Home / Blog


4 Ways I'm Preparing Early for the 2021 Hunting Season

4 Ways I'm Preparing Early for the 2021 Hunting Season

Hunting season might still be a ways off, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting ready. It’s amazing how quickly summers tend to disappear, and the last thing you want to do is be caught flat footed and have the season all of a sudden be on you. Here’s four ways I’m preparing for the upcoming season that is still quite a few months off.

Staying Fit

This one is so critically important, but often overlooked. Hunting, especially the type of backcountry big game hunting that I prefer, might be the most physically demanding of all activities. You have to be able to climb a mountain in the dark carrying a heavy pack, spend all day on your feet and under a load, bring your heart rate and breathing under control to make a successful shot, move around and butcher a heavy animal, and then pack that heavy animal miles back to your vehicle. This requires a very high level of physical and mental fitness.

I’m going to be writing an entire article on how to train in the off season to maximize your fitness on opening day, but there are a few simple things I would recommend. Do lots of cardio to maximize your walking/hiking strength. Running, hiking, and using a stairmaster (the infinite escalator type) are the best options, but you will also get a lot of benefit out of biking, rowing, or anything else that gets your heart rate elevated for extended periods. Make sure to throw in some type of strength training so you can handle the heavy loads, and a month before opening throw in some extra hikes to get your feet/legs ready for the exact stimulus they’ll be tested with.

Finding Ammo

2021 is going to be a unique year for hunters thanks to the widespread ammunition shortages happening across the country. If you don’t already have your ammo, definitely start looking. All calibers have been tough to find and expensive when you do see them. I reload my ammo, and have found it impossible to find components for making my rounds, especially primers. Thankfully I have enough of everything to make about a hundred rounds at this point, but that’s it.

This will be a tough year to do much shooting practice unfortunately. My recommendation is make sure you have enough ammo for the season itself and at least 20 extra rounds in case you need to make emergency adjustments. If you are able to find more, do what practice you can.

Tuning Rifles

This one obviously depends on the one above. However, I simply couldn’t recommend hunting without giving your zero a thorough testing and making sure you have a good drop chart set up for shots that aren’t exactly at your zero distance. Test at least a few distances so you will be confident in your rifle when that big buck is in front of you. Tuning might be more limited this year than normal thanks to the ammo shortages, but you still need to make sure you’re dialed in before heading out. I recently put a new scope on my deer rifle, so I’ll be doing some work to getting that dialed in and ready.

Putting in for Controlled Hunts

The controlled hunt application window is open in Idaho right now for most animals, and many other states are open as well. This is the time to do your research and plan exactly where you’ll be hunting. If you don’t already have a plan, you’ll need to look through drawing odds, unit maps, public land access, etc to figure out exactly where you plan to hunt. That critical step will determine your success more than almost anything, and you need to do it now so you can put in for controlled hunts if needed. Once you have a few places you like to hunt, that process becomes automatic. I already knew the exact hunts I would be putting in for, so I was able to put in the first day it was open here in Idaho.

Hunting Gear List for New Big Game Hunters

Hunting Gear List for New Big Game Hunters

The fall hunting season might feel a long way away at this point, but it’s the perfect time to be helping your friends who are new to hunting get ready. If you help them prepare now, they’re more likely to be successful this fall and you’re more likely to enjoy mentoring them. I’ve already got an elk hunt planned with two first time hunters. There are a lot of things I’m helping them do to prepare, including getting licensed, conditioning, shooting, and planning. But when it comes to gear I’m telling them to keep it simple. Here’s what I’m recommending for them:


The most important thing if you want to enjoy your western big game hunt, by far, is having comfortable and tough boots. Blisters are the quickest way to ruin your hunting season and have a miserable time. I personally wear Kenetreks, and the same pair has already gotten me through three seasons without any sign of slowing down. New hunters don’t necessarily need to drop $400+ on boots though, they just need to have a pair that is built tough enough to handle rough terrain and is comfortable. Then they need to be broken in with lots of walking on terrain similar to what you’ll be hunting.


It’s a weird year to buy a rifle and ammunition given the shortages happening in virtually every caliber. Thankfully hunting rifles aren’t as hard to come by as other types of weapons right now, and you can still get something reliable. Budget is going to determine what rifle you end up with, but there are three things I tell my friends to focus on when getting their first gun. First off, pick a caliber with good ballistics that can handle every animal you ever want to hunt. My top choices are 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm WSM and .270 WSM, but classic cartridges like 30-06 and .270 Winchester also work great. Second, buy a gun that is either stainless steel or has a weatherproof coating so that it can handle the elements. And lastly, weigh the tradeoff between weight and recoil. If you can handle recoil well without sacrificing accuracy, a lighter gun will make it easier to hike further. But remember that if you’re afraid of your rifle’s bite, you probably won’t shoot it well.


A rifle might be the thing that gets the job done on your hunt in the end, but you’ll never find your quarry in the first place if you don’t have good optics. For most western big game hunters, a 10x42mm binocular is the perfect combination of power and portability, and will help you find everything from wolves to mule deer to moose. Our Perception HD 10x42mm binos will be the perfect setup for a new hunter to have success in the field.


I wear First Lite merino wool layers pretty much from top to bottom when I hunt, but that’s not what I’d recommend new hunters do unless they are flush with cash to spend (I wear almost a thousand dollars worth of clothes when I hunt, and it took me a few years to collect it all). For a rifle hunter, camouflage isn’t nearly as important as people think, I’ve killed elk wearing a shirt with bright blue stripes. What’s more important is having layers that work for you to keep you sheltered from cold and weather, but that you can also strip down easily when you are hiking hard. Most people will actually have most of what they need already: Wool socks, cargo pants of some kind, a combination of short/long sleeve shirts, a sweatshirt or two, rain jacket, gloves and a warm hat. Just remember that whatever you wear in the woods is going to get damaged, so don’t pick your favorite shirt.


An Exo pack is another thing I put a lot of money into years ago and absolutely love, but again wouldn’t necessarily recommend to the new hunter. Any backpacking backpack will work, and many people already have something that will do the job. Lining it with an oversized heavy duty trash bag will help keep it free from blood.

Hunting can easily become an expensive hobby. For someone like me that spends an enormous amount of time in the woods both looking to fill my own tags and help others fill theirs, it’s easy to justify the investments in expensive gear. But if your goal is just to fill your freezer and not spend weeks every year looking for animals, you can get by a lot more simply than most people think. Hopefully the above suggestions get you started down the path!

Upland Optics Keeps Getting Stellar Reviews

Upland Optics Keeps Getting Stellar Reviews

Our Perception 1000 rangefinder has long been one of our bestselling and most highly rated products. And we are excited to say that it was just named one of the best overall hunting rangefinders by WildernessToday.com. You can read their article about it here.

Also, another review site recently ranked out Perception HD binoculars as #1 on the market! Binoexpert.com wrote about us here. These binoculars are our number one seller, one of the highest ranked binoculars by customers on Amazon, and get more and better reviews all of the time!