It is hard enough to successfully take down game while you are close to home with your buddies. When it is just you, the responsibility and risk of hunting gets amplified. You have to be smart and well aware of your surroundings. Spending time in the woods can technically be risky if you bump into something you didn't expect, or you were just not paying attention.
Solo hunting is not a huge risk, and we aren't trying to make it out to be scary. As long as you pay attention and treat it differently than a group hunt, you can be just fine with some basic precautions and preparations. There are a handful of things that you need to make sure you do before heading out on a solo hunt, whether it's your first time or hundredth time. That's especially true if you are embarking into the backcountry far from home. Complacency is what causes the majority of accidents in the field, so pay attention and abide by these rules.
Tell Someone Where You're Hunting
This is the first step to hunting solo, but it is probably the most important. No matter how much planning you do or how much gear you pack, if something goes wrong, someone needs to know where to find you. If you have a real accident that keeps you from walking or moving, there needs to be someone with an idea of where you are. While you're at it, tell the same person how long you plan to be there and when you will return. Consider that a deadline. If they haven't heard from you by then, they should take the right steps to ensure you're okay.
You can do this a few ways, like writing down the general address of your hunting spot and passing it to your wife, or texting a buddy about your hunting trip and dropping a pin to share when you get there. Then stick to the plan, or ensure that you can alert them if you change your spot or decide to stay a little longer.
Pack the Right Gear...And Then Some
You should sit down and think through every step of the hunt. The drive there, the hike in, the campsite, the hunt, how you will get your animal out, and anything else you can think of. There is a whole lot that goes into all of those activities, and sometimes we rely on others to have the gear or do the work. That's all on your shoulders now.
Once you think you have all the gear you need, sit down and go through it again. I'll add two very important things that you don't necessarily need to hunt successfully, but you'll want nonetheless. Don't forget a first aid kit and a communication device. That gear can save your life, and if you need it, you have better packed it. If you know your phone provides service where you're hunting that will suffice, but don't enter the backcountry on your own without a satellite phone or GPS locator device, and make sure you know how to use it.
Watch the Weather
This may sound like a no-brainer, but weather conditions become super important when you are hunting alone. A bad storm can roll in without a warning and be truly dangerous. You will obviously be able to check the weather before you go on a hunt, but keep your eye on the sky when you are out there. If you see dark clouds creeping in on the horizon, it may not be the best time to chase after that bull elk that is 1,000 yards away. If temperatures drop and winds shift, consider that a sign that things are about to change. Carry basic shelter-building gear and knowledge, and be prepared to throw in the towel if weather proves harsh.
Lookout for Danger
One of the biggest things you can do to stay safe is keep your head up. If you are hiking into a hunting area and you know it's a five-mile hike, it can be easy to put your head down and trudge along. Instead of going 100% of your hiking speed, slow to 90% and look around a bit.
No matter where you are hunting, there are real dangers. Anything from a mountain lion, bear, domestic dog, snake, or even another person could pose a threat. If you encounter a threat in the middle of nowhere, you have got to be careful. A side arm is never a bad idea when you're hunting solo, just in case.
If you don't own the property, it's in your best interest to just avoid people anyway. There's nothing wrong with being friendly and alerting them to your presence is well worth your energy. But as long as you're following regulations and they are too, there should be nothing to worry about. As for non-humans, know what to do and how to act should you encounter any dangerous wildlife.
If you want to go on a big hunt by yourself, great, you should. Although, if you have never hunted alone before, you might want to start small. Hunting alone has a totally different dynamic than hunting with even just a single buddy.
When I was a kid I always hunted with my dad. Hunting is what we do together, and there was no reason to go alone. As I got into my 20s, I started hunting with other people and in other states, and eventually by myself. All of those experiences were vastly different, and I'm glad I followed this "Start Small" advice. I can tell you for certain that I would have never been able to plan and execute a big solo deer hunt out of state if that were my first time ever hunting on my own.
I went solo in my own neck of the woods first, where I had a network of family and friends I could call on if needed. Then I gradually took steps to feel comfortable as I continued to hunt solo. Maybe a hunt for turkeys or ducks makes more sense for your first time alone. I am willing to bet you will learn a ton during that hunt and figure out what you need or don't need before a bigger solo hunt for a bigger game animal farther away from home.
Take Your Time
Lastly, you've got to remember to take your time. It can be easy to get in a hurry on a hunt, especially if you're on your own and the excitement is growing, but you really ought to take things slow. If you rush, you can hurt yourself. You can break an ankle climbing to your stand, cut your hand skinning a deer, slip on a loose rock while hiking, or any number of other incidents that can often be prevented by slowing down. Give everything you are doing a bit more time and consideration, and you will be well on your way to becoming a solo hunting expert.
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