When I interviewed a black bear hunter in Alaska one year and asked him why he was so successful at killing trophy sized black bear in areas that anyone can hunt, he told me had a simple formula for success that he did not want to share. I thought he had some secret baiting formula or tiny hotspot that nobody had found yet. After pressing the issue, he finally spilled the beans and gave me his secret that wasn’t really a secret after all.

In matter-of-fact words, the hunter told me that he simply puts barriers between himself and other hunters. He explained how most people are lazy and don’t like to walk great distances, but even if people are willing to go out and hike, they are less likely to cross creeks, rocky ridges, rivers, heavy brush areas and other nasty and formidable places. So, it made sense to him to find at least one of these barriers (preferably two of them) and cross them to start hunting. The advice was genius and so simple.

I was impressed with this hunter’s common sense approach to gaining an edge on other hunters and I thought about it on and off for a couple of years until the time came when I needed an edge on hunting caribou one year. I was hunting an area that was a walk-in area only and there were plenty of hunters around. A friend and I decided to cross two small rivers and start hunting about four miles away from the two barriers. We had the place to ourselves and ended up with a couple of nice trophy bulls. The pack out was not fun, but it’s over now and I would do it again.

Barriers are not just something that can be considered for hunters to beat the odds. A savvy hunter can look at a good topo map and identify features that might be barriers to animals. If you can pick out some natural barriers that might affect the way animals travel though a hunting area, you should be able to gain a strategic advantage.

Besides the obvious act of using barriers as an advantage in hunting, there are also somethings to beware of. Many rafters have died from unseen barriers because they did not adequately scout their river. Thin ice can be a barrier and shallow streams can become barriers when flash flooding occurs. Nature is full of barriers, so be careful and be smart for your future success.