Putting Pressure on Yourself

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.

4 Responses to “Putting Pressure on Yourself”

  1. Paul Waytkus says:

    Boy Todd, it sure is amazing how we change as we mature in the Whitetail woods! I read this and said man he hit it on the head. I feel the exact way now! Where as I use to put an amazing amount of stress on myself. I found that so many Co-workers and other Hunters expected me to kill a good buck or two each season, LoL ! I would put so much pressure on myself and get so miserable when it was a tougher season than others. I do believe it made me a better hunter but also it made me question my sanity! Good read buddy! It hit home. Paul

  2. Don Therre says:

    I still do that occasionally although not on your level but as an average hunter. This Fall I had that big one I posted a picture of that I really wanted to harvest. I had that 5 second opportunity you talked about. Lucky for that deer I happened to be looking the other way. The window for a good open shot was gone. I could’ve taken a marginal shot but had too much respect for the animal. It still bothers me. Twenty years ago it would’ve bothered me a lot more. I’ve matured and the experience of seeing a deer like that was a wonderful memory. I hope he made it through. I believe he did. Maybe I’ll have another opportunity. I won’t lose any sleep over it. However my anticipation for November in the ADK’s and the Southern zone have never been higher.

  3. John says:

    I did basically the same thing you described I would be on a Drive or on a stand and would be visualize that big buck coming down over the hill for poking his head out of the Pines or running across the field and I always got that book be there in about 10 years ago I stood honest and I thought this is crazy I’ve been in the woods with my life I love it I’m with some of my best friends while I hunt classmate from high school friends family I always had this idea I got to kill that buck that day I thought to myself no more I got to be one of the luckiest people around I live in a good area has lots of hunting grounds friends that own Farms a good job good family and I actually thought about it this is the best part of hunting just getting out in the woods with the gang or by myself because the work actually starts when you shoot that deer not that I would mind but why make more work for myself if I don’t have to so my whole attitude changed I would get out and hunt and if I didn’t get a deer. That season I’m good with that but if I did get a deer I’m good with that too the price at that point came out to be but I was alive I was happy in the woods and I was amongst my friends and it just don’t get any better than that. PS since that year that I made that decision I had gone 10 years prior that without shooting a deer getting the rifle that fits me and being lucky enough to shoot a buck every year since how’s that for karma

  4. admin says:

    Great story, John. Thanks for sharing.

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