What if you took a moment before setting out on a hunting trip, maybe planned just a bit more, got somewhat organized? I can almost guarantee it would be a better trip. Believe me, I speak from experience – learning the hard way so you won’t have to.
First, some philosophy: abandon all the woulda-shoulda-coulda thoughts that creep in as you cross the county line. Once on the road, it’s time to begin living in the moment. Make do with what you have, adapt, enjoy. Maintain an open mind, be flexible, optimistic. Nobody likes a whiner, so quit bitching about your forgotten lucky hat.
Next, a more practical lesson: Take a duplicate of anything that would – if lost, missing or forgotten – kibosh your trip, force you to go home or worse yet, watch your buddy have all the fun. This category includes shotgun, ammo, license, boots, glasses, medicine and dog (don’t ask how I know this). Along the same lines, before you go, test everything that is critical. I’ve found shredded space blankets and leaky water bottles in my vest and had a boot sole tear off on a chukar hunt. Talk about buzzkill.
OK, you have the critical stuff. Now, on to the things that have helped me maintain most of my sanity while hunting in 26 states with few regrettable incidents (other than questionable taste in hunting partners).
Your four-footed companion
Take care of your dog’s pads in advance. To many hunters, “toughening pads” means running or kenneling on concrete or gravel. But I also like the bottled concoctions that boost pad skin flexibility. I’ll apply it weekly during the off-season, a couple times a week during the season. Dry, calloused pads are inclined to crack or peel – even more so when hunting on rough surfaces. A conditioned pad isn’t “softer”; I’d call it “more flexible,” and it might just bend around pointy stuff without breaking. Think green leaf versus dry leaf. Bend each.
Teach your dog to drink from a bota bottle or the modernday equivalent, a backpack-style hydration bladder. You’ll carry more water comfortably and can share one source for human and canine.
Some dogs won’t eat much on hunting trips, and on long trips they will eventually deplete their energy reserves. Palate pleasers buried under their usual rations might help. I carry wet cat food and probiotic powders such as FortiFlora from Purina. But wait! Immediately following a hunt, give your dog Glycocharge with his water – rebuilds muscle cell walls for tomorrow’s hunt. Then feed your dog 90 minutes after that.
Carry a little kit of dog-emergency items in the field: duct tape, distilled-water eye and wound wash, Q-tips, antihistamine and pain reliever for insect and snake bites, hemostat, a roll of gauze, some of those blood-clotting pads and EMT Gel. These might enable you to continue a hunt or stabilize your hunting buddy’s condition until you can get to a veterinarian.
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