Hunting by oneself is not a big deal, unless you are hunting in mountainous country like Colorado. Now, it becomes a serious event because hunters die here every year. Most of these deaths were caused by ignorance and complacency and probably could have been avoided. Since this topic is extensive, I’ll briefly cover some highlights that top the list of frequent mistakes and common sense issues. For starters, one should not overlook the valuable information contained under the menu topic of Tips.
1. Let someone know where you are planning on going each day. If you are camping alone, make that information easily available at your campsite in case someone comes looking for you. If plans change at the last minute, you may want to make your ultimate destination known by placing a note inside your vehicle. Of course, this is highly subjective because most hunters don’t venture very far from their vehicle and lots of hunting spots are one-canyon/drainage areas. In these situations, where you are going is usually indicated by the vehicle’s location. However, many hunting areas are only perceived as small but may in fact have multiple-canyons/drainages that cover a vast range.
2. Know what you are up against and don’t be ignorant of your environment. Do your homework and know the lay of the land by studying maps, taking notice of landmarks, use a gps, and always look back to where you came from. It's also a good idea to carry a compass in your pocket and take multiple readings throughout the day. If you do get lost or you get in a situation where you can't see any further than your hand, you can take a compass reading and know the exact direction of roads, your vehicle, etc.
Many hunters get lost because once they get ready to go in for the day, they turn around to head back to where they came from and everything looks different. This may not be a problem while it's still daylight and clear skies. But, once there is rain, clouds, snow, fog, or even dark, then everything begins to look different. Also, don’t get so caught up in the heat of the hunt and not pay attention to your surroundings – pay attention!
It’s well known that drainages lead out of the mountains to civilization. Depending upon the drainage and conditions, following one of these out may not be a wise choice of self-rescue. During the wintertime in Colorado, wind blown snow accumulates in lower valleys making it impossible to safely navigate. At other times, rainfall and snowmelt may make steep mountainsides hazardous for travelling.
3. Be prepared. Most people that die in the Colorado mountains are not found way out in the boonies, but are typically very close to people and rescue. Yet, hunters go out in the woods with very little other than the basics. With a few exceptions, hunting in Colorado is not like backpacking where every ounce matters. So, carry enough extra supplies (see Tips), which will only add a few pounds to your pack, to ensure you can safely spend a night or two out in the woods if need be. Also, don’t let this concept of ‘being overnight in the woods’ be so foreign to you that it brings chills up your spine. Go ahead, make the plunge, and spend the night where you hunt on any given afternoon. And, don’t take any additional stuff – only take what you normally carry. There’s nothing to fear or to be insecure about. This will help you overcome the mental dread that causes most to panic when it does happen.
4. Help others help you. If you ever get lost or get caught in a situation that is bigger than you can resolve, then giving in to the urge to self-rescue can be detrimental to your health. The local county sheriff’s department handles search and rescue efforts along with a group a highly trained and dedicated volunteers. The best thing you can do to help them is to not exacerbate the situation. For example, don’t wander around and leave multiple sets of tracks that seem to lead to nowhere. Stay put in a place where you can easily be seen from the air, try very hard to build a fire, and do whatever you can to stay warm and dry by sheltering yourself as much as possible from the elements.