MAINTAINING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Colorado draw results are out and my brother and I have finally drawn. It’s not a high point unit, but it’s a good one with some potential for big elk. Plus this year Colorado pushed back the dates so our archery hunt should be right in the heart of the rut. We’ve never hunted elk during the rut but have heard that it is a once in a lifetime thing to experience. We’ve suffered in Utah chasing them pre-rut. But we haven’t experienced an elk in full rut, screaming in our faces ready to beat up whatever it is that’s trying to steal cows. So to say that we are excited would be an understatement. Nothing can go wrong and nothing can get us down.
Maintaining a positive attitude should be easy on this one. We went in at the beginning of the hunt and scouted an area that looked really good. We found some bachelor herds and were optimistic that in a few more weeks things would be hot and we would be right in the middle of some elk rutting action.
Fast forward a couple weeks and we are hiking around; silence all around, not an animal talking, hot weather, and not a clue how our supposed ideal rut hunt was going to turn out. But we had scheduled an entire week to get it done and that was our goal. I’m sure like most of you reading this article you’ve experienced the highs and lows of hunting. We experienced the lowest of lows. But what made it possible to feel the highest of highs at the end of this hunt was maintaining a positive attitude and a constant effort.
I reached out to a few of my buddies who are good solid dudes, and great hunters. They hunt hard, have had success, and have the grit necessary to keep on grinding through the lowest of the lows that hunting and life have to offer.
When asked how he stays positive while hunting, Ryan Bassham of Sitka stated this:
The misadventures of hunting manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Often referred to as “the lows.” Those moments can lead us to question everything from our pre-hunt preparation to those quick decisions that are necessary during the moment of truth. But if a hunter is mentally prepared they can bounce back quick and leverage those “lows” in a positive manner to achieve the eventual “high” or success that we all yearn for while afield.
Facing adversity while hunting isn’t a question of if, but when. If you mentally enter the field knowing the possibilities that could lead to missed opportunities or failure it is easier to process those “lows” if you’ve already gone through the mental exercise of accepting it, learning from it, and then persevering. Find the positive rather than the negative. If we’ve been unsuccessful we shouldn’t become discouraged. Seek to understand why and what you learned from that and use it as encouragement going out the next time.
He brings up some very good points. The “mental game” is extremely important. Getting your mind right so that you have already gone through certain circumstances in your mind before they actually occur will help you to bounce back quicker when it actually happens. The mind is an extremely powerful tool. This can help in someone’s hunt or be extremely detrimental. If your mind is strong and prepared for the hunt then it can help you power through those low times.
We were seeing very little rutting activity. They would talk a bit at night almost taunting us, just to stop an hour or two before sunrise. We would get in close just to have them go silent when we thought we were within their territory. Chances didn’t come on any bulls in the first seven days of our hunt. We were in a very low place. Thoughts of heading home early and sleeping in began creeping into our minds. But we kept on going, despite the bleak situation we were in.
BIG PICTURE EXPERIENCE
I next reached out to one of the most inspiring people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. I saw his Instagram feed and immediately wanted to be better. He even inspired me to sign up for an Ironman 70.3. He helped me through my training and to overcome my weak mentality. I got to see him on the course during my running portion and he again inspired me to keep on going and finish the race. If you need some inspiration in life go find his Instagram page @tri_nofeet. He’s not only a triathlete but a husband, father and hunter. When I asked Sidney Smith the same question, he responded with this:
How can success be the drive for your motivation? First of all, how do you define success and failures when it comes to hunting? Is it killing the biggest bull on the mountain? Or having the title of the best hunter around? Is it getting the most likes and comments on social media? If this is what motivates you, in my opinion, your of motivation will not last. Bottom line there will always be someone better than you and there always will be a bigger bull to kill.
Success should be viewed as the experience. Yes, a harvest is the goal, but it doesn’t always determine success. A failure CAN be a successful hunt. Failure and rejection are only the first steps to succeeding. Learn from your failures and turn them into a positive stepping stone to success. Every hunter makes mistakes, but the ones that make the least are the ones that have learned this lesson. Stay positive always! You’re hunting! Most people don’t get to or are able to do what you are doing. Keep the big picture in mind.
Keeping perspective on the hunt can help your mentality. Always seeing the bigger picture and realizing that you are hunting and seeing some amazing places and having experiences each day that are giving you experience. My brother and I kept digging. Looking for ways to hunt these silent animals. We ended up finding success in still hunting the areas where we had heard them in the middle of the night. We would walk slowly, stop and glass often. This is what ultimately payed off and helped us to be successful.
We had just stalked two spikes, (we were pretty desperate and willing to go after anything) when they disappeared and we couldn’t track them down again. We were in a good area so we decided to descend the mountain and do it as slowly and quietly as possible. That’s when we spotted him. Stopped in the shade facing uphill towards us looking directly at us. We froze and watched him. The wind, for once, wasn’t blowing directly at him so I don’t think he really knew what we were. We were 105 yards away with no shot opportunity. He began walking and a cow call stopped him, but wouldn’t bring him any closer to us.
He began walking again but at a slight angle up towards us and to our left. There was a stand of thick trees to our left so I began sneaking through the trees trying to be quiet. As I broke through the tree I saw him still angling towards me. I got the range finder on him and he was 86 yards away. A quick cow call stopped him in the perfect opening to at least give me a chance. It was at the edge of my effective range but we hadn’t had any other opportunities so I drew my bow, anchored and let it fly. Just as I released he started walking. The arrow hit but it looked like it was a little low and back a bit.
We ended up waiting three hours just to be sure and began our search. We found little blood so we weren’t very optimistic. But we kept trailing drop by drop. We got to a point where we lost the track. My brother was down on his hands and knees searching and I was at last blood. I looked up from the ground and there he was about 10 yards in front of us expired under a tree. We did it!
The emotions that ran through both of us were intense. We experienced the lowest of lows and at that moment got to feel the highest of highs. This was a tough hunt. But keeping that positive mentality, and persevering through all of the hard things that we faced, payed off in the end and we were rewarded with an extremely amazing animal. Keep your head in the game no matter what you are going through. You never know when things will change, and they could just make your entire hunt.
What are some things that you do to keep yourself going when the times get tough?