You Drew a Tag, Now What?

You Drew a Tag, Now What?

Posted In: Prepare, Scouting, The Hunt

Posted By: Jordan Ongstad (June 4, 2017)

There comes a point in every man's life where he get what he wants. Years of waiting, months of unit research, weeks of changing your mind, and days waiting for the backdoor to open come down to this moment where you see that one little word "SUCCESS". But now what?

This is by no means a comprehensive list for securing a successful hunt this fall, but I wanted to get you in the right frame of mind to start planning your hunt, especially if you're new to Elk or Deer hunting in the mountains. With June just starting, this is where I like to start planning my hunt, focusing on these things (Click on an item to skip to it).

Start Collecting Information

Learning about the unit is almost as important as knowing the unit on the ground. The most successful hunters I know spend hundreds of hours talking to people, getting information from the Wildlife Division in the state, and scouring maps trying to find out how both the hunters and animals move within the unit.

Big Game Elk Hunting Map

Talk to People

Don't be afraid to Jump on Facebook, Online Forums, or join a hunting community or league and make friends. All but two of my hunting buddies I met from summer archery league. I have an added bonus of being a recurve shooter, which puts me in groups of mostly older, wiser hunters who know the state much better than I do, which is invaluable in my success.

Get a Hold of the State

There are plenty of government employees willing to lend some advice and give some specifics on the unit you drew. I do want to emphasize that you should be respectful of their time and try getting information from other places before calling them. You'll most like want to talk to Biologists and Regional Managers who should be doing other things than talking to you like being biologists and managing. A lot of them are where they are at for the love of the animals and not really their love of people. They're a great resource, but avoid having to give them a call or use their number sparingly.

Get a Good Map

I know I own a mapping company, but getting an accurate map of the area is a must. I will admit, I probably use Google Earth much more than I use my products, but you can't accurately interpret satellite imagery without having the information you get from a map. You need to know how you can move around inside the unit and more importantly how other hunters move through the unit. Things like where the trails are, what vehicles or equipment you can use on the trails, what roads are open, and where the trailheads and campgrounds are, are absolutely necessary to setting your hunting strategy. Digital formats are nice, but being able to lay a map out on the table and seeing the whole area at once is the only way to get the appropriate feel for the unit.

If you're looking to learn more about how to read paper maps, here is a previous article about the subject.

The Importance of Paper Maps in Hunting

The Importance of Paper Maps in Hunting

Posted In: Scouting, The Hunt

In a world of so much digital, going a bit analog may be the smartest thing you do to make yourself more successful hunting Big Game this fall.  Being the product that started this all, we wanted to get back to basics and make sure you still know the importance of Paper Maps in your hunting...

Read More

Start Practicing

I know you're the best shot out there, you know you're the best shot out there, but it may not be a bad idea to get some rounds or arrows down range regardless. I would also recommend doing some non-traditional practice as well. We can all lob an arrow 60 yards, or plink a 2 ft steel plate at 400 yards on a calm day with lots of set-up time. But can you make that shot after sprinting up a hill, in 40 mph winds and in a short time window? It's harder to hold your rifle steady when you can see your heart beat rattling through your cross hairs. We all hope the perfect shot presents itself, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. The more situations you can put yourself into, the better situational awareness you'll have. Making the right decisions and executing under pressure are important skills to have.

Practice before you hunt

Set Some Physical Goals

For me, the hunting industry has over done things in terms of physical fitness. It first came onto the scenes 4 or 5 years ago and it seems that every other week I see a new "Get Fit to Hunt" company popping up on a sponsored link in my social media. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in great shape for western hunting, in fact it can be a great tool. But I am here to ease some tensions, it's not necessary. It really comes down to what you want out of your hunt and how you plan to hunt.

That being said, set some physical goals, even if your goal is to not have a goal. Please eat a few donuts a day for me if that is your goal, because my physical goals don't allow me to eat donuts unfortunately! I will have to write another full article about this, but for the sake of this article, let me tell you what I do and why. I am a backcountry archery elk hunter. Our basecamp is 7 miles in and we routinely will be 9 or 10 miles from the nearest road or trailhead. For this type of hunting I focus on 3 things: nutrition, cardio recovery and stabilizing strength.

Get in Better ShapePhoto By: Drew Ongstad


Regardless of how you hunt, putting good foods in your body should be something you should work at. You're probably still 15 years from a sheep hunt, so try not to die before then! Not only can you stay in healthy weight ranges, you'll feel better. I try to stay at a low body fat range through the summer (after I lose my yearly winter fat) and bulk up just a bit before season. We can't physically carry enough food into the woods to meet our daily caloric needs, so you need some reserves.

Cardio Recovery:

Cardio is great, but cardio recovery is what you need. Other than walking into camp, we rarely need to cover more than a mile or two to get into the animals. I am in good cardio shape, but the reason people can't keep up with me, is my cardio recovery. We all get winded hiking up a steep hill, the difference is the time I need to catch my breath, lower my heart rate and keep moving forward. Not only is this beneficial for getting around the mountains, it can also help you if you end up being drawn back on a big bull after having to run straight up hill to cut him off. The way to accomplish this is through interval training. The basics are to get your heart rate high, bring it back down and do it all over again. In my workouts I accomplish it two ways: During a longer run, I'll alternate speeds. Maybe during a 3 mile run, I'll go hard for a half mile, then slow down enough over the next half mile so that I'll have caught my breath so I can go hard for another half mile, alternating back and forth every half mile until the run is complete. The other is Hill Sprint Repeats. You just find a 50m-100m hill and start at the bottom and sprint as hard as you can to the top. Once you're at the top, turn around and walk slowly down to the bottom. As soon as you're at the bottom, run right back up to the top as hard as you can. I usually try to do 600m-800m of uphill sprinting in a workout, which is about 10-14 sprints in a single workout. Any exercise is good, but if you want to take it to the next level, look towards interval type exercises.

Stabilizing Strength:

Only crazy people like cardio, but everyone likes to get into the gym and put on that lean muscle mass the women love. As cool as big arms and barrel chests look, do not neglect your legs and stabilizer muscles. Big muscles are only going to increase your caloric needs, but stabilizer muscles are going to help you feel better during a longer hunt. With heavy packs and long days, strong legs, core and lower back are essential. Not only can strong muscles keep you less sore at night, helping you sleep better and hunt longer. It can keep you from getting hurt. If you've never stumbled with a 70lb pack and had to catch yourself, let me tell you the physicality of western hunting can open you up to injuries, and in places far from medical attention. I will lift these muscle groups in the gym, but there a plenty of ways to accomplish them outside a gym. Just hiking with heavy packs will help give you the muscles you'll need for the season. Once you get comfortable with your pack, try things like putting a few gallons of water higher up in your pack. The sloshing effect will help build your lower back, core and obliques making you even more solid when you put on your well balanced pack.

Get Some Boots on the Ground

We all don't have the privilege of living in the state that we chase deer and elk in, so I know it can be hard to get a summer trip out. But if you can make it out to the unit before the season, do it, especially if the spot is new to you. I've picked many places from the information on maps and Google Earth and been sorely disappointed. Elk movements change from summer to fall, but looking for the appropriate sign for your season is readily accomplished. Being an archery September hunter, it's not hard to look for older sign like rubs to signal the presence of a rutting bull. Spots like this are high up on my list, but could still be ruined by heavy hunting pressure in the fall. So always have a lot of options so you can stay flexible.

Young Elk on Trail Camera

Make A Plan

Setting timelines, goals and actual dates are important. If you're driving from Wisconsin and have to pick a week off from work, you need to start trying to figuring out the week you'll be taking. This is when having online friends, access to forums or people in the state are important. Especially if you're an archery hunter, knowing when that unit hunts best is can make sure you get the most out of your time off. Make sure you're ready before the season, especially if you need to purchase clothes, packs or other camping equipment. Even if it's in your backyard, make sure your equipment works and that you know how to use it. Buying boots the week before a season is a quick way to get blisters; just as buying a poor sleeping bag is likely to leave you with a lot of sleepless nights. Don't be that guy that doesn't even check if all his gear fits in his pack before arriving at the trailhead!


Hopefully this super long, yet informative article gets you thinking about what you need to do before the season starts. I, as well as some other authors, will be putting together more comprehensive information on some of the topics covered here, so make sure to check back frequently. This is also information on what I'm thinking about this time of year. As specifics pop-up in my own hunting strategy plan, I'll write additional articles to let you know what you should be doing for practice, scouting, planning and strategizing.

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