Hunting - 5 Tips For the Best Experience

Hunting season is fast approaching, and just like you'd never hike the Tetons without the proper equipment and physical preparation, you should never go hunting without the right gear, knowledge, and physical ability.

Here are 5 tips to having the best experience from your Star Valley hunting excursion.

1. Own The Right Gear

It is always good to keep in mind that before hunting comes survival. If you cannot survive in the wilderness, you are not qualified to hunt. The first thing you will need are good boots. Good boots might mean that you buy three pairs of boots - one for warm, dry weather, one for rainy weather, and one for cold, snowy weather. The three brands I usually turn to to meet my boot needs are: Danner, Bogs, and Crispi. Goretex boots are a must for staying dry, I like the Crispi Hunter GTX.

The next thing that is imperative to survive while hunting is clothes that will keep you warm and dry no matter the weather. I turn to wool often to meet my warmth needs: wool pants, wool shirts, and wool hats. I also turn to one of my favorite brands - Carhartt. My Carhartt Shoreline Jacket has been a lifesaver as far as staying dry is concerned.

When the fog clears, you'll need a good pair of binoculars. I recommend that our hunters spend $1,000 minimum on their binoculars. I own 10x42 mm Swarovski's, this is the best all-around size.

Last, you will need a lighter, not matches. A lighter can get wet and can also dry out quickly. When in the wilderness with a campfire, forest fires become a concern. Do not ever begin building your fire in a bed of pine needles. Dig down into good dirt even if there is snow; the snow will melt and then the needles beneath will begin to dry and get warm.

2. Use the Right Gun and Bullet

For Wyoming hunting regulations on legal weapons, visit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website. The one caliber of gun I recommend to get it all done is the 300 win mag, 180 grain bullet minimum. Especially when it comes to an elk, moose or bear. A common mistake hunters make is to buy and practice with too small of calibers, or they don't use a heavy enough grain bullet. On the flip side, sometimes hunters will buy guns that are too big, and they are afraid to shoot without shaking. Find a comfort zone that also allows you to push yourself. You are looking for that sweet thing called "hydrostatic effect". Knockdown. You want the animal to absorb the full amount of the bullet's energy. I've seen too many animals escape wounded because of this common oversight, and trust me it is not fun to chase a wounded animal across the state of Wyoming.

Once you have the right gun and bullet don't forget: The more you target practice, the luckier you get. You should be able to hit a pop can at 300 yards every time. The piece of equipment people always go cheap on is a rifle scope. You get what you pay for. Don't get caught up in the nostalgia of using "Pop's" old rifle scope.

3. Get In Shape

Those who are not acclimated to the higher elevation the wild game live in, will do themselves a big favor by getting into shape. No matter where you live, get out and get your heart and lungs pumping. Hunting is for everyone, but the strong have significantly higher odds. So what does “in shape” mean? At our outfit it can mean being prepared to hike, sometimes all day, in steep, rocky, and rough inclines. Drinking lots of water is another important factor in feeling healthy while hunting - it keeps you in the game.

4. Know the Area

With today's gadgets and technology, there is no reason to not know where you are going. I love learning new country and the best way I've found to do this is either to talk to someone that knows it well, or to locate the area on Google Earth. Once I have done this, I saddle up my horse and go exploring. After I have explored a little bit I return to my map and get a holistic feel for where I was. This will help your understanding of where you are hunting, and therefore help in your comfort and success (also increasing your chances of not getting lost).

5. Rent a Horse, or Find an Outfitter

Renting a horse gives you the best chance of covering lots of country and not having to go home early due to lack of physical stamina. Horses can get you places that, unfortunately, people cannot. When looking at renting a horse, remember: it is much cheaper to rent one that comes with all of the gear and tack, rather than trying to buy it all. Save yourself the trouble. If you return year after year, some rental companies will even accommodate you with the same horse each time.

If you decide to instead go the “guided hunt” route, outfitters will not only provide a horse for you, but will take care of a lot of the unknowns and unforseens (and quite frankly, a lot of the work). They will have readily available packers, cooks providing hot meals, warm stoves in your tent, guides capable of caping and packing your animal, etc. I have included a list below of available outfitters in the Star Valley, Wyoming area, that I know personally. A few included on this list are exceptional at running a tight ship and love to see you have the experience of a lifetime. And if you're lucky number is up and you are adequately prepared, you just might take home that trophy you've been dreaming of!

Star Valley, Wyoming Outfitters: 5K Outfitters, Double Diamond Outfitters, Hale Outfitting, Double T Outfitters, Salt River Range Outfitters, Greys River Outfitters, Jenkins Hunting Camp,Trophy Mountain Outfitters, Yellowstone Outfitters and Horse Rentals, Non-Typical Outfitters.

~ About the Author:
James Barnes is a Star Valley native who has been guiding professional hunts for nearly twenty years. He is a licensed outfitter at Trophy Mountain Outfitters, a farrier, and feeds elk for the State of Wyoming. He and his wife Jessie, along with their two daughters, make this beautiful state their home. The picture in this article is of him, his brother, and his father (L-R).

Read his other article here: Hunting Tales: A Guide's First Hunting Trip to No Tell 'Em Creek