The EPiPHany loop: How you implement efficient hunting (and prepare for a season)
Vision without execution is hallucination.
Thomas A. Edison
Talk about a lightbulb moment.
Mr. Edison was right. And his quote applies to efficient hunting.
But why is it a quick search for "quotes execution" returned 426.000.000 results?
Why do so many people feel it necessary to comment on something that seems so obvious?
Because our brains are lazy.
They're built to conserve energy.
Most brains don't want to get off the sofa unless a sable tooth tiger is about to eat them. Or maybe if they've run out of Ben and Jerry's.
How does that apply to efficient hunting?
It's all about your ability to become a more efficient and successful hunter.
And it's all about planning.
Let's first take a step back before we dive into the details.
Table of Contents
Becoming a more efficient hunter doesn't have the same short-term appeal to your brain as "avoiding sudden death". Or the instant reward you know you'll get from a big bowl of Phish Food. That's a problem. Because it will hold you back.
I've previously shared the efficient hunting framework (https://www.redkettle.co/blogs/blog/the-efficient-hunting-toolbox).
It's how I make sense of hunting.
It's how I work to do more with less effort.
And my key to making the most of the gear I buy.
It's a model that's been a long time in the making. First, the 25+ years of hunting. Doing things right. And doing things wrong. As well as a whole lot of conversations and observations.
I combined my hunting experience with LEAN manufacturing principles and tools.
Because they are proven methods for reducing waste and creating flow.
The framework has helped inspire hunters. But efficiency is ultimately about execution. And I felt the framework could add more value if I made it more actionable.
Remember, our brains love easy.
And Phish Food ice cream.
So my big question was how I could lay out a step-by-step path to help hunters like you and me use the framework.
If anything takes too much brainpower to get started with, fewer people will use it. And that's not what I wanted.
On a practical level, I wanted you to be able to make the most of your hunting time and budget. Which, in my book, means becoming more efficient.
On a philosophical level, I believe hunting is a force of good in nature.
When we do it right.
And if I can help you become a better hunter, we both further hunting. And further nature. And in turn our children's ability to hunt and enjoy nature.
LEAN tools have been proven time and time again. But the efficient hunting framework can be a lot to take in.
The overview gives you a framework to hang ideas of.
It's like the root and trunk in Elon Musk's knowledge tree.
I wanted to achieve the same from an application point of view.
I wanted you to have a starting point for step-by-step execution.
I didn't have a big eureka moment.
It was more a methodical or deliberate evaluation of the components that helped me pick the best way to apply them.
The micro-level in the framework is about hunting. You apply the process and use the OODA loop. So it might seem the most practical and usable place to start.
But this part of hunting is where you reap the benefits of your hard labor. It requires pre-work.
And the other end of the scale, mastery, the macro loop, is about reflection. And that part of the framework needs input.
The middle level, the core hunting "lifecycle", is where you build up to a hunting season, a trip, or a single outing.
It's where you set yourself up for success.
For that reason, I find the middle loop (EPiPHany) to be the most practical and actionable place to start implementing efficient hunting.
The EPiPHany loop as a step-by-step path to efficiency
I've talked about the EPiPHany loop (Experiment, Practice, Plan, and Hunt) in the past (https://www.redkettle.co/blogs/blog/the-efficient-hunting-toolbox#the-middle-level).
But how do you implement it?
The same way you eat an elephant.
One bite at the time.
Break the process into smaller and smaller pieces. Until you're left with specific actions.
So there is nowhere for your brain to hide. Because it's so easy.
The easiest way to get there is with three powerful questions.
Why, what, and how.
In this article, I'll show you the why and a bit of what to do. Maybe sprinkled with the odd "how".
So you have a structure to follow when using efficient hunting tools.
Before we get going, let's just look at the EPiPHany loop in all its entirety.
Why do we use it?
The ultimate objective is to set you up for successful hunting.
And the very tip of that spear is your ability to hunt efficiently. Find and kill an animal with a minimum of waste and expense.
What do you do to achieve that?
You complete each phase and:
How do you complete each phase?
Let's start with "Experiment".
The purpose (why) of the experiment phase is to help you create an optimal gear set-up for a specific hunting scenario and process.
The analogy is the gear bag concept mentioned in the gear room part 1 video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgFWKDXgwmc).
Experiment is where you decide what's going in the bags and how and why you will use each item.
It's not a "mad professor" type experiment.
It's a controlled effort starting with your hypotheses about what works.
You might start from close to scratch. Or you might base it on input. Which could be your own hunting experience (last run of the EPiPHany loop) or input from a friend or an outfitter.
"What to do" includes defining the general situation summary you're planning for and the gear and skills you need.
How do you do that?
I use the DR SOOS process.
I'll talk about that process in more detail another time.
What's relevant for now is the output.
When you have completed the DR SOOS process, you'll have:
A general situation summary
A defined process,
complete with a description of how you will hunt and the gear you will use.
By the way, a general situation summary is kind of a template. It could, for example, be hunting fallow deer in the South of England in January. The summary would give me the key things to consider. They include the animal I'm hunting. The area. And the weather conditions I can expect.
Later in this article, I'll talk about updating that general summary to match a specific time and location (in the past, I've referred to the situation summary as the scenario. Now I think of the scenario as the summary plus the process).
You will also have a plan for carrying your gear and standards for using it.
The next stage after that is practice.
I don't mean why it's a good idea, but what exactly you want to achieve.
We practice to achieve the standards we've set in "Experiment" phase.
For the gear bag analogy, it's where you make sure you can use each piece of kit you pack. You don't include any manuals...
What do you do to get there?
You practice each of the standards you established. That means breaking them down into pieces so you can train both individual techniques and the transitions that pull everything together.
Sounds boring? Probably not. If you're ever in doubt, here's someone with experience and a clear point of view about the importance of learning the fundamentals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOY4ykbwMhc.
So far, so good, but how do we break the techniques down?
First, split them into primary phases and then individual steps and actions.
Practice things separately, to begin with. And then everything together. And you continue until you achieve unconscious competence.
Using your gear must become second nature
Here's an example:
There's more to it than that, but this is a good illustration of how you should design your practice.
Next comes the plan.
You plan to ensure you adapt your hunting gear set-up to the specific time and location.
You plan to establish logistics to get you out and back.
And to make sure you have the necessary means to operate in the field.
The plan is when you decide which bags you need to bring. To use our gear bag metaphor.
What do you do to complete the Planning phase?
In my book, your plan must include the following elements:
The hunting plan
- Your definition of success and the scope of your trip
- Your hunting set-up revised for the specific location and time you're going hunting
- Your specific hunting situation summary
- Your hunting process (execution plan)
- Supporting plans and equipment
- Operational readiness (Clothing, food, water, shelter)
- Mobility and logistics
- Personal care
- Rehearsals - to make sure you are meeting your standards
- Checklists and planned inspections
There are a whole host of considerations that go into the plan. And if you have defined the situation summary and the process well, you'll have most of the answers.
The hunting phase is where it all comes together.
It's where you grab your bag, venture into the wild and go hunting.
Here's an important point.
For me, 9/10 of mistakes in the field are caused by errors I've made upstream in the EPiPHany loop.
The process you planned should be second nature.
So you can focus on what's going on in the field.
You run through the OODA loop. Observe, orient, decide and act.
And you're guided by the window of opportunity (https://www.redkettle.co/blogs/blog/the-window-of-opportunity-and-how-to-avoid-over-trying-when-hunting). To help you focus on execution.
Hopefully, if your plan is solid. And Diana is on your side. You'll harvest wild for your family and friends.
And maybe get a trophy for your wall.
So, to implement the EPiPHany loop, you need to do the following.
Complete a general situation summary and capture all implications in the process and 5Ts.
Implement your learning plan to ensure you use each piece of gear with unconscious competence.
"Localize" (if that's a word) your situation summary and process to match conditions specific to the outing or trip you are planning for. And draw up supporting plans, including operational readiness, Mobility, personal care, and communications.
And finally, put all your hard work to use and hunt efficiently. And hopefully successfully, if Diana stands you well.
Efficient hunting is an alluring idea.
And the framework is a collection of proven tools.
Having a step-by-step plan also makes it much easier to apply all the tools.
It's the key to unlocking efficiency.
How you can use the process for implementation, planning and preparation
I hope this post made the concepts and ideas for efficient hunting more approachable. And that your brain will get to like them. As much as it likes Ben and Jerry's.
I also hope you got a tool to help make you a more successful hunter.
Whether that means applying EPiPHany for the next season, your next trip, or just your next morning out.
All the best,
PS. I'm preparing more articles on the elements of the framework. Including a deep-dive on the DR SOOS process. To help you organize and optimize your hunting gear.
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