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Going on a hunt is a thrilling experience regardless of location and ability. Whether you’re hopping up to the local permission for a few hours, or going all out on a hunting holiday abroad, it’s unlikely that the hazards will differ between the two. Although it can be a fairly serious matter, there shouldn’t be much to stop you really enjoying yourself so long as you know how to prepare, plan, and cover all the bases in terms of risk.
Never leave anything to chance - take a look through these key checkpoints and see if you’re truly ready to step out into the adventure...
There are certain things that should always be included in your list of vital gear. Of course, it goes without saying that a firearm, sufficient ammunition and any add-on accessories should be the first things that are loaded into the car. However, there are certain things that are often overlooked but actually essential. One of these items is a hiking stick or trek pole. You’re inevitably going to have to navigate some tricky terrain and having support to load your weight onto is a very useful trick - even the most agile of hunters can take a nasty fall at any moment, we’re all human! Not only that, you can always use this to shoot off of as a single stick.
Get yourself a sturdy, waterproof bag that you can carry on your back. This can be filled with all of your other crucial items such as some clean water for drinking or washing, some snacks for you to fuel up on (no one likes hunting on an empty stomach), something waterproof for you to put on should the conditions get wet, and a basic first aid kit that you can use to treat any minor injuries. Remember to pack quality over quantity - you’re going to have to carry this bag on your own shoulders.
Think carefully about what clothing will best match the outdoor climate. Having said this, it’s always better to overdress than not bring enough - you can take layers off but you can’t put more on if you don’t have them! Summers have been fairly warm in recent years and it would be more than acceptable to head out in quite light, moisture-wicking clothing, so long as you bring a light jacket or gilet for when the sun goes in. Always wear a high SPF sun cream as you’ll burn badly without realising when you’re out in the field all day. The Winter months are a different story and can really get chilly. Thermals and padded coats would be wise, especially if you’re planning on getting low amongst the undergrowth. You’ll still be surprised at how warm you might get walking around all day, so take this into consideration.
A year-round essential is a high-quality pair of shooting/country boots that give you comfort and protection from moisture and cold weather. Look for something that stabilises your ankle as well as allowing you to walk freely without any issues. You might want to think about a cap that blocks sunlight and keeps your head warm, too.
It’s important to be really honest with yourself about your own levels of fitness. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete, but hunting in certain locations might require a higher level of fitness than you’d think. In order to give yourself the best chance of shooting something that’s really worth taking home, you might have to take part in a long-winded chase as well as navigate some tough incline, terrains and conditions. All of these can be very energy consuming, so seriously consider getting out to do some fitness training for a few weeks before you set off.
Admin and organisation of a trip can be very tedious as we all know, but the difference between an organised and unorganised hunt is very noticeable. It could well be detrimental to your success. If you’re lucky enough to be part of an organised hunt, then you’ll have a guide at hand who will have sorted out most of the logistics for you. This will include travel to the location, communication for the team such as radios or walkie talkies, and perhaps even your food, drink and safe shelter. If you’re not going by yourself, make sure that someone in the group is trained to perform first-aid and that there’s a smooth plan to get any casualties to a hospital should they need it. Always conduct significant research on which company to book with, as there will be plenty of badly organised hunts out there...
It’s easy to be stubborn and naive when you’re out on land that’s like a second home to you (or maybe even home itself), but that’s not to say that accidents don’t happen. Plus, the UK isn’t completely free of the occasional bad storm or harsh temperature. Even if you’ve walked the same path countless times before, what’s to stop you misplacing your footing slightly, rolling your ankle and not being able to walk home in the cold and wet? On this basis, always try to let a friend or family member know your whereabouts before heading out and bring a phone with you - they might be able to save you from being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Be prepared for the adventure and expect absolutely anything; it’ll be the difference between having a great time and getting into trouble.