This is Christian from RedKettle.
Speed is king when hunting. And travelling light is a way to get there.
But how do you travel lighter?
Here's what NASA can teach us about travelling light.
And the answer comes with a bonus. A paradigm shift.
I've previously talked about how planning ahead and travelling light can help you get faster.
That's important because being faster gives you more time to shoot. So you're more likely to fill the freezer with wild meat.
Heck, I even quoted Mors Kochanski, who said that "The more you know, the less you carry."
But if I were you, I'd want more than an inspirational quote. I'd want to know how to do it.
Do you agree?
Ok, let's look at how to travel lighter.
Someone who can help answer that question is NASA.
Yes, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The folks who sent the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969.
"But wait! That was using the Saturn V rocket. It weighed in at 2,970,000 kg."
"How can they teach me anything about travelling light?" I hear you say…
Because of a paradigm shift.
A fundamental change in the way we see things.
If you want to travel light, the keyword isn't "light".
The keyword is "critical".
And that's where NASA comes into the picture. With a nifty little tool of theirs.
More on that in a moment.
Let me just tell you a story...
It's about a hunter called Mark.
It's a made-up story. But I share a few traits with Mark. Maybe you do too.
Mark is a seasoned hunter. He knows his stuff, and he's got a gear routine going for his usual hunting ground.
Like many of us, Mark enjoys the big and small adventures you get from hunting. Especially when hunting abroad.
Mark decides to go to Scotland to hunt red deer. It's an experience that's been on his list for a long time.
The moment he's booked the trip, he starts planning things.
But there's a problem.
He's not familiar with hunting in the highlands. And he's never shot red deer stags before.
It's just hunting, he tells himself. What's different? But that still doesn't answer any of his many questions.
And those questions are nagging Mark.
As much as he enjoys nature, he'd still like to shoot a stag when he's travelled that far.
And he prefers to tell his friends tales of a successful trip.
Mark also knows that the Scottish estate has a cull plan. So there's more at play than his own success. If he doesn't shoot, he will have wasted precious deer management time.
In the absence of answers, Mark runs through all the different scenarios he can come up with.
And many of them involve new gear.
There's nothing like a hunting trip abroad that work as an excuse for buying new gear.
That certainly goes for me. What about you?
There's a lot of well-made products on the market. Lots of companies who are keen to sell. And I get excited pretty easily.
But just because a piece of equipment is good, doesn't mean it's right for you. And it doesn't mean it works in your particular situation.
If you (like me) can work yourself up in a gear frenzy, let me make one thing clear.
It's not your fault.
Coming home empty-handed is no fun.
So it's natural to look for solutions that can help prevent that.
But in Marks case, new gadgets might end up getting in his way…
To avoid that, it's all about figuring out what's critical. And pick the optimal solution.
And that's where NASA comes into the picture.
On missions including Apollo, Viking and Voyager, NASA scientists used a framework to figure out what's critical and what can go wrong.
The framework is called Failure Mode Effect Analysis.
FMEA in short.
In essence, FMEA is a tool to figure out:
- What can go wrong?
- How bad would it be?
- How can we prevent it from happening?
You can have a field day with FMEA. You can score all items and scenarios. You can calculate risk priority numbers. You can get stuck into minute detail.
That's not necessary for hunting.
Here's one way we can re-jig and simplify the framework to suit our "gear evaluation".
Three simple steps to evaluate each piece of gear we bring.
- How critical is the outcome I get from the item?
- How likely is it I'll need it?
- Do I have better alternatives?
By the way, it's helpful to look at gear in terms of the outcome they give you. It puts things into perspective and helps you find alternatives.
Let's get back to Mark and his trip to Scotland.
In all his excitement, he's gathered all the gear he might need. And bought a few new items to cover all eventualities.
He's bought a rangefinder.
Not that he's into long-range hunting, but he doesn't want to miss an opportunity because he's uncertain about the distance.
And a rangefinder is a great tool. Mark just needs to be careful it doesn't turn into a crutch.
Speed is king when setting up for a shot. One more piece of kit in the "workflow" means one more step before you can take a shot.
Back to the story.
Mark has now arrived at the estate. And he's been on the hill with the ghillie for a couple of days.
He's had the full highland experience.
Hills, heather and hard work. And a breathtakingly beautiful terrain.
On the third day of four, they finally spot a group of stags. Mark is excited as they bellycrawl to get to a suitable shooting position.
Once there, the stags start scuttling around, and Mark needs to act quickly.
It's unfamiliar ground, and Mark wants to ensure he knows the distance. But the new rangefinder is in his backpack with his spare gear.
Getting the pack off his back and locating the rangefinder among the clutter takes ages. When he's finally found it, the stags have decided that something is wrong.
They leave, just as Mark ranges the one he's been cleared to shoot…
Mark is frustrated and slightly embarrassed about being too slow. To add pain to the situation, they don't see any stags for the rest of the day.
On the way back, the beauty of the terrain starts to fade. It suddenly seems a little bleaker and the hills a little unforgiving.
Fortunately, the ghillie offers a piece of advice.
"Try this, Mark. Use your reticle to judge if the stag is within range."
"It's not super accurate, but it works".
"And leave your backpack at home. You don't need the spares."
Back at the lodge, the ghillie takes Mark to the range. He gets him to look at deer targets set up at 100, 200 and 300 meters.
That way, Mark can see how much space they take up on the horizontal part of his crosshairs.
The solution won't give Mark the ranging accuracy he's after.
But it will make him faster.
The next morning they set off into the hills.
Mark is travelling lighter, and he's got a clear set of parameters to help him decide when to shoot.
It doesn't take long before they spot a couple of stags on open ground.
They manage to move around a small hill and crawl across dead ground to a knoll where Mark can shoot from. Mark gets his rifle on the target and gets ready to shoot.
But a quick look in the scope tells Mark that it's out of his chosen range.
They have to get closer.
Crawling on the belly, Mark is pleased that he's not brought the daypack. It would have made keeping a low profile impossible.
After what seems to be hours, they get to a new position.
The stags that were lying down have gotten up. They're all looking around.
The ghillie points out a suitable stag, and Mark gets on target.
The deer is within range.
Mark knows what to do and shoots the stag before it leaves.
With the ghillie's help, Mark learned what was missing critical for his days on the hill.
And he got a new perspective on when to use his rangefinder.
I'm not saying that a rangefinder is a bad tool. I use one myself.
What I'm saying is speed is king when setting up for a shot.
And unnecessary gear will slow us down.
The example with a rangefinder in the backpack was, of course, the worst possible scenario. But not an unlikely one.
It's easy to get carried away and try to solve for all eventualities.
I've been there.
The solution is to look objectively at the outcomes we're after.
Mark needed to know if the stag was within range.
He started with a slow high-tech solution. And ended up with a fast, low-tech alternative.
He could have carried his range finder on his Bino caddy.
He could have used a pair of range finder binoculars.
Or a rangefinder scope.
All are valid options, but they come with different tradeoffs.
The point of the story is this. Assess your gear and how you use it. And change the steps or items that slow you down.
Experience goes a long way. Hunting in a new location means we won't always have full information. So ask around.
The adapted FMEA matrix can help structure your thoughts.
You don't even have to write things down. Just let the framework guide your thinking.
I hope this post gave you some food for thought.
Happy hunting and all the best,
PS. A shortcut to speed
Speed is a skill that requires practice.
But that doesn't mean you can't use a shortcut.
If you're someone who hunt off the beaten track, binoculars on a strap can really get in the way and slow you down.
A bino caddy/harness can help fix that.
As highlighted in the story about Mark, a bino harness can also help you organise your gear.
If you hunt on steep ground, or just need both hands free you probably carry your rifle across your back.
That can slow you down, when you're in a hurry to shoot.
We built the quick release rifle sling to help avoid that.
Depending on the type of hunting you do, these products might offer you a shortcut or two.
Click the images to see more.
Bino Caddy M19
If you want your binoculars under control, but ready for action.
Quick Release Rifle Sling M19
If you want your rifle out of the way, but ready for action.