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Have you got a big game plan?

Look at the details.

There’ll no doubt be plenty of chatter already about ‘bagging the big one this year’. But have you and your mates talked about how you’ll make it home safe? Now is a great time to learn from previous years’ mistakes and consider the ‘what ifs’ so you can come back to share the stories and the venison.

PLAN TO MAKE IT HOME

Dream big and plan bigger! Here are some questions to get you started: Where will you go, what will you take, and where will you set up camp? Is there someone who’s been there before who can give you more detail? Whom are you going with and how will you all keep in contact? What are you all after? What experience do your Roar mates have and how fit are they? Are there rivers or difficult areas of terrain you need to consider? Who’s the trusted contact for your group? Who has the permit/access and who else will be around your area while hunting?

Make a solid plan together. Clearly communicate with the group if you plan to change course or switch to your alternate or emergency plan.

Think about your firearms. When is the last time you shot? Re-zero your rifle every year. Write down the drops for each range and tape them to your scope or stock. Help spot for your mates. How will you transport and store your firearms safely?

Get fit. Be honest about your current fitness level. For a long day in the hills with gear to carry, you should build up your leg strength, balance and shoulders to help you go further and avoid an injury.

Refresh your kit. Check your gear; is there anything needing upgrading? Has that old rain jacket got one more year in it? How is your battery supply? Are you prepared for an unexpected night in the bush? Don’t forget your hi-vis gear – help other hunters see you and rescuers find you if something goes wrong.

DURING THE HUNT

When you’re out there, be sure to ID your target beyond all doubt. This is a life-or-death consideration. You must be 100% certain you’re shooting an animal. A few questions to ask: Are you sure of your target? Why are you sure? Have you seen the whole animal? How many spikes does it have? What sex is it? Is it really what you’re after? Is it a person?

Once you can answer these questions, you’re ready to pull the trigger.

Though your heart may be racing in excitement, make it a habit to take the time to positively identify your target. A mistake from a hurried and haphazard identification can happen to anyone – experienced and inexperienced alike.

There are stories of someone’s pale legs being mistaken for a whitetail’s rear end; a brown jersey was picked as a deer’s back, a faded hat as a shoulder. None of these are a correctly identified target. You must see the whole animal – you must be sure. A spotter can help with this – talk about the range; talk about what you’re looking at. Most of all, help confirm the target.

In 80% of mis-ID shootings, the shooter and victim were in the same hunting party. In 92% of mis-ID shootings, the victim was less than 75m from the shooter. None of them thought it would happen to them. If you’re splitting up from your hunting party, you must have a plan to stay out of each other’s firing zones.

LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF OTHERS

I thought I was going to be fit enough – I could march around all day in the office and walk up a few hills for sure. But, without good leg strength, I lacked balance in river crossings and rough terrain. I felt too shagged to make smart decisions in route-finding and even felt I lacked good judgement when we encountered any potential game.”

I allowed someone in my group to leave without a communication plan – they’d gone off to a gully they ‘liked the look of’. In their feverish rush, however, we had no plan of how to communicate with them or really see where they went. We ended up having to cease hunting for hours and wait for them to return safely before continuing. Next time, we’ll stick together or go over the mapped area and strategy in much more detail. I’ll also speak up next time someone has a bright idea such as this.”

I got casual – when returning to camp, we always unload our rifles and tell each other we’re ‘unloaded and safe!’ After a long week of hunting with each other, we got casual, tired and stopped this process so we could get our boots off as soon as possible. Upon reflection, this lapse in diligence could have ended in a fatal mistake.”

The Roar season requires some serious planning. There will also be more of you out there in the bush. Plan big and clearly ID your target, and you can make this your best and safest Roar yet.

For online resources to prepare for your Roar head to mountainsafety.org.nz

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