Hanging with the big dogs requires mental toughness
|Teaching/Tips - Tips for General Hunting|
Being a female, in a primarily male world, I am faced with constant questions about my abilities to "hang with the big dogs."
I have news for my skeptics: staying tough is much more difficult than being tough.
Physical toughness is really the easy part. You are either in shape, you get in shape, you can handle a hunt or you can't. It is foolish to get yourself into situations that are genuinely beyond your physical capabilities. You can endanger yourself or worse, endanger your hunting partners or your guide.
I am faced with decisions of this sort quite frequently. Because I am female and small, my physical abilities are not necessarily equal to that of a 250-pound man in good physical condition. I never pretend they are.
On the other hand, I have been known to be up for a hunt in the most extreme weather, never complain about the circumstances or condition of the stack-out or ground to cover, and for the most part, hang tougher than most of my male colleagues.
I may be handicapped in physical capabilities, but excel in mental toughness.
Mental toughness is often much more important than peak physical condition. In order to do something difficult you simply must want to do it.
I have seen hunters quit a hunt, or a portion of a hunt. Sometimes they are truly at their limit, if that is the case, then it is the right decision.
After hiking in the cold, waiting for days on end for the right trophy, it is tough. You don't need to be a marathon runner to sit in a deer stand, but add rain and 20 degree temperatures and faith may begin to diminish.
The primary element in mental toughness is the desire to succeed. Hills seem less steep if you really want to know what is on the other side.
You have to also maintain faith.
If you are hunting a favorite hot spot then your faith is based on years of experience in the area, and what techniques are likely to obtain the best results. As in almost all hunting, nothing is sure, but if you are in a familiar place, you know how to hunt it, and it is pretty easy to stay focused.
Hunting new country is a bit different.
As most of you know by now, I am a firm believer in hands-on scouting. The search may be simple, it may be difficult, you might be successful, you might not see anything at all. But, in the end, you know the area.
Things are different when you chose an outfitted hunt. Unless you are a repeat client, you probably are not familiar with the area. On the other hand you had better have done your research on the guide outfit that you chose. Word of mouth is often the best way to find a guide outfit that you can trust.
Hunting guides are not always perfect, and in my experience there are a few real psychos out there.
Keeping the faith on bad hunt days is largely based on the degree of confidence you have in your guide.
Once you have made your choice, be prepared to listen to your guide. Most of the time the guide's primary goal is exactly the same as yours, to enjoy a good clean hunt and be successful.
You may not agree with all of your guide's decisions, and in fact his or her decisions may not always be correct, but remember you are paying good money for his or her expertise.
So use it!
Your guide has been through the season and has a pretty good idea about the area and the game movement.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, and you have the right to disagree, but the reason you are there is because you believe that outfitter can produce the hunt you want.
There may be set-backs like bad weather, decoys or set-ups that don't work, shots that get missed, or animals that just don't cooperate.
Ultimately, hunting is hunting.
You have to take everyday as it comes, one day at a time, and with adversity it becomes more difficult to stay focused and keep the faith.
As a writer I am always thinking about the story. To a degree, hunting has become a business proposition for me. There is nothing like a cliff-hanger, to come right down to the last days of a hunt before success is achieved.
That makes me nervous to a large degree, wondering if a weekend will produce a good hunt, or a good story. I have to have faith in the guides that I work with.
Many times, in hunting with a guide and a client, I opt to not take a shot, to give the client a better experience. He has paid good money for an adventure. In the end, I want a good story, with good pictures. Our hunt may be different, but our hunt is parallel. Hunting is hunting.
Towards the end of a hunt, whether it is a weekend or a month in Africa, you have to establish reasonable standards, and accept the fact that you may go home empty handed.
That is when mental toughness, and hanging tough really gets tough! It is essential to keep in mind that hunting is supposed to be fun, there are no guarantees for success, and indeed, no one will be successful all the time.
If you can't face that reality and still have fun, then you are in the wrong game.
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