With the 24 hour a day, 7 day a week access that most of us have to information, we have been led to believe that there are certain things that we must do in order to be successful in the woods. We get to read about, blog about, and watch as much hunting as we have time to give to it. The fact that I can have access to enjoy the sport of hunting just about any time is a mixed blessing.
What has concerned me to some degree is the way we have redefined certain terms and have set standards that are not only unrealistic for most, but discouraging to many. Success is one of those terms. We have been led to believe that success simply means harvesting a Pope and Young animal for the archery hunter. Or it means harvesting a Boone and Crockett animal with the gun. The size factor has been so emphasized that many successful hunters deem themselves unsuccessful.
I love being able to watch hunting shows from all around the world. I love the fact that I can learn from watching those shows and seeing how different animals are hunted. But I also can’t help but see all the hype of success being only large antlered or horned animals. Now don’t get me wrong, I hunt very hard to shoot the largest animal possible. The main difference is that I don’t determine my success upon that factor. In fact, my success is not all dependent upon the harvest.
That may seem like a foreign concept to many of you. Some of you must be saying that such a statement can only be made by someone who hasn’t harvested any large or record book animals. That simply isn’t true. Although I work diligently at every aspect of hunting, I have learned that success is dependent upon expectations which are only controlled and set by me. I know that we have expectations that are heightened by what we read and see in the current hunting world. Sometimes it is simply elevated by what our friends or hunting buddies have accomplished. But in reality, I determine how I will view each and every hunting opportunity I have been given.
My idea of success in woods has been a process of development. I have always entered the woods in recognition of the fact that the great outdoors and all that are contained within them are God’s great creation. From that standpoint, any time I get in the field is already a success story. To see, smell, and hear all that surrounds me makes my experience successful from the time I step out of my vehicle. Although I always pray and hope for a harvest while out there, my perspective begins with a success story of being able to just take in the wonder of all He has made.
From that premise comes the idea that anything beyond being able to be out there is just gravy. If I see the quarry that I am hunting, it is a bonus. If I get to get a shot at that same animal, it is even better. If I happen to harvest that animal, it is just the cat’s meow. But I really have learned that if I make hunting a pressure situation dependent on a harvest or a record book entry, I will be unsuccessful. Even though I sometimes feel the pressure of false standards of success, I have learned to keep them in check with reality. I know that I am limited by time, money, location, and talent in my hunts. Therefore I have set a standard that literally makes every hunt a success.
Now with that being said, I have established a few principles in my hunting that helped me be able to increase my potential of a harvest. Even though I truly love just being out there, and see that as true success, I would be lying if I said I don’t enjoy shooting an animal. I have also been blessed in the hunting game when it comes to the harvest. I don’t attribute that to luck and I know that I haven’t been able to just buy my way there either. I believe that my attitude of already being successful because of just being out there has increased my harvest potential. So I attribute the gravy to the following practices.
Preparation has many components. There is physical preparation. The preparation of my equipment and the use of it. The preparation of studying an area. The preparation of learning about the animal. The preparation of learning about myself. The preparation of all of the elements of the hunt that give me the optimal chance of going beyond success. Well although I really do see every opportunity afield as successful, I still enjoy harvesting game and really enjoy harvesting record book game. I just don’t define myself or my success by it.
I have found that the better shape I am in physically, the better opportunity I will have. I live at 6500 feet in altitude and I hunt often at that level or even considerably above it. One of the advantages of living at this altitude is that if I am in shape at this altitude it makes my adjustment to being higher easier than if I were at a lower altitude. And if I hunt somewhere lower it really makes me feel like I can hunt forever.
I am not an expert in exercise, but I have been an athlete all my life and have learned what really keeps me in shape. If I run consistently to improve my cardio, the results in the woods are amazing. If I am not tired from the hike in or the work to set up camp, then I am better prepared to do what it takes to put some meat on the table. In addition to the cardio, I also have learned to work the muscles that I use in my hunting. I hike throughout the summer to build up my legs. I shoot my bow often for muscle strengthening and muscle memory. I prepare these parts of my physical conditioning well in advance of the season. I have just learned that I don’t want the reason for not harvesting an animal to be simply that I wasn’t physically prepared.
Your ideas of conditioning and physical preparation may be very different from mine. My simple principle is that the better shape you are in before going into the woods, the increased opportunity you will find. You have to map out a plan for what will work to get yourself physically prepared. You will remove one of the common reasons for not harvesting game.
Another area of preparation is in learning what equipment is best for you and use it well. I spend a good bit of time researching and trying different equipment. I have found that the better knowledge that I have of any equipment combined with practice, the more apt I will be to use it rightly when needed. I read, research, test, and talk about all the equipment I use with just about anyone that will listen. I listen to just about anyone who hunts to learn about what equipment they use. I know that the more comfortable I am with any piece of equipment, the better I do with it when I am in a hunting scenario. I don’t always have the best equipment available, but I am always comfortable with what I am using. To me that is proper preparation.
Once I know what game I am hunting and where I am hunting it, then I go into another mode of preparation. I research the area I will be hunting in with maps and satellite photos. I speak to others who have hunted that area. I scout in that area when possible. I spend a lot of time in study on the area I will be hunting.
I also spend time getting to know the game. From whitetail to moose, I read, watch, and learn everything available about that particular animal. I have to wade through the realities and the false information. This aspect takes a lot of dedication and time but, I have found myself more able to harvest the animal after this preparation.
I think the hardest area of preparation that I find is learning about me. Many times we really don’t want to take good looks at who we really are and how we really function. But I have learned to look at myself in a very real context so that I can act accordingly to what I have discovered. I have to know just how badly I want to hunt this animal. I have to know what cost, both financially and physically, I am willing to pay to get on that particular game. I have to honestly assess my abilities.
Whether it is in my profession of preaching a message, coaching a game of football, being a husband and father, or in my hunting, I have found that a proper critique of who I am and what my realities are is very helpful to the outcome. I may want to hunt a bighorn sheep, but if I am not prepared to do what it takes to hunt at 10,000 feet and to be out there for 14 days living out of a tent, then my potential to harvest that animal goes way down. I have to honestly know who I am and what I am willing to do if I am to be properly prepared. Then I have to be willing to shape any hunt accordingly. If I take this step in the process, I see much greater results.
The second factor that I have held onto is determination. I know that there are many hunters who have better equipment, hunt better land, and have more ability than I do. They are just more skilled and have more opportunity in their hunting life. I have learned through the aspects of sports to have a relentless determination in just about anything I do. To hunt is good. To hunt with a sold out determination takes one beyond just good.
When I do something, anything, I believe in doing it all the way. Some of that comes from Scripture which says when you work, work as unto the Lord. I try and do all I do to glorify the Lord whether it is work or play. So in the hunting aspect of my life, I hunt as hard as I can in order to make it all I can. I do so with a dependence on God and recognition of His sovereignty, but I go at it hard.
I have found that most guys hunt easy. What I mean by that is that they don’t prepare to their capabilities. They don’t see the excitement of working hard in hunting. They want to shoot a big animal and do it as easy as possible. There is nothing wrong with a hunt that is easy, but I have learned that the harder I am willing to work at hunting, the better the results. Now
Determination to get it done. Determination to go beyond the norm. Determination to keep going when you feel like not going any further. Determination to press on when you are exhausted and tired. Just flat out determination overcomes many aspects of the hunt and allows a normal guy like me to have abnormal results.
I can’t even count how many days over the last ten years that I have wanted to stay in bed rather than get up. Then at that moment, the extra determination kicks in and I get up anyway. On many a morning just like that, they ended up in great harvests. It is that one more day, one more minute mentality. It is getting at it with all we have. Not because we have to but because we love to. Determination can help the average hunter have results that are above average.
Perseverance doesn’t differ all that much from determination. But determination really is a key factor to having one persevere. That last example that I gave you about getting out of bed is determination in action which when repeated leads to perseverance. If I continue to pursue my game with a relentless determination then I am persevering. A wise man once said “a thought leads to an action, an action repeated leads to a habit, a habit lived out leads to a lifestyle, and a lifestyle leads us to destiny”.
Perseverance is often the factor that gets the job done. If I start out with a mindset of success being the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining an attitude of joy, then every day out there is already a success. If I combine that with steady and serious preparation, back my preparation with an uncanny determination, and then persist in what I am doing in the hunting arena. I find that harvesting animals, and sometimes even really good animals, comes about even more often than I could have imagined. Perseverance is often the key.
Preparation. Determination. Perseverance. Success is already had by just being there. But these principles provide the opportunity for meat in the freezer.
Bio: Matt Guedes is a follower of Christ who loves all that is hunting. Matt resides in Mesa, Colorado with his wife and three children. He enjoys sharing his passion and experience from all of his outdoor adventures. Matt is currently on the pro staffs for Brock Ray’s World of Outdoors, Mathews Archery, Ripcord Rests, Tru-Fire Releases and Broadheads, HTA, and Schaffer’s Performance Archery. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak at your game dinner or outdoor event.