This is a guest post from Wired To Hunt reader and freelance writer Mike Dwyer
When I was younger I tried to keep a daily personal journal at various times. I was always impressed when reading about some historical figure whose journal allowed future generations to gain some insight into their character. Unfortunately I found that I lacked the dedication to make entries on a regular basis. I still do not journal daily but in recent years I have been successful at maintaining a limited hunting journal. There is no right or wrong way to do this but there are some basic strategies that can benefit the hunter who wants a record of their hunts and wants to use their journal to chart their progress from season to season.
The journal itself can be anything from a binder full of blank paper or a handsome leather-bound journal from your local store. A notebook works just as well. I also recommend grabbing a good pen and maybe a pencil for drawing maps. Below are some ideas for different types of hunting journals but this list is by no means complete. Journals are as diverse as the people who keep them.
The Detailed Journal
If you like facts and numbers and have a good mind for details, you can create a basic template that allows you to record the specifics of your hunts. If this is your preference you can find templates online but my suggestion is to create your own format in Word or Excel. In doing so you can make sure your journal captures the details you find relevant. In my experience deer hunters are among the most scientific when it comes to trying to figure out what their quarry are doing from season to season. For the deer hunter, your journal may include items like your stand location, temperature, number of deer seen or perhaps your observations about rutting activities. For the waterfowl or turkey hunter you might want to capture details about wind direction and what routes the birds are favoring on a given piece of property.
The beauty of the detailed journal is that you can change your template for each game species. Whether using a template of your own design or one found online, the easiest way to capture each hunt is to print the page, fill it out when the details are fresh in your mind and keep them in a binder. You can customize this with a colorful cover page that can be slipped inside the front pocket. Some other ideas for the detailed journal are notes about ammo and what types of food plots you are hunting over. As previously noted, there is not right or wrong format.
The Memory Journal
Hunting is often about camaraderie. We hunters are a tribal lot and for many of us feel the best part of hunting is making memories with friends. For a memory journal you want a format that allows you to collect all of the things that made the hunt special. A blank page can be filled with notes about who went on the hunt and a record of the experiences you shared together. With a memory journal it should almost read like a good novel. Use your journal to tell a story about your hunts. A funny quote from someone in the blind or recollections of the perfect double you shot with grandpa’s old shotgun. Memory journals can also feature a scrapbooking component and there are zippered pouches you can purchase that allow you to collect physical memories from your trip. Tear off the lid from a box of shells and write a note on the inside about how well they performed. Put in the brass from the deer round you took this year’s buck with. A buckeye you found while scouting or even a band from a bird (if you don’t want to put these on a lanyard).
Memory journals should also include pictures whenever possible. This is where it’s worth taking the extra step to get those digital photos developed. Written memories go best with a visual record of the crew you hunted with or the game you harvested.
The Review Journal
This is a sort of hybrid journal that is great for folks like me that don’t have the habit of journaling with regularity. Instead of reporting every trip, I like to do a ‘season review’ after each game season ends. I will write a few pages worth of notes, talking about the best hunts, what worked, what didn’t work. I will often sketch maps of our setups on a given day if we were particularly successful. Luckily I am blessed with a good memory for those kinds of details but if you are not, the important thing is to capture your overall impressions of the season. I find this kind of high-level review to be invaluable when I re-read it the following season. As an ancillary part of this process I recommend making side notes about you want to do differently. My entry from this past waterfowl season noted, “Need to make sure there are duck decoys in the water every day when we goose hunt. Saw lots of mallards but they wouldn’t commit to landing once the sun came up.”
Because the Review Journal is a hybrid approach, you can also include details and/or the kinds of memories you don’t want to forget. I will usually note who I hunted with and what kind of ammo I used during the season. I also try to be self-critical and discuss how well I shot or where I am lacking in the fitness department. These details will be the foundation of next year’s planning.
The Digital Journal
With the constant presence of digital devices in our lives there are plenty of ways to use this resource to our benefit as hunters. Satellite imagery, online plat maps and a host of apps designed for the modern hunter can all improve our scouting and hunting strategies. There are also many digital journals available for download on your phone or tablet. Ducks Unlimited offers a waterfowlers journal as part of their available apps.
Creating a hunting journal is a step that may seem like too much commitment at first but the beauty is that you don’t have to answer to anyone about how it turns out. It is a very personal thing and it should reflect your own preferences. You will also find that once you start journaling you become better at it. After a few seasons you may just become addicted. Throw your journal in your glovebox and don’t be surprised when you start to using it in the off season as well. Hunting journals make great companions on scouting trips or simply serving as a quick fix when the next season seems far away. If nothing else, that hunting journal may be a beloved keepsake for future generations, and they will thank you for it.
For the comments section: Do you keep a hunting journal? What format do you use?
Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.