We have all heard 10% of hunters harvest 90% of the game. It seems to be true as we see the same guys being successful year after year. The odds of this happening on luck are astronomical so what is the secret? While I don’t think it’s just one thing there are certain traits, tendencies and a certain tenacity the majority of these ten percenters possess. I believe archery hunting on public lands is one of the toughest challenges out there! You want something to test your will to succeed and to build character; step out into the mountains with a stick and string with the goal of arrowing a trophy. Bowhunting has a way of throwing every challenge in between you and your goals. Figure out how to overcome these challenges and you are well on your way.
No Quit – My biggest asset as a bowhunter can be summed up in one word, PERSEVERANCE! Honestly this is the key to my success. Sure I am in good shape, I am a decent shot, I am proficient at stalking but those can all fail me. The one thing that never lets me down is my will to succeed. It has waned here or there and definitely has been tested but I continue to believe I can achieve my goals in the backcountry. I keep going and I keep pushing doing everything in my power to create opportunities.
The Power of Positive Thinking – A big part of keeping your head in the game is your attitude. The minute you start to get down on yourself or junk the hunt, you’re headed toward failure. You have to be a glass half full guy and be the eternal optimist. Believe over that next ridge there are trophy critters. Believe that if you spot an animal even miles away you can close the distance and get in close. Know inside you have what it takes to execute your shot. This constant belief that success is just around the next corner is what drives you to keep trying.
Love the Pain – You have to learn how to embrace the grind! It takes constant effort and constant exertion on a hunt. I picked up a saying somewhere about endurance sports that you have to get comfortable in the pain cave. Part of the fun of a tough hunt is that it’s not going to be fun all the time. It’s fun when you look back on it and extremely rewarding. Think about endurance runners, they are not having fun all the time in fact they are miserable and have to push through the pain a lot. They love it because of the feeling of accomplishment they get when they finish. Get comfortable in this state of misery and grind through it. Nothing feels better than reaching a tough goal but you are going to have to endure to get there.
Mental Toughness – At times you are going to want to quit but it is important not to give in. There will be challenges and hardships that you did not see coming. It’s important to find your motivation and overcome these feelings. I focus on my next move and try not to dwell on it too long. I draw from past tough hunts and from my grueling training. I tell myself I have been working hard and waiting for this all year, how can I quit and go home early? So don’t throw in the towel, learn how to overcome your doubt and keep after it.
Always Ready – Even though you cannot anticipate every challenge you will face, you do want to prepare yourself for the possible ones. Nature is one that you know will throw some curveballs at you. Make sure you have the correct gear to weather the storm. Plan and test your clothing to know it will get you through heat, cold, wind, rain and snow. Have a good shelter and warm enough sleeping bag to survive gnarly storms. Make sure you have your pad and then a patch kit in case you poke a hole in it. There is a reason the military uses sleep deprivation as a form of torture, it works. If you’re not getting a decent amount of sleep your mood and demeanor will change and it will get tougher to persevere. \
Get Over It – One of the biggest challenges I face is a failed stalk or a missed shot. These feel like a dagger when you are on a tough hunt. You have worked so hard to get an opportunity or to get close just to have it slip between your fingers. This is a hunt killer and is inevitable in bowhunting. You have two choices, quit and go home or keep hunting. The quicker you decide to get over it and move on the better off you will be. You can’t have that stalk or shot back, the only thing you can do is control the next one.
The Other Guys – Another challenge we public land hunters will have to overcome is hunting pressure. We all hope for drainages all to ourselves with no other hunters but sometimes that just is not the case. It’s a challenge not to get discouraged when seeing other hunters but you just have to deal with it. I am willing to stay in a pressured area longer than other hunters and eventually the pressure subsides. When I am hunting pressured spots I like to grab the best vantage points to keep tabs on critters and also hunters. You can see animals tucked away and see if hunters are onto them or giving chase. I will avoid the situations where other hunters are after them and look for animals that no one else is on. Also, I am not afraid to move or find other country that holds game. Don’t let it ruin your hunt or get you down just adapt.
Be A Problem Solver – As with any problem or challenge try to adapt, evolve and overcome. Don’t dwell on the problem, focus on the solution. There is always an answer you just have to come up with it. If the ground is too noisy, stalk in late afternoon when the winds are stronger and cover noise. If bucks wind you on the lea side of a ridge, try stalking early morning or late evening when the thermals pull down the draw. If the herd bull will not come in to calls, look to stalk in. For every challenge there is a solution, you just have to be creative enough to come up with it. Where there is a will there is always a way. Look for a different approach to solve the puzzle that is western hunting
I am just an average guy who does not have money backing me, special talents or some private ranch. I just have this dream of being successful on our public lands and have worked hard to evolve and become the best western hunter I can be. Through the trials and tribulations and even failures I have taught myself what it takes to find consistent success on trophies. The same is possible for everyone reading this. Put in the work, then once season is on go hard, be mentally strong and get yours!