As I mentioned in my last blog, I found the experience of my first hunt invigorating and founded in good management rules. Some of the reasons the management of projects and people are similar to hunting I’ve listed are:
Gather all the information you can
Test everything before you do anything
Trust the people that are smarter than you
Problems will happen, stay calm and work it through
Metrics still count, but be sure to define them
I talked to as many hunters as I knew about what to expect during this hunt. I got a lot of the same advice, and sometimes I got some advice that was a gem. Pay attention to everyone you respect in the field your venturing into, listen to the similarities in their stories as this will reinforce what you should know. Also listen to the differences as these will contain some hidden elements that you probably were not expecting.
Everyone told me it would be two days of intense hiking, and they were right. I was told it would be frustrating by everyone, and when it was, I was relieved that I alone did not experience it this way (more on this below). But one hunter told me to avoid the traditional backpacks and vests as I will sweat badly in them during intense hiking. Instead, if I was purchasing equipment for the hunt, but a system that gives you maximum flexibility for the clothing you were going to wear. When I found one, an odd looking bags with suspenders system (Bucks Bags Ultimate Chukar system if your curious) I took his advice to heart and found it to be a perfect solution to the problem of hard hiking in cold weather.
Next came testing. I wore my boots, clothes and even my new bag system while shoveling snow in my driveway. This allowed me to work up a sweat in cold weather and understand what layers were correct while breaking in my boots and ensure I could move around freely in the bag system. It also greatly slowed my shoveling as each neighbor had to ask what in the world I was wearing. I also wore different parts of it hiking on some trails around my house, all the while getting more comfortable with the equipment and more confidence in it’s usage.
I found the hydration system in the bag system (built in) leaked, and needed some tightening. Using it in the field for the first time would have ensured I ran out of water and probably soaked some of my clothes, never good in cold weather hiking. I also managed to figure out perfect reasons for every pocket in the system (food, compass, camera, shot shells etc).
Getting to our destination required complete faith in the hunters I was with, and they where amazing. Not enough can be said about local knowledge and years of practice. Everything from the advice they gave to the dogs they brought was perfect and I cannot thank them enough for the knowledge and time they freely shared.
The biggest problem we had was not hitting the birds that we should have, however, the situation was perfect for other large failures. Urban Mayer recently wrote in his book Above The Line, E+R=O, where E= event, R= response and O= outcome. Easy enough, but he writes that R is the only thing we have ANY control over, events will happen, and outcomes may be on slightly influenced by your response, hence your response to an event is the only thing we truly control. I have trust that any event would have been responded to by the cooler heads we had with us, and trust in your team is paramount to success on or off the hunt. It’s due to great planning and practice that no larger failures cropped up during our trip.
Lastly, as for metrics, if your taking on a new venture be sure to adjust and understand the metrics of success or failure. In the end I hit two birds, took nineteen shots and over the two day hunt saw 120-130 birds. I’ve shot sporting clays for years, both for fun and competitively. Hitting two out of nineteen birds would be a dismal failure in my normal clay sports course. However, as it turns out many first time hunters never hit a bird and some never even see birds until several hunts later. Metrics re-defined, calibrated and I now consider those numbers a success.
The real reason this was a great trip was the fun and friendship that we all shared. Birds were shot, drinks were had and gear was tested. I cannot thank the group of guys that took me out on this hunt enough for keeping me safe and putting me on a great spot for birds. I’ve found an amazing Nevada small town I never new existed, and and incredible group of guys to find more birds and towns with. With the next hunt already planned, its the joy of being with great people that I look most forward too. Yes I want to hit birds and learn better technics, and I will, with the help a great group of friends.