I could use a good pep talk about now, and I’m sure there are many others out there who feel the same. This is sort of an attempt at one, or maybe its just a rant…
I get ridiculed by non-hunter friends all the time:
“What do you mean you sat in a tree for 40 hours this week and didn’t see anything?”
“How hard can it be? Deer are just mice with long legs.”
“You spent how much on hunting gear and haven’t killed a deer yet?!?!”
“I knew a guy who used to fill all of his tags the first week of season.”
Its called “Hunting” and not “Killing” for a reason. Hunting is hard, and bowhunting is really really hard.
Maybe I’m just jealous, but I’m tired of hearing about how many “Booners” you have on trail camera, or how many deer you passed on harvesting. I’m sure I’m not alone feeling demoralized by lack of success while being bombarded with giant Illinois or Iowa bucks and smiling camo clad faces.
Social media only exacerbates the issue. Not only do people have unrealistic expectations about their hunting locations, but also what qualifies as a “shooter” or “trophy.”I see this manifesting on several of the Facebook pages I follow. Its like being desensitized by porn. Hunt porn? Deer porn?
While it can be fun to live through them vicariously, hunting magazines have been beating top ten lists to death for the last 6 months, and even my favorite writers and outdoor communicators have been coming short lately. Basically you’re doing it wrong, and if you don’t do XYZ don’t even bother getting in the stand.
OK. Maybe my characterization is a little unfair…
It might feel like the rest of the country is filling freezers and shooting monsters, but you can’t even get a shot opportunity on a yearling doe. Or that the magic of the rut might as well be a fairy tale.
Don’t let it get you down. The internet and popular media outlets are phenomenal tools, but we must learn to differentiate the reality of our individual situations compared to the whitetail heavens we see elsewhere. Stay positive, hunt smarter, be creative, take risks, and try to be patient. We all have specific challenges, unique properties, and personal shortcomings. Hunting in the real world never guarantees anything.
Maybe you’ve been hitting it too hard. Take a day off to do something else. Maybe you haven’t been hitting it hard enough and its time to double down. Maybe you haven’t been paying enough attention to the weather or wind. Maybe you’ve been paying too much attention to the weather and the wind, while some other variable is at play.
Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. The more things we test, the better equipped we will be in the future. So what if you spooked a deer and it was the only thing you’ve seen all season. So what if deer are on completely different patterns compared to last year. Learn something about yourself, your gear, your game, or your hunting location every time you step into the woods.
Sometimes its fun to throw conventional wisdom out the window and just try something completely different. Never still hunted with a bow and sick of sitting in a stand? Give it a try! I’ve stalked to within 25 yards of a mature buck on dry leaves. I screwed that opportunity up royally, but its not an impossible task. Or instead of always keeping the wind in your face, try giving the deer a slight advantage in wind direction. Deer are going to travel in a direction that benefits them. Do you hunt a suburban area? Maybe you need to rethink scent control entirely.
Bowhunting has taught me to roll with the punches. Fred Bear famously stated that you can learn more in one season of bow hunting than in a lifetime of gun hunting.
We do what we do because its hard as hell. The challenge is what drives us.
Every missed deer, uneventful day, unrecovered harvest, and busted wind direction can make you a better hunter.