tool. Marsupial Gear offers great pack accessories that allow you to keep your phone and satellite phone easily accessible and on your person at all times.
Consider Carrying a Sidearm
If you're hunting in an area with a lot of predators such as bears, mountain lions, or wolves, you might want to carry a sidearm with you. If not a sidearm, bear spray is also a good option. Hopefully, these are tools you'll never need to use, but they're tools you don't want to be without if you ever find yourself face to face with a mama bear or a hungry cat. Again, keep your bear spray or firearm on your person in a pouch or holster where you can draw it quickly and smoothly.
When Possible… Don't Go Alone
You can hunt solo and do so safely, and it can be a great hunt for you that's filled with fun and hopefully ends with you punching your tag. However, having a hunting partner with you during your hunt is a massive benefit for several reasons. Hunting accidents can happen no matter who you are—being with someone while out in the field drastically reduces those potential accidents. And if those accidents or mishaps do occur, you'll at least have someone by your side ready to get you the help you need.
A punched tag is always the goal whenever you go hunting. Though, a safe hunt is more important than a successful one, especially when you're hunting solo. Know your area, use the tools at your disposal, get comfortable being alone, and never underestimate the power of a good plan. Stay safe. Hunt hard.
Colby Skinner is a bowhunter and an archer through and through. He is a self-taught hunter and bow technician who doesn't take much in life (except bowhunting) too seriously. Colby jumps at any chance he gets to be outside, test gear, tinker on his bow, write hunting articles, and enjoy the great outdoors. He currently work as the Marketing Project Manager at Hoyt Archery.