Archive for March, 2020

Putting Pressure on Yourself

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Shortly after I got out of college, I spent every waking hour in the woods because I never wanted to end a season with an unfilled tag. I thought about it every day of the year. While many Adirondack hunters had years pass between kills, I was determined to fill my tag every year.

Luckily, I got off to a good start and filled my tag every year. As the years passed, I put more and more pressure on myself to succeed. With the added pressure, my attitude changed. Instead of going out to enjoy myself and take everything in, I began questioning every move I made. The enjoyment quickly faded without me even knowing it.

Instead, my friends and family took the heat. Since the majority of the days spent in the woods didn’t result in filled tags, my frustrations were taken out on everyone around me. I became short and irritable. If I messed up on a buck, I would take the disappointment with me everywhere I went.

As the season progressed and the deer sightings were low, I would become more aggravated. I would try harder and spend all of my efforts trying to focus on the negative events that were leading to my unsuccessful year. A few years I even went into the last weekend of the season before filling my tag, but I always accomplished the goal. I never did fail.


When I began killing big bucks regularly, I realized that somewhere along the line, I had stopped putting pressure on myself. I no longer cared whether or not I filled my tag. I let all of that go.

Instead, I focused on finding big deer and trying to kill them. Instead of coming back to the tent every evening and complaining about everything that had gone wrong, I thought about the day’s events and how I would use the information I had gained to get the job done. I was now looking forward to every day. I took the challenge and made it fun. I got to the point where I knew I would be successful.

When you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, a lot of your attention goes away from where it should be. When you are hunting be ALL IN. You can’t have a wandering mind and think about what you’re having for dinner. You can’t think about the fight you had with your girlfriend. You can’t think about where you are going to hunt tomorrow. You have to stay in the moment and make sure all of your senses are completely aware.

You might only get one chance a year to get it done, and that one chance might come and go in a matter of five seconds. If you’re not on point, you could watch your dream buck disappear over a knob and walk out of your life.

Enjoying the pursuit will help relieve the self-induced pressure. You have to be confident to succeed and the confidence can’t waver. If you lose confidence, you can find yourself going down a rabbit hole that can be hard to climb out of. Every night I go to bed during hunting season, I think that tomorrow will be the day — and I firmly believe it.

Why do we go hunting? We hunt because we want to pursue wild animals and outsmart them on their own turf. We want memories that will last a lifetime, and we want to feed our bellies with the game we take. We don’t go hunting to wander around the woods with no hopes of catching up with what we are after. That would be senseless.

If you have had success regularly, you have the skills to get the job done. It’s a lot easier to relax and have fun every day in the woods. You need to trust all of your skills, then research your memory to put the pieces of the puzzle together every day. When you gain experience, you have to use the experience to help in the future. Experience is a huge factor that often gets overlooked. Many people have different methods when hunting. Some guys do things that go against the norm, but they still get it done regularly. How does that happen? It’s because they trust what they’re doing, and they let things play out in front of them without getting all worked up about it. They know that if they keep putting one foot in front of the other, they will get an opportunity. Opportunities come about when we use experience and stay optimistic.

I encourage people to ease up on the self-induced pressure. Although many people have never played baseball, you can look at it this way: Why are some great players great in the playoffs every year, while others are absolutely horrendous? Well, it’s because of self-induced pressure. When people put pressure on themselves, their conscious mind becomes active and they get tight. When they get tight, it doesn’t allow them to trust everything they’ve trained for throughout their lives. They let external pressure determine the outcome rather than just going out there, enjoying the experience, and doing what they already know how to do.

Try to get out of your own way during next hunting season and let your experience and training lead you to the promised land of deer hunting.

Spring Scouting

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

I had gone many miles and hoped to find something that caught my attention. Just like so many other hunters, I was putting the miles on in hopes of stacking information in my memory to draw from in the years to come.

Across one stream, over the next mountain, weaving around the numerous beaver ponds in the lowlands, I never gave up. With every step, I could feel success hidden throughout the landscape in front of me. Then, looking at my watch, I knew I had to begin cutting back toward the road. Hopefully, I would make it to my truck before it got dark. There weren’t any buds on the trees yet, so getting lost in the springtime jungle was the last thing on my mind. With hints of winter still in the forest, it was only a matter of time before summer would overtake the short spring.

The sun was barely visible above the mountain in front of me, but it lit up a tree in the swamp I had to cross to get back to familiar territory. Looking closer, I noticed the tree had been shredded by a buck’s antlers. It was the only promising sign I had found all day, and the sign was good enough to make be return the next fall.

Every year, I see people posting on social media about their spring scouting. It always amazes me that people are usually in areas that they normally hunt. The sign seen in the spring is the same sign that was there at the end of the season. Why do so many people waste time in the same areas they regularly hunt when they could be making much better use of their time?

It’s probably because most people get stuck in a rut and return to the same places to hunt every year. Although I’m guilty of it, I also spend a lot of time in other areas every fall. I might spend every weekend in the same general area, but I venture into other areas throughout the week or if I have an extended period of time off.

I use spring to explore areas that interest me. I’ll put on as many miles as possible to get a good idea about what went on there during the season. It’s easy to see if a few big deer inhabit an area if you cover enough ground. You will find rubs, scrapes, runways and beds, providing you get into the areas that are most likely to support those types of sign.

Another thing that many people do in the spring that takes away from the purpose of the outing is to just go for a walk without storing the information they come across. People begin wandering all over the place without studying the land in front of them like they’re preparing for a test.

If you don’t study the topics that will appear on the test, your chance of getting an A becomes slim. To kill mature bucks regularly, you have to put in the efforts needed to ace the test. You might not always put a big buck on the ground, but your studies will usually present you with opportunities that others don’t get. Very rarely will you get an A for effort when it comes to chasing big bucks. A lot of people put in a lot of effort and come up empty-handed. You need to find the areas where big bucks work, then figure out what draws them there. You might not kill them in those spots, but you could find a hidden gem over the next hill or in the next bowl. There could be a stream crossing that funnels him to that spot, but the funnel could be more than 200 yards away.

Your eyes and gut instinct will become essential to figuring these things out. You must trust both of them. I’ve hunted with many people who tell me they never have a gut feeling. That’s not a good thing when it comes to deer hunting. Don’t create a gut feeling but listen to what your mind tells you when you wake up every morning. Your gut will almost always be right when it comes to making a choice.

This spring, instead of aimlessly wandering around the places you normally hunt, try spread your wings and explore many areas. You might end up never going back to your “old faithful” hunting area — or you might find a handful of places that can produce big bucks. Never waste time while scouting. Good luck this spring. Hopefully, you’ll find a few new places or learn some new things about areas where you have hunted in the past. You probably won’t learn much if you’re scouting an area you’ve hunted for a number of years. After three years in an area, you should have things figured out well enough to score regularly.

I learned this lesson when I was a young chap. I was 20 years old, the I killed this buck. Although he does’t have a big rack, he was a heavy, mature deer. He dressed out at 170 pounds, a great Adirondack deer. He just didn’t have the genetics to have good antlers. He was a 4 1/2 year old deer. I found the area in the spring, and I killed him during the so-called October lull the next fall.