Spring is here! I honestly can’t think of a better way to start off a blog this time of year. The longer days and warming sunshine shocks the Natural World back to life and sends a shot of new energy and invigoration through our bodies as well. For many, this time coincides with the beginning of Spring Gobbler season across the country. For me, however, this time of year begins preparation for a new hunting season.
After reading the first paragraph, I am sure you are expecting a blog dedicated to food plot tips and tactics, or perhaps a super secret strategy I will implement this summer to attract and hold more bucks. Am I right? While those would be great blog topics, this blog will actually cover the opposite. Now may be the time to jump into your offseason and attack whatever goals and projects you want to get done, but I think this is the perfect time to take a step back and focus on different aspects of your bowhunting game. In this blog I will discuss 4 different aspects of bowhunting that are rarely written about, however, deserve the utmost attention from hunters from all walks of life.
So much is talked about preparing for the “moment of truth” in the deer woods, and trust me I do everything in my power to ensure that when the time comes, I will be ready. I want my gear to be dialed in and stealthily silent. I demand that my bow is equally quiet and fast as it is accurate so I can make quick, clean kills on the whitetails I pursue. Yes, I am sure you have read countless articles on physically preparing for the hunt and making sure all of your equipment is in tip top shape; but what about mentally?
Mental strength is a necessity when hunting big, mature deer. Heck, mental strength is required for the hunter who just enjoys time afield and doesn’t worry about the size of whitetail they harvest! It takes a special person to sit quietly in a tree for an opportunity to harvest an animal. Unfortunately, however, many hunters succumb to the cold or boredom and get down out of their stand too early, costing themselves precious time in stand. Bowhunting is far more of a mental game than it is physical. Sure, planting food plots and hanging stands is a lot of hard work, but what goes on in that whitetail section of your brain is far more important. For example, take a couple minutes and answer these questions as truthfully as possible:
• Do you have the wherewithal to control your emotions when that big buck is walking in and draw at the precise moment he looks away?
• After hours of searching for a wounded deer do you simply throw in the towel and chalk the experience up to bad luck, or do you keep looking until that animal is recovered?
• Do you have the patience and self-discipline to not hunt a stand on a bad wind, rather wait for the perfect opportunity and go in for the kill?
• You just missed your target buck, but it’s only 8:30 in the morning, do you stay on stand and wait for another opportunity, or go back to camp to pout and sulk about how the deer god’s have it out for you?
• Bad weather, a new work schedule and annoying neighbors have put a major dent on your hunting success this year, but there is one day left in the season. Do you give it one more try, or stay at home and watch football?
Answering no to any of the bad questions doesn’t make you a bad hunter or less passionate than the rest of us. In fact, there are many hunters (myself included) who would admittedly say no to any of those questions at some point during their hunting career. But that one time you do answer “yes” could make or break your hunting season.
Having the self-discipline to wait until the perfect conditions is a trait of a strong minded bowhunter.
If you have ever seen the Disney animated movie Cars, you are sure to recognize the following quotation, “Ain’t no need to know where I’m goin’, just need to know where I’ve been!” While not the most grammatically correct statement, few can argue against its logic. It is certainly applicable to everyday life, and conveniently applies to bowhunting as well. How many times have we repeatedly made the same mistakes in the whitetail woods? I know I have several times, and it is a real shame because taking time to reflect on one’s trials and triumphs will make for a more efficient hunter in that we will better recognize mistakes to help eliminate (okay, reduce) them in the future! Reflecting on past hunting experiences also fortifies one’s moral conviction in the woods, which I will discuss in the next topic.
Reflection is key in the whitetail woods to know how far one has come, and to recognize past mistakes as to not make them again.
Another facet of every bowhunter’s game that I strongly believe needs attention is ethics. Each decision we make in the woods directly reflects our perception of what is and isn’t ethically responsible. Just as your knowledge and intelligence about the animal you hunt strengthens each year, so should your ethics. Being an ethical hunter goes beyond the common debates of baiting and food plots and the legal consequences that should be levied to trespasser and poachers.
An ethical hunter shows a strong stewardship and respect for the wildlife they hunt, and the land on which they hunt it. This means taking ethical shots, following up on a wounded deer, protecting your hunting property and giving back to the land by any means which you can afford. Ethical hunters also show consideration to their neighbors and fellow hunters alike, regardless of their practice or methodology in the woods. By realizing that hunting is a sport to be enjoyed by all those who participate, not just for those with the most money and finest equipment, the hunting community as a whole will benefit.
Consider yourself an ethical hunter? If not, come on over to the good guy's side of the fence and be a steward for the sport we all love so dearly!
I feel as if I have saved the best topic of discussion for last. I realize and fully understand that many of you reading this may not believe in God or any other higher power. If reading of spirituality alongside deer hunting bothers you or if you are a non-believer, then I politely ask you to stop reading. If not, then simply realize the impact that Faith has on me and my hunting career.
I will, however, preface this topic by saying I do not consider myself a religious man at all. I do not often attend church, but I believe I have a strong relationship with God. I simply see too much of Him every time I go afield. From frozen CRP fields in the morning, to blood red sunsets in the afternoon, a day spent in the deer stand, to me, is the ultimate temple. The day I stop feeling one step closer to heaven each time I climb up a treestand is the day I will stop hunting. It’s an emotion I wish I could describe with words, yet relish in the fact that I cannot. I simply wish that every hunter experiences a similar feeling, and finds it from their appropriate source.
One constant throughout my bowhunting career has been a foundation of Faith through a higher power.
Spring has sprung around the country and the warm weather is a welcome feeling to this bowhunter, that’s for sure. With new life exploding from the natural world around you, I encourage you to take some out of your busy offseason schedule and focus on the 4 topics discussed above and how it relates to your bowhunting career. It may seem like you are taking a step back in your progression as a hunter, when in reality you could be springing forward!