Offseason Improvments? (skills, conditioning, gear)

AaronMColeman

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Nov 20, 2018
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Wyoming
Forgive me if this has been talked to death in the past, I'm just so excited to be in elk season! The most wonderful time of the year!

So what did you do in the offseason to improve your hunting skills? I wanna hear what you guys did...and I also just wanna talk elk with other guys and ladies who love them.

I focused on a couple of things (at the expense of other things). No gear changes from last season, I'm a pretty simple guy so I found stuff that works and didn't really consider upgrades or changes.

PROS
- Conditioning: I started doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) pretty much every day. I wasn't big at all, but I dropped 20 lbs this year and it has made a world of difference in the mountains so far.
- Rifle: I started reloading and shooting much much more. My accuracy and confidence at longer distances has really improved a ton. I feel confident. Still not taking a 856 yard shot across a valley, but I feel really good with multiple shot positions and distances out to 450 yards or so.
- Archery: Still not great, but I have worked on shots out to 50 yards and feel really good at 40 yards and in.

CONS
- Calling: somehow I've gotten worse. I wish I had started training with calls in March...but 2020 has not been a kind year to most of us!
- Conditioning: I wish I had done more hiking and work with my pack on...my shoulders are on fire!

What did you guys work on, and what do you wish you'd spent a bit more time on.
 

Brendan

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Boston, MA
- Conditioning: I wish I had done more hiking and work with my pack on...my shoulders are on fire!

Might want to consider looking into a better pack, or pack fit in the next offseason. Pack shouldn't be putting much weight on your shoulders at all. Getting a good pack that you can spend all day every day in for 10 days is right up there with good boots in terms of importance...
 

Indian Summer

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Feb 17, 2013
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663
I stare at topo maps and onX sat images of my area looking for little areas to check beyond where I’ve already been hunting. I tweak my gear a little every season too because I’m a gear junkie. Although I’ve had the same boots for 8 years now!
 
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AaronMColeman

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Wyoming
Might want to consider looking into a better pack, or pack fit in the next offseason. Pack shouldn't be putting much weight on your shoulders at all. Getting a good pack that you can spend all day every day in for 10 days is right up there with good boots in terms of importance...

My pack is good, may not be good for me? I'm working on some strapping and adjusting load right now. See if I can get the weight off my shoulders. Thanks.
 

Brendan

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My pack is good, may not be good for me? I'm working on some strapping and adjusting load right now. See if I can get the weight off my shoulders. Thanks.

You should be able to take 100% of the weight off your shoulders and transfer it all to your hips if it fits you well. And then adjust in between based on preference. If you can't do that - your specific pack doesn't fit you right and either needs adjustment or you need a different pack. Makes a world of difference when you figure it out.

For example: Loosen all straps. Put pack on. Tighten Waist belt so center of belt goes along the point of the hip bones. I prefer a little higher - center of my belly button as it settles a hair under load. Tighten it down tight (I need to break in my hips when I start wearing my pack, mine is tight enough I need to build calluses if I want to be able to haul weight and not have it slip) Then loosely snug shoulder straps. Then Tighten load lifters (which should be at a 30-45 degree angle up) to take the weight off your shoulders. Loosen shoulder straps just a hair or however much you want based on comfort. Then connect sternum strap and snug, snug any stabilizers as needed. I can walk around with zero weight on my shoulders and the pack giving me enough flexibility to shoot a bow easily if needed.
 

KOK

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Aug 30, 2019
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bad back, i prefer to carry all weight on shoulders/arms.
 

KNASH

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Feb 7, 2020
Messages
94
I just got a real pack(MR) in place of my kid's bookbag for rucking, instantly moving weight from shoulders to hips. Amazing difference, but I'm surprised at the stress on the hips themselves from doing so. Motto - practice like you play.
 

justinspicher

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Dec 27, 2012
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Colorado
I did alot more scouting this spring and summer. I went back to spots I normally hunt, but checked areas that I have either never been in or haven’t considered before. I put on alot of miles this summer. I also focused on shooting positions, estimating wind and ranges.
 

Brendan

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For me, this was a year to focus on rifle shooting and reloading. I've always been the guy who puts a three round group into an inch at 100 yards, and then one into a deer or elk, clean the gun and done till next year. This year, I have about 600 rounds fired between two different rifles, almost all handloads. Got access to a range where I can practice out to 1100 yards on steel in the wind.

Also have my first rifle elk hunt and first antelope hunt coming up next month, so there's a method to my madness.
 

wyosam

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Aug 5, 2019
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Lots of time behind the rifle, lots of time at the reloading bench, and lots of hiking with a heavy pack. Now I have hardly any time to hunt. I’ll get out and kill an elk, but I was hoping to spend time looking for a euro mount for my cabin.


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Gerbdog

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Jun 8, 2020
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CO Springs
Well... for physical conditioning:
I carry a pack with 90 lbs in it when I walk my dog for 1.5 miles every day, and then I run that same 1.5 miles as well with no pack on. Running isn't the best exercise to translate into hunting steep mountains and as said, nothing actually compares to hiking with weight except hiking with weight... my moms husband swears by mountain biking though... says it translates well. There is of course an at home COVID series of basic things I do as well, pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.

For my bow skills ... when I go to the range I only practice at 70-80 yards.... my reasoning is.... if you can hit a target with a good group at 80 you can probably hit a target with a good group at 20 if your bows set up.... It's not to say I don't train at short distances, I cant make it to the range as often as i'd like so I have a target with lots of backdrop setup in my garage, if I stand at one corner and shoot I can get about 10 yards on it... which is fine. I hang a string on the target and then shoot the string. I'll make about 30 shots a day on this and it has helped tune in my bow left and right tremendously and has worked out any funny things I would do with my wrist. I make these shots standing, kneeling and sitting. Twice a day ill draw and hold the shot for 1+ minutes while doing these bow routines.

I did change a few things on my gear setup this year, I got a new Matthews bow for xmas last year, been tuning that thing in and love it now. I still run my kifaru pack as both a day pack and pack out pack. Camo etc. didn't change a ton but I did decide to run a pair of "un-rippable" pants this year made out of some seemingly tough stuff (yea I'm talking about you Fjallraven, on my crap list now). I knew I was gonna be hunting in dense crap with loads of snags and figured i'd try it out.... wouldn't you know I ripped the crap out of the un-rippable part of the pants on day 1 of the hunt. Lame.
 
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AaronMColeman

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Nov 20, 2018
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Wyoming
The thing I should have worked on is solving the cure for the common cold (or maybe uncommon covid? Haha). I’m sick now...I’d gladly be sick for a month another time of year if it meant I could stay healthy for archery elk.
 

Lark Bunting

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Mar 8, 2018
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122
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Colorado
Pack training all summer has proven to be very effective in the mountains so far. We backpacked in the first week and I had the pleasure of helping a buddy pack out an elk. What felt miserable in the past (rear quarter, backstraps and loins) felt great this year. I had no idea what I had on my back as I just grabbed the biggest meat bag and hit the trail.

Gear? I bought a new Kuiu hat in Valo, lol.
 
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AaronMColeman

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Nov 20, 2018
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Location
Wyoming
I made some adjustments to my pick and it has been MUCH better in my shoulders.

These spooky quiet mountains have got to end soon!
 

Poser

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Dec 27, 2013
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Durango CO
I did an overnight scouting trip in the high country every weekend of June, July & August + a 6 day trip over 4th July weekend. I think that was 34 days scouting and some of those were big weekend covering a lot of hard terrain. Ive been bear hunting every weekend so far in September, too, and I was out turkey hunting back in April for that matter.

Squat, Press, deadlift + chin-ups in the gym as always and the body is feeling strong and durable.

I really worked on improving my quality of sleep in the backcountry this year. I added a 2nd pillow which, though luxurious, seems to have improved my sleep quality considerably.

Insoles. Been experimenting a good bit with aftermarket insoles, moving different ones around in different footwear.

Been helping a new hunter who has a lot of backcountry experience already, so we’re doing backpack hunts for bear, elk and mule deer this season. I took him out for 3 days during 3rd rifle last season and a couple of days turkey hunting this spring and a couple of summer scouting trips. No success yet, but it’s coming.
 
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