To this day, the standard hours in one day equates to 24 hours. For most of us hunters who like to maintain a certain level of proficiency, we struggle to find time to keep the rust from building among our perishable skills. So how do we combat Father Time to make more time for the hobbies that we enjoy outside of work? This is a question I've been asking myself with the ebbs and flows of the seasons. At one point in the year, I'm a really good archer. Then, at another point in the year, a good rifle shooter. But what about those times where I'm not very good at either? How can I maximize my time to stay proficient and not “fall out” of tune?
Most of us are adults and, with that, comes these little things called “responsibilities.” As I draft this article, I'm also wondering when I'm going to find time to vacuum the house, work out, edit some photos, shoot my bow and do some dry fire practice in the garage. Oh, and I have to figure out dinner for the wife since she will be home late from an appointment (brownie points for me). There is never a shortage of things that have to be done. There is also never a shortage of things we want to do. I don’t have children (yet) and feel like I still don’t have time to accomplish everything I want to throughout the day. I can only imagine adding the additional responsibilities of a couple of rugrats. If we want to take hunting more seriously, then we must sacrifice and manage our time more efficiently for the means of an end goal whether that’s to become in better shape or become more accurate with a bow.
Making a plan and sticking to it is my go-to when approaching this battle against the clock. For me, I believe the most effective way is going to be writing it all down on a piece of paper and building a living document that will require some tweaking throughout the first few weeks. I will make two columns: one labeled “need” and the other labeled “want.” This “need” column will include things, such as work, studying, working out and errands/chores. The second column will include “wants.” Wants will be activities, such as bow or rifle practice, woodworking, truck tinkering, etc. Putting everything on paper will give me a real idea of how much is on my plate. From there, I can dive deeper into my time allotments and will implement dashes of training into every day or every other day.
For instance, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will include 30 minutes or shoot approximately 100 arrows for archery release training. Every Tuesday and Thursday I will include 30 minutes of positional rifle dry fire training. Weekends I will leave as a “free for all” just because I will more than likely be hunting, hiking or adventuring with my wife. Writing it all down will make for a good baseline to begin a training regimen when I can't seem to find time in my current schedule. It will take a bit of adjusting and small sacrifices must be made; however, looking at the big picture: it's not so bad. The hardest part will be getting started and, most importantly, sticking to it!
Like we touched on earlier, there is only 24 hours in a day and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Therefore, we need to be realistic in the goals we set for ourselves when making these daily plans/regiments. If you are like me, (I have four or more main hobbies and work 40 or more hours per week) then you know you need to prioritize them accordingly. Sure, there will be times where it may be more convenient for one over another, but we all have our favorites. We need to stay within reality sometimes to build these daily/weekly schedules. For now, just pick two areas of focus. For example, my personal focus areas will be archery release training and positional rifle shooting. After a couple of weeks of training, I will reassess my schedule. If I have time to implement another task, then I will do so or if I feel like I can't add another task, then I will build a rotation of my top three to make sure I'm not letting the rust build-up.
Another area where my wife and I have had the good fortune to use is asking for help. Sometimes, we get tunnel vision and think that we don’t want to burden others with taking care of our dogs/kids or check in on the house when we choose to leave town. If you want to go on a hunt, camping trip, vacations, etc., then it's good to build relationships with those you trust to give you a helping hand every so often. We are fortunate to have work friends and local family to help us out when we choose to adventure. The same can be applied to your day-in and day-out training routines. Maybe not having someone watch your kids all the time, but you can ask every now and then for an evening away to shoot bows with your buddies or go for a weekend camping trip with your wife. Coordinating with your spouse or significant other will help when planning as well; don’t leave them in the dark with a spur of the moment surprise and expect them to drop everything. Just remember that these are give and take trades. Paying people for their time is popular; however, keep in mind that they may also ask for your help down the road. Keep the relationships healthy — this will open up a good amount of time for you!
The last piece of advice that I know will be tough for some people will be to limit screen time. Whether it is a phone, television or tablet, these devices have an addicting way of keeping use engaged. They have their benefits; however, for the most part, there is an ample amount of time we spend on our electronics that takes away from our spare time to accomplish something more important rather than endless scrolling. I will be putting my phone away from my bed at night and picking up a book on Montana or war history. This engages a different part of the brain that improves memory, vocabulary/comprehension and reduces stress. I’ve also made a rule that if there's a moment on my days off where I want to watch a movie or TV show I will think of ways I can better my time. We all need time to decompress and, yes, movies and shows are a great way to do that, but with the amount of engagement on electronic devices in the modern era I think this is an area where most of us can find at least an hour a day to focus on personal betterment.
I believe most of us can agree on one thing: that life can be hectic and overwhelming. I also believe if we are going to make ourselves better hunters then we must continue positive progression in the small amount of spare time that we either have now or have to find within our schedules. I hope this helps you as much it helps me. If you have suggestions on what you like to do to maximize your spare time be sure to include it in the comments.