Monday, September 5, 2011
The Mental Game
I just read a good post from my friend Mark on his site Sole Adventure about what is one of the most important parts of hunting. What he wrote was spot on and got me thinking about the fact that it applies to most of where we succeed or fail. Somehow his post got sidetracked a bit in the comments left to include martial arts which I happen to know a little something about. His thoughts were most people fail in hunting due to being less prepared in the mental part of the game not in the practice or prep area. Let’s face it anyone can go buy good equipment if they have the money and then go practice to the point of stacking groups this means exactly zero if you won’t stay in the stand or set up in the wrong spot.
As I read this I thought back on how many times I have seen hunters leave the woods so close to the same time I could almost set my watch by them. 9:00 o’clock would come and you could hear and see hunters headed to their trucks. Most were gone for the day but the few that came back would show up about 2 hours before dark, maybe, to trudge in and wait for the magic hour in hopes of catching a critter coming through. Over the years most of us learned to stay put waiting for this and letting them push deer to us. Worked far more than those early birds knew.
In martial arts it is the same, people that are quite capable of doing a technique will just quit when faced with it, not from lack of ability but what they lack mentally. They convince themselves that it is too hard, they aren’t ready, they will look goofy, whatever. Hunters convince themselves deer will only move earlier, breakfast sounds good, they didn’t sleep enough, on and on. I am convinced that deer pattern us like we do them and these hunters are a main cause.
Being old and having hunted with some true diehard hunters that knew their stuff we often had this conversation. It boiled down to how many times we sat in stands while others left after a morning of seeing nothing, then after the woods quieted down a bit here the deer came. It might be 10:00 or it might be 1:00 but deer were moving when most of the hunters were gone. The biggest bucks I have had a chance at were at midday, both right after lunch. The first one I had gone to the truck to eat and decided to walk back in as my buddy went to nap. I wasn’t there 10 minutes until a big 8 walked by checking a scrap line. A week later I made sure to be easing along a logging road on the same ridge when another big 8 stepped out at lunch time. Everyone else was at the truck eating or sleeping.
When I hunt public land this comes into play even more. The mental toughness to keep walking when I want to stop and hunt, the ability to stay on stand past when I would rather go home, the will power to stay there after some numb nuts walks in on you then goes stomping off. I tell people that hunt public land this one tip, if you are walking in to hunt and want to stop, keep walking another 100-200 yards. Why? If you wanted to stop there so does everyone else. We aren’t that different and we will all go to about the same lengths. So it is up to you to be mentally tough enough to go that extra distance, up the next hill, over the next creek, past where everyone else will stop. This, to me, is where success lies, up that next hill, over the next creek where the other guy didn’t have it in him to go.
Unlike shooting I have never found a way to really teach someone how to be mentally tough. It is one of the things you have to find in yourself and is a major achievement when you do. On Mark’s site I posted a comment about how it takes 1000 repetitions to learn a technique and 10,000 to master it. This doesn’t mean just muscle memory but the fact that you have to commit time, energy and even your mind to the process. To push past where most would say good enough or simply give up, there is where things will change.
This fall when you go to the woods try putting your watch where it isn’t easy to get to. Stop looking at it every couple of minutes which just makes things worse. Stay an extra hour or two past when you would normally leave, go back in an hour earlier, see what is going on in what is normally your down time. If you hunt public land take the time to get a bit farther from the truck, past where other quit and let them push deer to you. Plan ahead with some food, something to drink, maybe a book to pass the time, anything to help you push past the spot where most head home. Who knows maybe Mr. Big will come strolling though when everyone else is sitting at home watching some ball game. Which would you rather have to talk about on Monday, what you did and the big buck you dropped or what a bunch of guys playing a game that could care less if you are alive did? Me, I’m going to the woods.
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