December 23, 2021
In today's world, it's hard to align schedules, lives, work commitments and funds with someone else to go on a hunt. Sadly, this trend doesn't look like it's changing anytime soon. With that being said, the solo bowhunting adventure idea has blossomed the last few years and has become quite popular across the U.S. Each year, thousands of bowhunters — myself included — embark on solo bowhunting adventures all across the globe. For many of these eager bowhunters, this is their very first time setting sail on a trip like this by themselves. I have fallen in love with this style of bowhunting, but I will admit — it is not for everyone.
So, I've put together my best tips for having a successful and enjoyable solo bowhunting adventure. After that, you can decide if it's a challenge you might be interested in.
I'm going to assume that you've already done the legwork as far as a state, species, time frame and route to this desired destination. Now, let's cover the meat and potatoes of your hunt — the expectations! As many of you know, or will soon know, solo bowhunts are a totally different creature than the comforts of hunting at home, with a group, or in a place you've been to before. More often than not, these adventures take place in places that I've never stepped foot on or have very little knowledge of. Punching a tag is not the only focus or measure of success for myself, and I don't think they should be for anyone else. In my opinion, a huge victory on a solo hunt is exactly what the title implies — hunting solo. To complete a solo bowhunting journey is an accomplishment in and of itself!
Another aspect of this style of bowhunting is learning to hunt unfamiliar game, places, or even using different tactics and approaches. For example, mule deer hunting in the high country cannot be replicated where I live in Ohio. So, it is extremely challenging to put successful stalks on bucks when you've never been able to practice your skills at doing so. In my opinion, any buck with any good stalk is a huge victory — especially for a first-time bowhunter on a hunt like this. The bottom line here is to make sure you're not solely basing success on punching a tag, or the size of a set of antlers in the back of your truck. Instead, base it off of what you learned, how you felt each day, the knowledge you're coming home with, and the confidence that you've gained from this type of hunt. Find the positives and focus on those more than what didn't work out, but also learn from it and build off of your mistakes!
Solo bowhunts are also a different animal physically. It's all up to you. The better shape you're in, the better a bowhunt like this will go. Not all solo bowhunts are taking place in steep, rigorous terrain where marathon running shape is required, but these hunts usually involve a few challenged. Sleeping in tough situations, a lack of calorie intake , long days, hard miles, etc. — all of these are a lot easier on a person if the physical side of things are in check. Another thing to remember is that if you're successful on a bowhunt like this, it is now up to you to skin, quarter, cape, drag, process, etc. the animal without the help of anyone else. Once again, physical attributes here are a bowhunters best friend in these. Being in good physical shape will not only benefit you on these hunts, but also allow you to enjoy these solo bowhunts more. After all, that's the main reason to go on a bowhunting adventure in the first place!
Mind Over Matter
Solo! The word itself scares a lot of people off whether you're talking about driving alone, living alone, sleeping alone, etc. A lot of people don't like being alone, or don't possess the confidence to be alone. It is no different in the bowhunting world, as a solo bowhunt requires one to completely immerse himself in a solo bowhunt and only rely upon themself. This takes great mental toughness and confidence! Going into bowhunts like these can be mentally draining because of all of the "what if" scenerios that can pop up, but a smart bowhunter will have plans and strategies for everything thrown at them! I can tell you from experience, you will get lonely, feel anxiety, become afraid, seem overwhelmed and wonder at times what in the heck you got yourself into. But, we must understand that these moments are coming so we can get passed them and continue forward with a positive mindset.
I think one of the best attributes a bowhunter can take on a solo bowhunt is to mentally understand and prepare for the worst. Things are going to go wrong. There are going to be struggles to overcome and obstacles to face, but if we embrace these moments as part of the adventure and channel our inner toughness, we will succeed and bust through these barriers. Understand that what you're embarking on is tough. If you embrace the suck and fight it head on and I can assure you that you'll gain more and more confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Embracing the Adventure
As bowhunters, we need to remember why we're out there in the first place! Going on these adventures fuels my soul and makes me a better man. The sights, sounds and experiences, while being out there alone, are something special. These hunts and moments are completely different than those shared with family and friends, and the sense of accomplishment and pride that come with these solo bowhunts cannot be replicated. From start to finish, a solo bowhunting adventure is all in what YOU make it. Your mindset and attitude will dictate how these bowhunts go, so allow yourself to enjoy every second.
Embrace the drive or flight across the country. Take the time to snap some pictures each day and write a few notes in your phone about what you saw. Soak in the sunsets and notice the sunrises, as none of us are promised the next day. From experience, I can tell you this — solo bowhunts will leave you better for participating in them and change your appreciation on many different levels — and not only hunting, but other aspects life. And back home, you'll be sure to appreciate the time spent afield with friends more than ever.