Ever watch an Olympic skier preparing for a run? He or she stands behind the starting gate, eyes closed, going through the motions of the upcoming run, but standing in place. It’s a strange sort of dance. It’s called visualization. You see in your mind every detail of an upcoming event. Then when it happens, your performance is perfect because you’ve rehearsed it so many times.
Hunters benefit from visualization. When that giant black bear suddenly materializes at the bait, all of your actions must be second nature. Pick up your binoculars, judge the bear, pick up your gun or bow, sight, hold steady, make the shot, and a clean kill—all need to happen almost without thinking. Of course, you must never take your mind off safety, but everything else should flow like it’s happened 10,000 times before. That’s because it has – not actually, but in your mental preparation.
It’s especially critical to develop such familiarity with your hunting optics — binoculars, spotting scope, and riflescope. You should know the location of the focus adjustments by feel. You should know which way to turn the dial to increase vs. decrease magnification. Your riflescope should be mounted precisely to maximize eye relief margin.
Varmint hunting, especially prairie dog shooting is terrific optical rehearsal for big game hunting. Few other forms of hunting are as optics-intensive as prairie dogging. You’re searching for tiny critters at l-o-n-g distances. Between spotting scope, binoculars, and riflescope you spend more time with glass to your eyes than without. Out East, shooting woodchucks is a perfect substitute
Familiarization trips are even more important if you’ll be hunting with “new” optics in the season ahead. If you can’t go varmint hunting, then take your new binoculars and spotting scope on your spring scouting missions for turkey. Lacking that, even go to a wildlife area or local park and view wildlife through your optics. Make yourself do the adjustments without looking. Get the “feel” of where everything is at and commit it to mental and muscle memory.
Then when you’re in your blind or treestand you’ll be able to operate from pure instinct – and you’ll have less to think about, allowing you to focus on judging that bruin … and picking your spot … and making the shot.