One thing that I learned quickly about going on hunts by myself is that the main limitation wasn’t my physical ability, but my mental strength. I didn’t think much about it before, but after spending a few days alone in the backcountry it started to wear on me. Luckily when I started doing solo backcountry hunts they were at the most three or four days long since all I could hunt was weekends. These short hunts helped me get accustomed to being alone and now I can go on longer hunts without it bothering me.
I know most people may think that this will not be a problem for them, but don’t underestimate this. If you have a solo hunt that you are going to go on and have never done it before I would suggest you do some short trips before to see how it goes. Even if you just have to go camping near your house for a weekend, see what it is like to have no human contact for a couple of days.
Now there are several things I do to keep my mind from thinking about leaving the mountain and heading home early. The most important thing I have found is to keep myself busy. This can be hard if the hunting is slow, and this is also when the mind games are the worst. So I do several things to keep busy. The main thing I do is to go on hikes in the middle of the day. I’ll take some water, some snacks and my bow and go check out new or different country. This sort of depends on what I’m hunting, since sometimes it is best to sit around certain places during the middle of day, like a wallow/watering hole for elk as an example.
Another thing I do is to keep a journal of sorts. Usually I have a map with me and when I have a break in the action I will write down what has happened and what I have seen. This also helps to remember little things that you may have otherwise forgot on a long hunt, and may provide invaluable information for future hunts.
For the past couple years I have packed a SPOT device with me on all my hunts. This allows me to send messages to some pre-selected people to let them know that I am alright. This has provides my family at home some comfort and also eases my mind while hunting since I know they are not worrying about me.
One thing that I have found to spend some time and is rewarding after the hunt is to do little photo shoots. I will spend quite a bit of time taking pictures of just about everything. Once home it is always nice to look through my pictures and have some of the entire hunt, not just a trophy shot if there was one. On a recent scouting trip I spent a couple of hours trying to get pictures of rock marmots. I love watching those little guys and listening to them. Even after a couple of hours I never got close enough for a great photo, but did get one of a baby marmot up on a rock.
If you are on a solo hunt and nothing else works, remember this. You have probably looked forward to this hunt for close to year, and there are a lot of people who would love to be in your position, so give it your best shot to not give up. Make it through your entire planned hunt and I guarantee you will be rewarded.