LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
It’s been said that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. But is there honestly such a thing as hunting too much? After all, the key to punching tags is spending as much time as possible in the treestand, right? I want to challenge you this month as we roll deeper into hunting season to hunt smarter. Watch for the signs that you’re hunting too much. Your family, wife, and the whitetails you pursue will certainly let you know when you’re stepping across the line of hunting entirely too much.
Pressure to Produce
Turn on one of the several hunting channels on TV, and you’ll quickly find networks full of shows and hosts that are obviously struggling with the pressure to produce. Their actions, followed by excuses, are enough to make you sick. Hunting standards rise and fall around whether or not the producer has enough footage to “make a hunt.” But let’s be honest. We’re all susceptible to it to some degree. We see our buddies and other people on social media outlets with their success photos, and we feel the pressure within us to produce some punched tags of our own. So we hunt harder. We climb into the tree more often. We hunt even when the wind direction says no. The problem is that our reckless passion to produce can have a devastating impact on the very critters we pursue. The pressure to produce eventually catches up with all of us.
Think about it. You hunt harder and harder, yet experience less and less deer activity. Whitetail deer are the slickest big game critters in the country. They will not tolerate sloppiness from hunters. You must continue to hunt smart with each trip you make to the woods. Remember, hunting harder does not necessarily mean hunting more often. It means hunting better, smarter, and making the most of your hours on stand. When deer activity on your property seems to be growing slim, ask yourself what role you’ve played in causing that to happen by adding unnecessary pressure through your desire to produce.
The pressure to produce year in and year out can cause hunters to lose sight of the bigger picture, which often upsets the delicate balance between family and pursuing our passions.
The Cost of Sacrifice
My buddy, Zeke Pipher, tells a story in his book, Man on the Run, about an old hunter that was nearing the end of his life. The old man loved to share hunting stories and show off his hunting photos when Zeke would visit with him. But sadly, these trips down memory lane were often cut short by the brutal reminder of how the old man had sacrificed time with his kids in his effort to be successful in the deer woods. Despite all the trophies in photos and on the wall, he found himself full of regret at the end of a long life.
Let me be clear when I say this….our kids don’t give a rip about all the bulls, bucks, and limits of ducks we kill if it means we aren’t spending time with them. I cringe when I hear guys in the industry boast about all the sacrifice they make to be successful in the woods, as if they are some kind of rock star. I honestly don’t care what equipment you shoot, how well you shoot, how many days you spend in the gym preparing for the hunt, or how many trophies you have hanging on the wall…if it cost you your kids, you lose. I don’t want to be that loser.
I’ll never forget what my daughter said one morning after I spent a late night out on the lake bowfishing. As we sat and ate breakfast I excitedly showed her photos of the big fish we had shot the night before. Her response? “That’s great Dad, but you weren’t here to tuck me into bed.” Those words cut deep. I was speechless.
Are you hunting too much? Just ask your kids. Their face will tell you the truth the next time you tell them you’re headed out to hunt.
Bucks Vs. Brides
Of all the people that can best answer the question, “Am I hunting too much?” few will shoot straight with you like your spouse. I’m a lucky man. I married a beautiful woman that supports my hunting career. She didn’t grow up in a hunting family yet she knows hunting is way more than just a sport or hobby for me. But at least once a season she graciously lets me know that I’ve been hunting too much. I can usually pick up on it without her even having to utter a word. It usually comes about the third week of November after weeks of pounding it hard in search of rutty bucks. It’s at that time I realize that I’ve allowed my passion for bowhunting bucks to win out over the pursuit of the one person on this earth that matters most.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a guy at the end of a long day at a hunting tradeshow years ago. With tears in his eyes he shared of how he had come home from hunting camp and caught his wife messing around with another man. When I asked him how long he’d been in hunting camp and away from his wife, he cluelessly answered, “Three months?” While this guy’s absence from home doesn’t excuse his wife’s behavior, the bottom line is he was failing at home. No buck on this earth is worth our marriage. Again, no matter how good a season you have and how many buck tags you punch, if it costs you your marriage, you lose. Are you hunting too much? Just ask your husband or wife. They can quickly help you figure that one out.
This season has the potential to be the best of your hunting career. Great opportunities and killer equipment are within reach like never before. As always, you can count on Bowhunting.com to be your go-to resource for bowhunting gear, tips, technique, and info. But if you’re looking for long-term strategies for success, both in the woods and at home, I challenge you to answer the question for yourself, “Am I hunting too much?”