Tips for keeping a hunting and/or fishing journal

Keeping a hunting and fishing journal is something that has been on my list for a long time.

I’ve been trying to keep a journal, with varying degrees of success, for the better part of the last four hunting seasons.

2020 was the first time I committed to making a proper outdoor journal a reality. As of this writing, I’ve been on 126 fishing trips, 17 hunting trips and enjoyed seven dip netting sessions that year.

This past year, I was able to continue the trend of success by completing another yearly journal.

I also regularly found myself going back to the 2020 edition for tips and ideas. It was an incredibly valuable tool. It even settled a couple friendly disagreements.

Throughout the years of trial and error, I’ve discovered a few tips that have helped me stick with it. I’m hoping these will help you as well.

Recognize the importance

Keeping an outdoors log is a great way to preserve memories. But it also provides you the chance to step back and look at the big picture and make decisions accordingly.

Maybe you are fishing or hunting the same spot a little too often. Perhaps a certain bait works well in the morning, but doesn’t seem to produce in the afternoon. Spot A is more of a sunrise spot, while Spot B is better just before dusk. The last time a front came through, the action was best before the rain, not after it.

You’ll be surprised at the trends that come flying off the page when you revisit your journal. These can help set you up for future success.

Make it easy

The simpler it is to access your log, the more likely you are to continue using it.

Pick a medium that works for you. It could be hand-written entries in a notebook or full-blown spreadsheet.

I keep my journal in a Google Sheet. This allows me to access it wherever I go by phone or laptop.

Start early 

I’ll admit, this year’s journal did not start with the first fishing excursion of the season. However, it began to come together after my second trip. 

Beginning to record as early in the season not only helps ensure accuracy and the ideal level of detail for your entries, it also begins to form the habits necessary to keep up with your log throughout the season. 

If you get too far down the road without forming these habits, catching up can be tough, if not impossible. 

Be consistent

While any data or observations can be useful (we’ll get to that in a moment), consistency is key.

Before you begin logging, identify the types of information that are most important to you. Then do your best to record that information on each and every trip.

For instance, my fishing log entries consist of: the date, time I was fishing, body of water, target species, number of fish caught, baits I was using, weather conditions, and a section for relevant notes and observations that may be helpful in the future.

This will make comparisons easier and will help the trends become more apparent.

Get detailed

The more detailed you can get with your entries, the better.

Don’t assume that future you will remember a key piece of information. If you’re anything like me, that tidbit will probably get lost in the shuffle after a few more trips and disappear forever. Jot it down while it’s fresh and save yourself the trouble.

Details bring the story to life and can help spark additional memories that may be useful or simply enjoyable.

On the first day of the open water season, I saw a handful of deer across the bank. This was an unusual sight, so I noted it in my log. This little note, while not relevant to fishing directly, helps bring forth a more vivid recollection of the location, weather, time of day, etc.

But not too detailed

While details are crucial, don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of you completing a journal entry.

Any info you can give your future self could prove to be valuable, even if it’s not complete.

Don’t get discouraged and work with what you have. You’ll thank yourself later.

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