Okay, that title is a bit misleading, because I have not yet figured out how to physically be out in the field when I’m supposed to be working. (You can bet that if I ever do, I will use that trick ALL the dang time, and I’ll share it with you fine people…if you promise not to tell my boss) But, almost all of us who are hunters also maintain some sort of full-time job…it’s how we afford to be able to go and hunt in the first place (and…you know…feed our children and stuff). But, every hunter knows that when we’re at work, we’d almost always rather be hunting. Even if you genuinely enjoy what you do for a living (as I do), hunting just gets deep in your soul and takes over most of your mental free time.
Now, if you have one of those jobs that has certain seasons of the year that are crazier than others (insert hand-raised emoji), then you know that there are times where it feels like you aren’t making any progress or doing any prep for your upcoming hunts. Hunting doesn’t just occur when the season opens and your boots hit the ground…hunting begins in the prep phase months before a shot can be fired. So, if you have big plans and dreams of a giant bull or buck coming in the fall, summer is prime preparation time. But, if you can’t put in as much time as you’d want at the range, scouting, or dialing in your gear, how can you keep the ball moving forward without getting fired?
The reason I’m wrestling with this question in the first place is because summers are my insane season at work (I’m like a reverse-teacher). Over the course of six weeks in June and July, I’m gone for four of them. So, in between trips, I’m focused on maximizing family time. I’m not running out to shoot my bow every day, my fitness and diet goes all to crap while eating on the road, and scouting trips are almost certainly out of the picture until the madness ends. On top of all that, these aren’t the kind of business trips where I have a few meetings, grab dinner, and then retreat to a hotel room with a bunch of time to kill. These are relatively non-stop 15-hour days, and any gaps in the schedule are usually filled with keeping my usual work plates spinning on top of the big event I’m putting on that week. It’s fun, and chaotic, and exhausting all at the same time.
So, if you are like me at all, and you’re feeling like work is getting in the way of your precious hunting prep time (the nerve of some people, right?), then here are three ways you can keep making progress towards your hunt in whatever brief and acceptable pockets of time you can squeeze out of your work schedule…
List-Making and Online Shopping
I feel a disclaimer is in order before I get started here…I am not in any way advocating burning large chunks of company time prepping your hunt while you’re on the clock. (Is my boss looking?) Really though, they’re paying you…you should be doing what you’re supposed to be doing. However, no matter what you do for work, every job has some sort of breaks here or there, or opportunities to scribble something down, or the freedom to take 2 minutes to handle something personal as needed. These are the perfect times to write down or even acquire whatever gear you’re still trying to dial-in for the upcoming season.
I keep a couple different lists on my phone for hunting and Late to the Game purposes. My phone pretty much always sits right next to my laptop at work (or in my pocket when I’m not at my desk…or in my hands when on the toilet…you know, standard 21st century iPhone addiction). So, whenever one of those “oh, I need to remember to get…” thoughts pops into my mind, I add it to the appropriate list immediately. I check those notes in my off-hours when I’m actually doing hunt-stuff, and then that thought I had in the middle of a meeting that I haven’t thought about since then can now get done. It’s a pretty great system for pretty much anything you don’t want to forget, but it has proven extremely helpful in these seasons where there just isn’t a lot of off-the-clock time to keep my hunting dreams moving forward.
I’ve also done a decent amount of research/shopping for gear in tiny pockets of downtime at work. I have a fairly creative job that involves a lot of long stretches of focused writing. Because my brain (and most people’s brains) can only stay intensely focused for so long in one stretch, I tend to use the 45-minutes on, 15-minutes off method. Set a timer and ignore any and all distractions for 45 whole minutes (if a distracting thought or another to-do pops into my brain, I’ll write it down…but then it’s right back to work). But, after 45 intensely focused minutes, my brain is getting tired, the words aren’t flowing as freely, and it’s time to let the brain-muscle relax for a bit. So, I’ll set another 15-minute timer, and it’s time to let the mind wander. I’ll of course pop over and check emails and basic office stuff, but if there’s any time left on that 15-minute timer when I’m done with that, it’s time for a hunting break. My go-to for mental refreshment is online research/shopping for hunting gear. I’ll read reviews, search for good deals, and even place orders for stuff during these little breaks. Then the timer goes off (always quicker than I expect), I go back to the window I was working on, and it’s back to writing for another 45 minutes.
Lunch Breaks are for Hunting
For most of us, our longest continual break during the work day is for lunch. And there are a couple of really great ways to spend a lunch break where you can stuff food into your face and also get your hunting fix. The easiest would certainly be podcasts. Pop your earbuds in, hit play, and enjoy last night’s leftovers while you digest (see what I did there?) some great hunting info. I’m sure you have your own go-to hunting podcasts, but a couple of my favorites are The Hunt Backcountry Podcast (produced by the guys at Exo Mountain Gear), and The Rich Outdoors. If I don’t have some unavoidable lunch meeting or I’m not running out to meet the fam, I’ll park myself somewhere quiet on campus and escape into a podcast.
Now, E-Scouting is not the kind of thing that can really be done in the few minutes of a mental break while sitting at your desk. But, a lunch break is the perfect time to start scoping out hunting spots from the air. (Added bonus, most offices have pretty solid Wi-Fi, so Google Earth will probably load faster than it does at home…at least it does for me). I can sit there cruising through maps and dropping waypoints, and by the time my lunch is over, I have another couple points-of-interest marked down and have even researched the best access points. Boom…hunting progress!
A third way to maximize your lunch break for hunting purposes is to actually test your hunting meals for lunch. If you do any backpack style hunting (as I do), you often end up eating a bunch of stuff that isn’t part of your typical diet. There is nothing worse than settling into camp after a long day of hunting and discovering you hate what you packed for dinner. Bring a dehydrated meal, heat some water from the coffee pot or wherever, mix it up, and see if you like it. Yes, you’ll get some weird looks, but those are the same people who are going to not-so-subtly keep asking for more elk jerky later this year…so who cares what they think?
Any Fitness is Better than no Fitness
If your job requires you to travel, it is going to be next to impossible to keep your physical training on schedule. Food is always a crap-shoot on the road, and finding a gym (or even time to use one) can be all but impossible. If I’m honest, the frustration tends to lead me to a “why even bother” mindset, and so I end up doing NOTHING over the course of a week. I eat whatever sounds good wherever I find myself, I don’t squeeze in a run or a few sets of bodyweight exercises every day…I just let myself go for a week. The problem is that after four weeks of that, I have quite literally let myself go. Cardio is shot, muscles are shrinking, and dad-gut is growing. For my annual rhythm, the middle of July (you know, the peak of bathing suit season) is when I’m at my fattest/most out of shape. Fortunately, I hate swimming, and only care what one person on the planet thinks about my body, and she is legally obligated to love me for the rest of our lives…so it’ll all work out anyway.
But, when I’m not being a big whiney baby, here are a couple things I try to do in hopes of mitigating the effects of so much travel. When it comes to food, I try to pack at least some basic supplements, pre-measured bags of protein powder, and some healthier snacks that I can count on. (Quick note: Stuffing Ziplock baggies of mysterious powders into your carry-on WILL get you searched by TSA…just FYI) If I have these supplies at hand, it’s much easier to make the best choices possible, skip the worst of the available food, and still know you’ll get enough calories to keep you going that day.
As for fitness, I am a cheapskate. I use a home-gym in my normal life (so I don’t have access to a national chain) and I can’t bear the thought of paying the drop-in rate at whatever gym I can find in whatever town I’m in. Plus, the time it would take to drive, workout, drive back, get ready…I rarely have that big of a block of free time on these trips. However, it’s only laziness that will keep me from doing something during a week of travel. I can always find a place to run…it’s just a matter of lacing up my shoes and getting it done. There are also a few great bodyweight workouts I use to supplement my barbell training anyway, so I can always focus on those. (My favorite and most hated is this one from MTNTOUGH Fitness Lab…warning: it sucks!) If I could do this workout once or twice, take an extra jog, and even sneak in some pushups, pull-ups, or lunges in between tasks during the day, it will keep the body from totally slumping into the dad-bod hall of shame. And more importantly, it will keep me from hitting the mountain in September completely unprepared for long hikes at high elevations.
Hunting Without Getting Fired
So, there you have it. It’s not all the most glamorous or fun parts of the hunting experience (I still haven’t figured out how to sneak a scouting trip into my lunch hour), but it will keep you making forward progress…even if it’s a bit slower than you might like. Honor your boss and don’t burn half the day chipping away at your hunting dreams while on the company dime, but these are all very ethical ways to keep your passion moving forward while also putting in a full day’s work.
It’s easy to look at the big names in the business who do this professionally and get discouraged. Not all of us can train as much as Cameron Hanes, not all of us can spend the number of days in the field that the Born and Raised guys do…but all of us can make the most of what would otherwise be our wasted minutes with just a little forethought and discipline. Plus, I always feel better about my day if I’ve accomplished all my work stuff and also made at least some little hunting accomplishment as well. There’s no sense resenting the job that makes your hunting dreams possible, so find a way to make the two coexist…it’s a much more fulfilling experience, I promise!