A thrilling way to hunt, solo hunting will test your physical and mental mettle like nothing else. Follow the advice to come, and prepare to hit the woods with … YOU!
by Clint Casper
Let’s call it exactly like it is. Life is busy! The hustle and bustle of today is very real, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. For this reason, planning a hunt with a partner or a group of buddies can be daunting.
At times, it can take the fun right out of a hunt because of all the details that must come together for everyone. This can be downright stressful. Also, sometimes we just need to get away, disconnect, and find ourselves again, out in nature.
We need some “alone” time to recharge and enjoy what we love to do. Planning a solo hunt can be a fantastic experience with the right mindset, preparation, and willpower. You make your own rules, map out your hunt, and either succeed or fail. Everything is based on your efforts.
Know that these hunts are mentally and physically tough. If the idea of braving the wilderness by yourself sounds intriguing, though, let’s dive into the intricacies of something I love to do … solo hunting.
Regarding hunting solo, I want to get the facts straight out of the chute. These hunts are challenging on the mental and physical scale. Nothing is more important in this article than being brutally honest about how tough, challenging, and exhausting a hunt like this can be.
We all see the fabulous posts on social media from successful solo hunters on all sorts of big game animals. We all think: Wow! How awesome would it be to do a hunt like that all alone.” It is incredible, and it’s my favorite way to hunt. However, I don’t want to make these hunts seem like they are a walk in the park. And it’s important to know they aren’t for everyone.
The most challenging part for most hunters is being alone. Being alone for any extended period can seem like a great experience. It can be. You get to call all the shots and make all the decisions. However, you must embrace that it’s just you and you out there. As creatures of habit, we are also creatures of interaction. We may not always want to admit it, but we all love communicating and being around people. Whether it’s a phone call to a good buddy or a date night once a week, we all look forward to spending time with others, and on these hunts, this is the most challenging part. On these hunts, we have nobody.
What’s great about a solo hunting adventure, whether a turkey hunt in Kansas or an elk hunt in Colorado, is that you are the Commander In Chief. What this allows a hunter to do is be flexible. By being flexible, a hunter can shape and form a hunt into whatever suits himself the best.
I’ve always said when it comes to hunting trips, if I had enough days, I would always earn an opportunity. Time is so crucial on these solo hunts because usually, with the right amount of time, an opportunity will present itself. When that opportunity arises, you don’t have to worry about being selfish or hogging the moment.
You are also in control of your timelines. If you need to stay an extra day or three, you can make that call without discussing it with others in the group.
Another great thing about solo hunting is the opportunities. Since you are solo, you get to go on all the stalks, sit the best treestands, blinds, etc. One tricky thing about hunting with a group, or even just a buddy, is figuring out who gets the first crack at an animal and how to divide these opportunities. Do you rotate each day? Flip a coin?
This can be challenging and hard to decipher on a hunt, and, unfortunately, I’ve seen these scenarios lead to a negative situation with no good outcome. But, when you are solo hunting, you get to go on all of the stalks and do all of the hunting exclusively.
On some hunts you’ll get one good opportunity. I’ve been on plenty of quests where it took days on end for one chance to arise. When it did, I was very thankful for the opportunity I received, and I didn’t have to worry about whether it was my day to shoot.
I don’t mean to sound rude or selfish, but this is a massive play to hunting alone because it all lies on you. And that goes for the opportunities. So if a bull is screaming down the canyon below you, there’s no coin flip between you and your buddy.
Back To Your Roots
Another positive to solo hunting is that it allows us to return to our hunting roots. What I mean by this is that on a solo hunt, we have nobody to rely on but ourselves, and most of the time, we may be going to an area we’ve never been before. With little prior knowledge of a place, on most of my solo adventures, this forces me to prepare. Whether it’s boots on the ground or E scouting, preparation is critical to your success on a hunt like this. We always need to gain more knowledge of our hunting area, especially on those out-of-state hunts.
Critical hunting components like playing the wind, stalking, patience, and glassing are all vital tools that we frequently forget due to the comforts of our home hunting grounds. With familiar territory comes a lack of some of these critical components because we feel like we don’t need to scout or glass as much.
Maybe we get lazy with our wind because we don’t fear running out of time on our home turf, like on a far-flung backcountry hunt. All in all, these solo hunts are what we put into them, and the more old-school hunting tactics you use and apply, the more success you’ll see.
The Bad & The Ugly
With solo hunting, one must pay an indefinite price if they want to succeed. Again, I will not be sugarcoating any of this, as we must understand what goes into a solo hunt. Time and effort are two essential ingredients to success on a solo hunt, and I do not mean time and effort on the hunt.
I’m talking about all the hard work that needs to be done before we set our sights on the actual hunt itself. For starters, I recommend being in the best shape of your life, and for good reason.
Let’s say you’ve decided to embark on a solo elk hunt. I love to hunt elk this way and have been quite successful. It’s a super fun endeavor until a bull hits the dirt. I’m sure you’re wondering why I would say such a thing. A bull hitting the ground is the goal. But with that comes a huge amount of work. Packing an elk out by yourself is a brutal task, no matter your shape. But it’s absolutely impossible and backbreaking if you’re not in good shape.
My point here is that effort spent in the gym and working on your physical health should be a top priority for your hunt success and safety! Remember, you’re solo out here!
Nobody can help you load a bull out and rescue you if your body shuts down. You owe it to yourself and your family to be in peak physical shape. You’ll thank me later!
Let’s talk about mental health and wellness. I said in the beginning that one of the hardest parts of this hunting style is in the name, and that holds very true. Many of these hunts will make or break a guy or gal based on their mental fortitude and grit.
When times get tough on these hunts, there is nobody to vent to or explain frustration with. There is nobody to bounce ideas off of or to help you out. This can be hard for a hunter to wrap their head around whenever they’re in a wheels-falling-off moment, which will happen at least once on every solo hunt.
Being mentally tough and knowing you cannot let doubt, fear, homesickness, or negative thoughts stray you from your goal is essential. A solo hunter needs to be as driven and goal-oriented as possible. In my opinion, mental toughness will take a guy further on hunts like these than physical toughness. Stay positive, stay laser-focused, and remember why you’ve worked hard to be in this position. Don’t let doubt rob you of earning an opportunity at your goal.
Prepare To Struggle
Last but not least, my most significant advice is to prepare for struggles, mishaps, misfortunes, and, at times, bad luck! It happens — all of it. From Flat tires to closed roads to lousy weather to no game, etc., one or more of these things and many others will pop up. You must embrace and go through the struggles. They can test you, but you cannot let them break you.
A few years ago, I was solo In Colorado, chasing velvet mule deer. I battled closed canyon roads, storms, a flat tire, too many people at my first two spots, and a bow that had a loose rest. Luckily, I stayed laser-focused, stuck to my plans, and kept pushing through all the bad luck. On day five, I killed my best velvet buck to date. It would have been so easy to throw the towel in and quit with all that bad luck. But I knew I’d regret leaving, so I refocused my mind and smashed every curve ball thrown my way. Remember, cutting corners is outside our vocabulary here.
Stay Calm & Press On
A massive key to solo success is having multiple plans and understanding that when bad luck strikes, there’s always another way. Your job is to find that way. With a positive mindset and staying calm, one can positively work through any challenges. Above all, these hunts are supposed to be fun and give us the best opportunity for success. Put in the work long before your hunt, and you’ll reap the rewards on your next solo adventure!