The efficient hunting toolbox

Maybe you are new to rifle hunting. And want to ensure you make the most of your time and budget.

Perhaps you're obsessed with hunting like me. And want to organize and optimize your gear and how you use it.

Or it could be that you're planning for a hunting trip. And want to ensure success. 

Maybe it's a combination. Regardless of what box you tick, the same condition applies.

The 80/20 principle.

There's lots of waste. Or simply things that are irrelevant to you. When it comes to skills and gear.

I'd like to share a framework that helped me cut through the noise.

So you can zoom in on the few things that matter. And do them well. And become a more efficient hunter.

You can click here to go to the first section, have a look at the contents below or go straight to the introduction of the model.

Table of contents






When it all started and the reason it all started

I talked about the morning I shot my first roebuck in another post.

Here's a link:

That day I felt like I was on top of the world.

In the post, I also shared my old approach to improving. 

Which meant spending my time reading everything I could about hunting. 

And buying the best gear, I could afford.

All that hard work made me confident I was doing it all right.

But when I started RedKettle, I reflected on hunting.

To be able to build the best possible gear.

I realized my approach to hunting had been all wrong.

I'd spent time on things that weren't essential. 

I'd not had a system with essential checks and reminders.

I'd not had a structured way to reflect and improve.

It was a wake-up call, and it set me off on a journey to become a more efficient hunter.

"Efficient: Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense".

I wanted a way to identify the best levers. That would help when hunting. To find and kill the animal I was after.

I don't know about you, but efficiency is important to me.

Because I want to get the most out of my hunting time.

And budget.

And I believe hunting is a force of good in nature. 

If I do my part.

Here's my challenge. Perhaps it's yours too?

There are so many things you can study.

And so much great gear you can buy.

But the 80/20 principle is real.

It might not be the exact ratio, but most of your results stem from a minority of the things you do.

Just think about most hunting exams.

There's a ton of relevant and important things to learn.

But very few of them will actually help you find and kill an animal.

It can be difficult to navigate that kind of information overload.

Even if you're a seasoned hunter.

Efficiency, the Toyota Production System and hunting

Efficiency. It just sounds right. Alluring.

But how do we get there?

In a relatively short period of time, Toyota Motor Company eventually overtook the entrenched competition. 

As of now, they are the biggest car manufacturer in the world. 

Their success comes down to the Toyota Production System (TPS). The brainchild of Sakichi Toyoda.

The TPS has been adopted by other organizations as LEAN manufacturing. The objective of LEAN manufacturing is to eliminate waste and achieve efficiency. Back in 2006, I became a certified LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt while working for General Electric.

Fast forward to my search for efficiency in hunting.

One day, it hit me. I'd had the toolbox to help me all along.

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees...

I realized I could apply these ideas to optimize my approach to hunting.

I could combine my 25+ years of experience as a hunter. 

Successes and failures.

With the LEAN tools.

To become more efficient.

I hope you can use all these ideas to leapfrog.

And avoid some of the wasted time, wasted money, and mistakes I made in the past.

There's just one problem.

Or there was for me.

Trouble applying LEAN to hunting  (and the solution)

Applying LEAN to hunting was an exciting revelation. 

I now had a clear structure and the philosophy to guide me on my journey toward efficiency.

Unfortunately, when I began to consider what tools would work, my original feelings of excitement began to dwindle.

LEAN is designed for manufacturing.

Merging my hunting knowledge with my LEAN experience was not going to be easy. If anything, I was going to need a lot of supporting ideas.

Long story short, I realized the solution was not to use LEAN directly but to build a framework based on LEAN. A framework or a toolbox for efficient hunting.

Here's the approach I settled on to develop the framework:

  1. Pick the most relevant LEAN principles
  2. Apply them to hunting
  3. And pick the specific tools that will support their implementation

The relevant LEAN principles

Four LEAN principles are particularly relevant. If we want to become more efficient hunters:

  1. Define value
  2. Eliminate waste
  3. Create flow
  4. Pursue perfection

I've spent a long time considering how they apply to hunting.

And what tools I can use to implement them. 

And how I best use them in the field.

It's ongoing work. 

It's my path towards Mastery (more on that later).

Introduction to the Efficient Hunting framework

Long story short, I developed a framework with two main components.

A toolbox.

And a set of loops.

I suppose the toolbox is a kind of vocabulary.

And the loops guide implementation.

Here it is.

The tools

The tools are in the center, in a sort of hierarchy.

The hunting scenario and the hunting process represent the foundation. And I based this layer on one of the core LEAN tools.

In the second layer, I've placed the first principles of hunting. Warren Buffett and Elon Musk helped me with them. Indirectly

And at the very top is the window of opportunity. It's my hunting north star. I found it on a day in the woods. With help from an Olympic gold medalist rifle shooter.

They're your core tools, reference points, and foundational vocabulary for efficient hunting.

And you apply them via three loops.

The loops

A micro-loop, which is the OODA loop. Which you use in the field.

Together with the process.

I've borrowed that from the fighter pilot John Boyd.

And you need to look under the bonnet of that model to understand the true value.

The EPiPHany loop is the overall hunting cycle.

That takes you from start to end of a season or start to end of a hunting trip.

It's the middle loop in the model. 

And I developed it based on input from a top rifle shooter and Vietnam-era sniper. And the way they address a common pitfall among hunters.

And finally, there's Mastery. The macro loop

Bruce Lee has a thing to say about that. 

And Mastery is also related to the first principles of hunting.

There are several ways to view and use this model.

The above illustration is an overview. And you will most likely follow a different structure when applying the tools.

And the items on their own can help you develop a new perspective on a hunting concept you're pondering.

The way I developed them was through yet another structure. The LEAN principles.

I'd like to take you on that journey and show how the tools relate to LEAN thinking.

And the path to help you become a more efficient hunter.

And by the way, I'll cover a lot of ground in this article, but I won't go into the actionable details.

Instead, I'll expand all the ideas in separate articles.

I will lay out the main path.

But you can, of course, jump to whatever section you find most interesting.

Over time I will improve the model.

Things always change. 

And they should do.

You'll know why at the end of the video (hint, it's got something to do with Mastery).

Let's look at each of the four principles. And translate them to hunting.

How to define value for hunting

In LEAN, it's all about the customer.

For hunting, it's about your needs.

And those needs are specific to each hunting situation.

They depend on the given scenario you're preparing for.

The hunting scenario and how to define it

When you define the hunting scenario, you need to consider at least five overall components:

image of the scenario components

Here's how to use them:

  • Describe each element.
  • Determine how they impact your choice of gear.
  • And what they mean in terms of skills you need to acquire or refine

This might seem like basic or obvious stuff. But it is absolutely critical.

I have to be clear on these requirements because all your choices will lead back to them.

And you must define your hunting scenario well enough that you can answer why to all your questions about skills, knowledge, and gear.

About the 5Ts, I'll introduce in a moment.

The hunting process

The main reference point for efficiency work in LEAN is value stream mapping.

"Value stream mapping is a Lean management method that allows you to visualize, analyze and improve all the steps in a product delivery process".

It's how we capture an existing process to find waste and create flow. And it's the way we describe our new and improved process.

I've defined a general process for hunting.

And I use a simple matrix to map it out/

It helps me capture the implications of the requirements I noted when reviewing the scenario.

No two approaches to hunting are exactly the same. So I've come up with six modules or phases.

They're based on the key objectives that you need to reach in order to find and kill an animal.

For hunting, these are generally speaking the things you need to do:

  • You need to move to get into your hunting ground, and you often also have to cover ground on the trip to get to specific locations.
  • You need to find the animal you're hunting and get within range.
  • When you're in range, you need to prepare to shoot and make sure the shot is clear and safe.
  • You shoot the animal.
  • And then, you have to go through some degree of follow-up to secure the animal, inspect it and make sure it's suitable for consumption and that it's ready for transport.

I summarise these activities in six phases:

Depending on your type of hunting, you can mix the order and approach of the first four phases.

The process is a good start.

But it's not enough as a foundation for efficiency.

I needed more detail.

The five Ts of hunting

Because efficiency is about the gear you use and how you use it, I use five Ts as a prompt for what to document.

They help me break down the big pieces via a hierarchy.

And starting with a high-level view helps with a framework for adding detail.

Elon Musk has a point of view on that, which I will get back to when we talk about first principles of hunting.

Here are the five Ts:

the five Ts of rifle hunting

Let's look at them individually:

  • Tactics are, broadly speaking, how you mix up the phases. And some of the different approaches you can take to complete each phase.
  • Tasks are the actual things you need to do to complete a phase. They're based on the tactics you use.
  • Tools are the gear you bring to complete your tasks.
  • And techniques are how you use each tool.
  • The final T, transitions, is how you pull it all together and achieve complete flow.

The process and the 5Ts create a matrix. Which you can use complete with your requirements from the scenario.

Use that matrix together with the hunting scenario

On that basis, you will have a good starting point for more efficient work.

We can go into a lot of detail when implementing the ideas and using the tools. So I will create separate deep dives on both the scenario and the process.

We started out defining the scenario and the process to help us become more efficient. And that leads us to the next LEAN principle.

How you reduce waste for hunting

I mentioned the 80/20 principles earlier. 

It's the idea that a few activities generate the bulk of the value. 

And you can say the second principle, reduce waste, is about finding those activities and removing everything else.

In LEAN, there are two overall types of waste...

The first type of waste (type 1) consists of the activities that don't add value but are necessary and/or critical. 

Think of a solid backstop. Although it's unnecessary when making a kill, it's critical for safe shooting. Instead of eliminating this type of waste, you should consider the possible ways to minimize a negative impact.

The second type of waste (type 2) refers to the activities or gear that don't add value and aren't critical. 

This is what you need to focus on if you want to improve your effectiveness as a hunter. Remember, effectiveness is the foundation for efficiency.

"There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all".

Peter Drucker

Traditional LEAN refers to seven types of waste. 

Some companies, like Canon, actually have their own expanded lists. However, three types of waste are particularly relevant for hunting:

  • Over-processing (doing more than is required, like ranging an animal that's within point-blank range)
  • Defects (making mistakes, insufficient skills and/or knowledge)
  • Waste of expenses (spending money on gear you don't need)

They mainly apply to the first three Ts. Tactics, Tasks, and Tools.

There's still one last thing that needs to be considered when looking for additional waste to cut.

In his excellent book, The 80/20 principle, Richard Koch discusses the concept of low-value uses of time. One of them is the notion that "things have always been done this way"...

Regarding efficient hunting, this means not letting dogma get in your way.

Question everything.

Understand the reason for everything you do.

How you create flow for hunting

The next step is to create flow.

In LEAN terminology, this is about ensuring everything takes place in a tight sequence. 

Master this, and you'll master the art of efficient hunting.

It's mainly the last two Ts, Techniques and Transitions, you look at when creating flow.

Context is everything.

So it's helpful to ask yourself three questions when picking a Technique or a Transition.

  1. Is something appropriate for the given scenario?
  2. Does it suit your preferences, skills, and knowledge?
  3. Are you comfortable and capable with that particular technique or transition?

It's crucial to select the most appropriate technique. And critical to practice it religiously. This is where the EPiPHany loop comes into the picture (more on that later).

There's another model that helps me know when I have achieved flow.

It's the four stages of competence.

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

It's based on the idea that, at first, you don't know what you don't know. And you need to study and practice until each Technique and Transition is second nature.

So you move from level 1 to level 4.

Transitions, the key to efficiency?

Maybe not the key, but where most hunters can get the biggest bang for the buck.

In my view.

Based on my own mistakes. Based on observing professional hunters. And from a few times when I have guided clients, transitions are where most hunters fail.

"We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training".


You may be familiar with the saying, "Get off the bench". 

It's the idea that you should practice shooting from field positions.

Not from the shooting bench.

You can take this idea one step further when it comes to efficiency.

Flow (efficiency) is not just about a single activity.

It's also about the flow between different activities.

Think switching from binoculars to your rifle, then setting up, and finally taking the shot.

Jeff Cooper is one of the founding fathers of practical shooting.

In his book, The Art of the Rifle, he teaches the prone position.

But he doesn't start with the shooter prone.

He starts the prone position from standing straight. With the rifle at the ready. 

Because in the field, getting into position quickly is as important as getting the position right.

Old school? 


Creating flow?


Summary - the scenario, the process, and how you use them

Let's look at what we have so far.

Here's the foundation for your efficiency work.

the efficient hunting process matrix

First, you define the scenario.

On that basis, spell out the process you intend to use.

Including what you will do, the gear you will use, and how you will use it.

The next step is to consider how you pursue perfection.

How you continue to apply the tools to become a more efficient hunter.

Three loops to help you pursue perfection

This is all about continuous improvement.

To reduce waste and create flow. 

For hunting, it refers to running cycles to evaluate the process, Tactics, Tasks, Tools, Techniques, and Transitions. 

Essentially, it's a combination of planning and field practice to gain real experience. It helps me to think about this concept on three levels:

  • Micro loop - how you apply the tools in the field
  • Middle loop - The way you build up to a season or a trip
  • Macro loop - your path towards Mastery

The middle level is the one that ties it all together. So let's have a look at it first.

The middle level and my EPiPHany

The middle level is a loop of experimentation, practice, and real-world application.

In their book, Secrets of Mental Marksmanship, Linda Miller and Keith Cunningham make three crucial observations about this level:

  1. Experimentation is critical for improving
  2. Complexity must be increased gradually when practicing something new
  3. The training, planning, and application phases must not be mixed up

Let's consider how that applies to hunting.

Starting with hunting and working our way back.

The application phase is when we're in the field, hunting.

It's the step-by-step work we capture with the hunting process matrix.

Before we go on a trip, we need an element of planning. 

Which includes scouting in the field and planning logistics from home.

We also need to make space for practice. 

To develop that unconscious competence we talked about earlier.

To know what to practice, we first need a phase for experimentation.

That's where we pick settle on the 5Ts.

I sum this up as:

You may have to start from scratch and practice everything if you're a novice. If you're a seasoned hunter, there's always more to learn. Regardless of your experience level, you'll have to start from scratch whenever you introduce a new component. Experiment and gradually increase the complexity of the training phase.

Here's an important lesson.

One I've learned the hard way.

The planning phase is not the time for new gear or skills development.

At that stage, everything has been locked in.

Otherwise, you end up with phase creep and a hunting trip.

Where you don't perform at the appropriate level of competence.

No last-minute changes.

Stick with what you know.

By the way, the idea that you should have a separate experimentation phase was a bit of a eureka moment to me.

So I remember this loop as EPiPHany.

The micro-level and your capacity for unconscious competence

The hunting phase in the EPiPHany loop is the micro-level in the overall model.

You have the process for the actual work and gear you need.

And we've covered that.

What we haven't talked about is how you apply the hunting process.

You react to the hunting situation as it unfolds around you. So to use the process, you need to be able to assess what's happening and act accordingly.

I find two specific ideas relevant here.

The first one addresses a problem I have now and then.

The Window of Opportunity

If you're gung ho about hunting like me, it's natural to suffer from over-trying.

Overt-trying means focussing on the deer, the outcome, instead of the things that will get you there.

It stops you from executing correctly, which often leads to failure.

When it's on your radar, it's easy to fix.

And you can do that on several levels, starting with the process.

Focus on each step instead of what you want to achieve.

And the hunting principles that I'll talk about in a moment are also helpful. In a more condensed and philosophical way.

I have one final step I use as a reminder when I'm out hunting

To help me avoid over-trying. 

To steer me towards execution.

I refer to it as the window of opportunity.

It's my hunting North star.

And it's the idea that hunting revolves around that moment when you get or make an opportunity to shoot.

You work patiently to create that moment.

And you act swiftly to use it.

I've written a post on the Window of Opportunity. Click on the image or the URL if you'd like to read more about it.

When hunting, you don't just implement the process. You react to the situation around you.

One specific model helps me unpack that.

It's the OODA loop.

The OODA loop

It was developed by the fighter pilot John Boyd.

He was also known as forty-second-Boyd.

Based on the time it took him to win a dogfight.

He's also credited as having a significant influence on the plan that won the first Iraq war.

The loop is a decision-making model:

the ooda loop

It's simple. 

Don't let that deceive you.

I did, but I got wiser.

The real value is not four steps to help you think and act.

The true value is twofold.

Firstly, it is to understand the objective of the loop.

Your goal as a hunter is to get inside the animal's loop. 

Which means predicting behavior.

So you can put yourself in the most optional position to shoot it.

Efficiency is useless if we don't apply it in practice.

Secondly, the loop is a reminder that everything hinges around your ability to orient. 

Which refers to your capacity to make sense of things when hunting.

It happens in the field, but it's really about how well you learn and continue to develop your skills and knowledge.

And that leads us to the final loop.

The Macro level and your path towards Mastery

In essence, the macro loop is about reflecting on the entire EPiPHany loop

You do it to improve. 

To me, that's Mastery.

And by the way, Mastery is a journey, not a destination.

If you ask me.

And Bruce Lee describes that loop well:

"Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick".

Bruce Lee

It's worth calling out those phases.

  1. Before
  2. Learn
  3. Understand

I think you run them in loops.

Once you reach one peak, you're able to see the next mountain in front of you.

These three steps are connected with the levels of competence. And the obvious and important thing to do is to improve the process. Reduce waste and create flow.

In a way, you can say your work on waste and flow is about "learn the art" in the Bruce Lee quote.

Another concept leans a little more towards "understand the art". It helps me crystallize Mastery for hunting.

I learned how Warren Buffet and his investment partner, Charlie Munger, use mental models when researching decision-making.

And I started exploring these models. And one that I find particularly helpful when it comes to Mastery is first principles thinking.

I mentioned Elon Musk when introducing the process.

He's got something to say about first principles thinking:

"Firstly that you must view knowledge as a semantic tree. And make sure you understand the trunk and branches before you get into the leaves. Otherwise there is nothing to hang them on".

"Well, I do think there's a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally, I think there are — what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy".

"Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations".

Elon Musk

By the way, the first quote from this great article:

And the other quote is from this one:

So, in Summary, first principles are the core mechanics. The underlying and never-changing truths.

For hunting, it's the stuff that is independent of your tools, techniques, and transitions.

It's beyond what color of camouflage you wear. Or what caliber you shoot.

It's the essence of hunting that was as relevant to a paleolithic hunter-gatherer as it is to you.

And first principles help me crystallize Mastery. I define them as:

  • Be in the right place
  • Keep a low profile
  • Stay focussed
  • And act fast

I'll discuss them in more detail in another post.

I mentioned Orient in the OODA loop earlier.

It's directly connected with Mastery, in the sense that Mastery is about reflection and afterthought to better yourself as a hunter.

So, a hunter in pursuit of efficiency that phase is particularly relevant.

And you should ask yourself this:

What gets in the way of your capacity to Orient?

Consider what you mapped for your process.

What item isn't second nature?

Fix it so it doesn't reduce your capacity to think and act in the field.

Address it so you can get inside the animal's loop.

Recap of the efficient hunting model

Well, that was a mouthful.

I hope the logic makes sense to you and that you can see the benefit of these ideas. 

Even if you're new to hunting, don't be discouraged if this all sounds complex.

In some ways, you have an advantage over more seasoned hunters as you'll be learning with a framework and a sense of purpose (unlike me, who learned through trial and error).

It's essential to start out from a solid foundation.

Efficient hunting is guided by four LEAN principles.

When defining what's important to a situation, map the process, 

remove waste and create flow.

Over time, you continue this process. The more you hunt, the more you study, you develop your ability to identify waste and create flow.

The core tools you use are:

  • The scenario and the hunting process
  • A set of first principles
  • And the window of opportunity

You apply and refine them on three levels

  • The micro-level with the OODA loop
  • The middle level with the EPiPHany loop
  • And the macro-level for your journey towards Mastery

This is why I wish I'd had the model when I first started hunting

I wish I'd had this framework when I first started out.

I would have been able to cut through the "noise" when it came to information, skills, and gear

I would have had a way to help me spend my hunting time and money better.

And I would have had a clear path for continuous improvement.

I would have known that morning when I got the roe-buck would have been the starting shot.

That I wasn't on top of the world, just the top of the first mountain.

As I said at the start.

This model will change.

Because my vantage point will keep changing.

But it will develop for the better.

With each improvement, I'll have a basis for new enhancements.

How the model might help you

I hope the logic makes sense to you and that you can see the benefit of these ideas. 

I hope you can use this framework to become a more efficient hunter.

As a framework to help you get off to a good start with hunting.

As inspiration to improve your own system.

Or to help make an upcoming hunting trip a success.

The model is the "hub" in the efficient hunting wheel. And I will continue to develop the "spokes". The deep dive articles will give you more detail on applying the ideas and tools.

I'll share all my ideas in the efficient hunting newsletter.

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Thanks for reading.

All the best,