Here's how a car manufacturer inspired my approach to hunting.

The "Toyota Production System" introduced the concept of "Muda".

It's an idea I believe all hunters can learn from.

This is how I discovered the value of that term. And how you can too.

I've always worked hard to improve as a hunter. And I've had plenty of opportunities to learn. Hunting on private land and as part of a commercial deer management operation.

All along, I've always asked myself how I could get better.

I've always seen myself as a good student of hunting. Someone on a path to continuous improvement.

Because getting better gives me personal satisfaction. It lets me put wild food on the table. And it means I can play an active role in conservation.

However, at one point, I realized that my path to improvement hadn't been as straight as it could have been...

I was often driven by fads. I jumped from interest to interest. And I didn't consider if a particular hunting skill would give me the most "bang for the buck" (pun intended).

Take F-class shooting as an example.

When I got into that discipline, I doubled down on long-range accuracy. Measured kernels of powder when reloading. Explored free-recoil techniques. And worked on my 1000 yard wind skills. And I loved it.

As much as it was fun, it wasn't a skill set that applied directly to the kind of hunting I do.

But that didn't stop me from transferring the ideas to the way I thought about hunting.

I'd done it all wrong...

Developing gear for RedKettle meant I thinking more structured about hunting. To understand the finer details of what makes a great product vs just a good one.

I had to think hard about what mattered the most. And I realized how much time I'd wasted when improving my hunting skills.

Ironically, I'd had the solution for many years.

Starting my first job after university at General Electrics, part of my training was a LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt certification.

And LEAN is the manufacturing framework that's based on the "Toyota Production System."

Which helped the car manufacturer rise to the top in the world of automotive manufacturing.

LEAN gave me a wide range of process tools. And the foundation for developing an optimization mindset.

Hunting and LEAN manufacturing

I realized I could apply my knowledge of process optimization to hunting.

And my first stop was the LEAN principles.

In summary, they're about defining the outcome you want. And removing anything that's not contributing to that outcome. You aim for a process with as little waste as possible.

Although I had a bit of a eureka moment, it wasn't straightforward to apply all the principles to hunting.

Mainly because they were developed for a different application.

To explore the tools for hunting, I decided to start with value stream mapping.

Initially, I wondered it was too simple an approach. Why spend time on something I knew well? As a hunter, was I not above concerning myself with the basics? Wouldn't it be better to focus on advanced concepts?

But as usual with process mapping, there was great value in defining each step.

I spent time (and continue to do) reflecting on each step that brings me closer to shooting an animal.

What are the activities that move me towards my goal?

And what are the things that slow me down?

The things that slow me down are "Muda". Waste.

And step by step, I eliminate them. To help me "move in a straight line". To get faster. And more efficient.

Back to the F-class example.

I spent time thinking about the hunting process. And it was clear that developing long-range skills only had a certain amount of value to me.

I don't need low standard deviation muzzle velocity. I don't shoot a heavy rifle in a light calibre on flat ground that can free recoil. And my wind decisions are not about dialling in on a long-range target. They are simple "go/no-go" decisions to help me decide if there is too much wind to make a shot.

It might be different for you and the kind of hunting you do.

But that's not the important point.

Clarify your priorities as a hunter

The critical point is to be crystal clear about what activities are worth spending time on.

To me, it's more important I can shoot (with sufficient accuracy) before the deer leaves.

So I spend more time making sure I'm organized.

That I can operate my gear smoothly. And fast.

It was painful to realize I'd not been as good a student as I could have. But at least that realization was an essential first step to getting better.

It's set me off on a journey.

It's resulted in a hunting process that serves as a structure for how I train, plan and hunt. And a set of principles that guide my thinking. More about those tools another time.

The crucial first step was this.

I developed an entirely new perspective on hunting. One that's driven by efficiency.

One that's founded on continuous improvement.

It's a structured effort to prioritize and optimize the things that matter.

So when I get excited about a new piece of hunting gear. I know not to get too carried away. And I can stand back and evaluate how big an improvement it can actually make. How much it will contribute to my success as a hunter. 

Idon't know if you're anything like me. But I hope you see the benefit of thinking hard about what activities create value vs waste.

No more "Muda".

It applies to when you go hunting. When you plan for hunting. And when you select your gear.

It's not complex stuff.

It's a simple distinction.

But one with a big payoff.

If you're willing to put in the work.

Other tools

But as much as LEAN has given me an incredible toolbox, it didn't get me all the way. Hunting is a field-based activity. It's about "on the spot, swift decision-making".

So I wanted a model to help me with decision making (I like frameworks - in case you haven't noticed...).

The help came from an unlikely side. 30,000 feet up in the air, in a way.

From a fighter pilot called John Boyd. And his decision-making loop. That allegedly gave him the nickname "40 second Boyd". Because that's how long time it took him to win a dogfight.

I've applied it to hunting. And I'd like to tell you more in the next post.

Thanks for reading.

PS. You might have heard me refer to this approach as the "efficient hunter". I'm writing a more in-depth framework on this topic. Click here if you'd like to read the introduction.