We asked friends of FRA if they had any New Year’s resolutions for hunting — it came as no surprise, a lot of them did. Whether stalking elk in the mountains, waiting out whitetail in a tree, or calling at cupped mallards in a beaver swamp, so much about hunting is setting goals and continual personal improvement.
Some of the following goals involve physical fitness, but not in a corny join-a-gym kind of way. They’re actionable, goal-oriented plans that anyone can learn from. Others are about developing skills — even developing that killer instinct it takes to be deadly in the woods — or growing a hunting tools and tactics knowledge base. All of these goals are lofty, and all of them are attainable. And they all make us want to get out and get after it because August is just eight months away.
Better Fitness With A Plan
I cut my hunting teeth chasing western critters across endless acres of public dirt. The road to success was long, and the learning curve was steep. I quickly realized being in a top-tier physical shape separated me from the masses. I could go longer and harder, and though a fickle mountain thermal or the growing pains of being a young hunter thwarted punching some tags, opportunities were earned.
As the years passed and my in-the-field success increased, I stepped up my physical game and started entering half- and full-marathon trail races. A simple truth made itself clear: the better shape I was in, the better hunter I became. Others began to take notice. Before long, in addition to writing articles for outdoor pubs, I was designing custom running plans for my hunting buddies.
For 2022, it looks like the drawing odds in a few Western states will be in my favor, so my New Year’s hunting resolution is to take my physical fitness to the next level. I have created a summer race schedule that makes my stomach churn — and even paid the registration fees. If and when everything works out, I will have completed a 26.2-mile trail marathon, 50-mile trail ultramarathon, and 100-mile trail ultramarathon by August. I like running, but I love hunting, so I see this spring and summer trial by miles as a proving ground for what I hope to be the fall of my lifetime. — Jace Bauserman
Train Like You Hunt
My 2021 elk season was pretty rad, but I identified a major gap in my archery game. I shot more foam in the walk-up to September than in previous pre-seasons, but I wasn’t focused on the basics. I punched the trigger a lot and allowed myself to be alright with it. After all, we weren’t keeping score at Total Archery Challange, and I was having fun with my friends. Just send it, right?
After calling in elk for two friends, I had my OTC tag to fill with a week left in the season. I headed into an area I had previously encountered elk and climbed two miles up. I let a bugle rip and got a response on the opposite ridge. It was what elk dreams are made of. I called in two bulls within the hour. I had no shot on the first bull, but on No. 2, I blew it. I came to full draw as his head moved behind a branch. The bull stopped with his vitals protected by the tree, and time seemed to stop with him. When he stepped out, I was nearly at muscle failure. I settled the pin and, “just send it,” right? I punched the shit out of my release, and my arrow is still in that tree.
Bad habits that formed over the summer translated into bad habits when it mattered and a missed OTC bull. “Train like you hunt,” they say. Well, this year, that’s my New Year’s resolution. — Michael Herne
Be Self Reliant
Working in the outdoor industry for the past decade has provided me with a lot of great hunting opportunities all over the country, but none in my home state of New Jersey. I’m making it my goal to dominate my home turf this fall. In 2022, I resolve to tag a buck right here in Jersey — with my bow. Taking a resident archery buck would be a hunting first for me. No, it’s not the most glamourous or exotic of hunting goals, but it will mean a lot on a personal level if I can pull it off.
Traveling to hunt is great. Getting guided on an outfitted experience is awesome. But to do it at home; to do it alone; to hang your own stands in your own spots that you scouted yourself or with family and friends — there’s some magic to all that that’s lost when you only hunt other people’s setups in their backyards. My New Year’s resolution is to be self-reliant and fine-tune my archery skills through the year, so I won’t screw it up when the moment comes. — David Maccar
Train to Kill
It’s one thing to create an opportunity on the animal you are chasing, but being able to capitalize on it and kill is something else entirely. I’ve talked to hundreds of the best hunters in the world on my East Meets West Hunt podcast, and all of them have the same thing in common: they make it happen when it counts.
Reflecting on the last few years in my hunting career, I’ve gotten good at getting close to target animals but haven’t always capitalized. My New Year’s hunting resolution is to train to kill, to amp the odds of success when the moment counts.
My plan is to create real-life hunting training scenarios by shooting from awkward positions, estimating distances without a rangefinder, and shooting from elevated positions. I’m going to work on visualizing opportunities, going through every step of the shot process, on every shot, no matter what. It might sound crazy, but visualization is used by top athletes all over the world. If you’re going to do it, you need to see it, so when you see it, you can do it. — Beau Martonik
Up the Ground Game
I’m tired of watching video hunts where a bowhunter kills a squinty-eyed, stiff-legged, ears-pinned-back white-tailed buck as he marches toward a plastic imposter, clueless to his forthcoming fate. I’m tired of it because I want to do it. I’ve arrowed three great bucks from the ground since 2019. One I fooled into bow range with a bow-mounted decoy, but in 20 years of bowhunting whitetails, I have not killed a buck over a 3D decoy. But I’ve come close.
In November 2021, I grunted in a stunner 10-pointer. I was hiding behind my bow-mounted doe decoy, and a Primos 3D decoy was about 25 yards away. Unfortunately, the buck came from an unexpected direction and hit my downwind airstream about 60 yards out. He couldn’t have blown out of there any faster.
My resolution for 2022 is to make it happen. I love turkey hunting over decoys — I’ve bow-killed dozens of gobblers using decoys — and I want to bring my turkey game to deer hunting to spice things up. No more playing it safe. — Darron McDougal
Never Stop Learning
When I was a kid, I’d sit at the dining room table while my dad cleaned his 12 gauge J.C. Higgins, surrounded by a lineup of Hoppe’s gun oil, bore cleaners, brass rods, Q-tips, cleaning patches, and a couple of well-used hand towels. Eventually, I joined him with my hand-me-down Springfield bolt action 12 gauge — the gun my grandma gave to my dad as a kid. That’s where my firearms enthusiasm started and about where it stopped.
I never went down the firearm rabbit hole — even after serving for eight years in the Army. My New Year’s resolution is to change all that. This past fall, I made a trip west for my first big game hunt outside of New York. Something about the immense landscape and the borrowed rifle I used flipped a switch. This is the year I plan to make up for lost time and learn about hunting rifles and shooting. I have two new rifles and two new scopes. I’m going to learn, and shoot, and learn, and shoot some more. I will become as proficient as I can with these tools of the hunting trade. Proficiency breeds confidence and confidence translates into success in the field. — Matt Smythe
Remember Where You Came From, And Grow
When I laid hands on my first compound, I could barely manage to pull 35 pounds. Meanwhile, my father, idol, and main hunting partner drew back 60 a hundred times a day without breaking a sweat. In my mind, 60 pounds was the archery gold standard, thanks to my dad.
Over the years, I’ve slowly built upper body strength, creeping my draw weight up from that paltry starting point. I’ve been drawing 50 pounds for several hunting seasons, but this year, it’s my resolution to bust through that ceiling and finally reach my coveted 60-pound mark. It will take plenty of effort, both in the gym and on the archery range, which I will reward with a new bow.
Of course, 60 is just a number. Spot-on shot placement is what kills, though a little more penetration never hurts. For me, it’s more about my dad and about always improving. Plus, a woman who pulls 60 with confidence and control is just badass. — Alice Jones Webb