Every year at this time I am reminded of a topic of conversation a group of us hunters had many years ago. The basis of the conversation was about hunting, shooting and being in good physical condition and which one was most important to be the most successful in the field. Each topic was argued and discussed in depth to the point that most of the rough edges were rounded down. I am not certain we came to one conclusion that everyone agreed on and, in fact, I am not sure even today which one is the most important aspect of being a truly great hunter.

Let me try and explain the conversation in a little more depth.

Argument one was the most important aspect of being the best hunter possible is, well, knowing how to hunt. Sounds simple and kind of obvious, but hear me out. The person making this claim believed no matter how good of shape you are in or how well you could shoot, to be the best you needed wood-wise knowledge that only comes from years of field experience. You needed to know how to determine wind direction, the animal’s behavioral characteristics, how to use terrain to your advantage, how to know when to sit still and when to stalk and, most importantly, having enough knowledge and prior experience about the whole situation to make an educated prediction of when the animal and hunter would meet and where. In short, knowledge was much more important than stamina or skill with a tool.

Argument two was all about physical fitness. The person making this claim was convinced that all you needed to do to be the best hunter possible was to be in the absolute peak physical condition of your life so that you can run up any mountain, climb higher and further and stay with and in the game longer. By being in shape you could get closer to the targeted species, so your shooting skills didn’t have to be as sharp, and could get more opportunities in a day of hunting than out of shape people therefore if your hunting knowledge was off a little, no worries, you would have another chance to try again if you ran to the next hunting grounds. In short, being in top shape would allow you to hunt harder and without fatigue and get many more opportunities which is much more important than knowledge or being skilled with a tool.

The third argument was all about the tools it takes to be successful filling your freezer. This argument is all about where the rubber meets the road — a fine shooting rifle, great optics and honing your skill level with them. The argument was that while the in-shape hunter was running around like a mountain athlete spooking game with sounds and smells and the wood-wise hunter is studying topo maps and predicting prevailing winds, the hunter who spent all his time sharpening his skills with the best tools possible at the rifle range would be chilled out knowing the advantage card was favorable. Point three was all about practicing and becoming so proficient that the hunter would simply cover ground with sight, through binoculars and not legs, to find the targeted species and then slip into a confident range. No need for fancy boots or hundreds of dollars’ worth of the latest camo athletic apparel. Tools and skills are much more important than stamina or knowledge.

Today, I am still not sure which argument is the best one. I guess that is why this time of year you can find us in one of three places – the woods scouting for game animal sign, the fitness track or the rifle range. I am betting on all three this hunting season.

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