To be a good whitetail hunter, you need a good weapon. The most overlooked weapon that every hunter has is their mind. Your mindset is your most powerful tool you can use for deer hunting. Deer hunting in my opinion is 95% mental. Between confidence, strategies, decision making and many other elements of thought, it’s easy to understand that it’s a mental game.
Confidence kills. Confidence keeps you in the ball game at all times. When you lack confidence, you start to question your abilities. You won’t gain confidence until you truly stay committed no matter what the deer God’s throw at you. You can’t wait for success to build confidence. The key is to set little goals, like sitting in the stand for a certain amount of time or scouting three times a week. Accomplishing these little goals that aren’t very hard to achieve will give you confidence. I call these stair step goals, climb the stairs and have a chance at the prize. Never expect to fill a tag every time you get in the woods. This is part of the game. That’s why it’s hunting and not killing. Most times we come home empty handed.
Becoming a good deer hunter doesn’t happen overnight. And even the most experienced deer hunters continue to get better. There’s no such thing as the top of the mountain and that’s what’s great about deer hunting. It’s a never ending learning experience whether you are a novice or expert.
Every time you step foot in the deer woods, whether it’s scouting or hunting, you become a better deer hunter. So don’t swing for the fence. It's learning thousands of little things throughout a lifetime of hunting adventures but get out there every chance you can get. Becoming a year-round deer hunter will speed up your success. I attribute a lot of my success because I scout year-round. You can read everything man has ever written about whitetails, but seeing it for yourself in the field is a different story that only you can process. And you must process it! The more time and experience you put into deer hunting will equal to the amount of confidence you have.
BECOME A GRINDER
Sometimes we get fooled when we watch how successful other deer hunters can be. It seems like the best deer hunters we know have success so easily. But that’s far from the truth, especially in the big woods. Without a doubt, the best big woods hunters are absolute grinders. Low deer populations, public land, and rugged terrain are just a few examples of the obstacles big woods hunters face. These things definitely host a lot of physical challenges but the toll they take on your mind is far greater. So you have to be strong minded to be a grinder.
I’m not saying every deer hunter has to have a grinding mindset, but to reach a high level of success it takes tremendous effort. Basically, it’s up to you on how good of a deer hunter you want to be. My definition of a grinder is someone who never gives up. Staying in the woods when you haven’t seen anything all day. Hunting in the pouring rain. Maintaining a positive mindset when things aren’t going your way. Scouting every chance you get. Those are all examples of being a grinder.
Anyone who knows the game of basketball will tell you that Michael Jordan is arguably the hardest working athlete that ever played the game. And his grinding work ethic paid off with six championship trophies to show for. If you want trophies posted on your wall, and lots of them, you have to become a grinder. It will never be easy.
EMBRACING FAILURE AND STRUGGLES
The Bible tells us to rejoice when we face struggles and challenges. It says this is how we become stronger and more effective in the world we live in. The same goes for whitetail hunters. When we face periods of struggle, the worst thing to do is to complain and get frustrated. I’ve learned twice as much from failing than I have from killing. Tough times in the deer woods are actually moments to be thankful for. This is when we should pay most attention. Take notes of your failures and never try to forget about them. We live in a society that gives failure a bad image. The most successful people in the world have all seen their fair share of failure and instead of quitting they used those experiences to become better in life.
If you had to compare the “don’t do’s” vs. the “how to’s” in deer hunting, you’d find there’s way more "don’t do’s" than "how to’s". You need to learn both sides thoroughly. When it seems like you’ve done everything wrong as a deer hunter, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It means you are on the verge of becoming great.
Passion is the greatest source of mental fuel we can use towards success. Some deer hunters have everything it takes to be great except for passion. Passion is no different than drive. It’s keeping the foot on the gas at all times. The more you love deer hunting the better you will be at it.
One of the biggest flaws I see in some deer hunters is that they are passionate hunters but they aren’t passionate scouters. Some people only have the desire to hunt and not scout, especially year-round scouting. Once the season ends, their flame burns out. In my opinion, these hunters will never reach their greatest potential.
It’s extremely important to remain passionate year-round. This is not as much of a natural occurrence as some would think. At times, especially in the off-season, my passion starts to fade. So I have to find ways to put gas on the fire. The biggest key to staying passionate is to keep your mind involved in whitetail hunting every day. Read an article, listen to a podcast, take daily hikes in the woods if you can. We tend to see our flame dwindle because there’s so many things in our every day lives that can distract us and take up our time and energy. You have to make it a commitment to yourself to keep your fire burning. I try to scout over 300 days per year, but when I miss a day, I still try to re-fuel somehow. I never let deer hunting get in the way of my family nor is it my number one priority, but it’s the one thing I strive to become better at every day I’m on this earth.
TOO MANY HOBBIES
I think it’s far easier to be good at a lot of things than it is to be great at one thing. I’d consider myself a good fisherman but not a great one. It’s not due to my natural gifts and abilities either. I like to fish a lot. But I have chosen to pursue whitetail hunting over fishing and many other hobbies I enjoy. It’s impossible to be great at everything. You also can’t reach the highest level at everything you do. I would never want to persuade anyone from enjoying the outdoors and other hobbies, but I see some lack of success due to being involved in too many things. You’ll never be able to golf, do bowling league, and play poker with your buddies every Saturday if you want to become a master in the whitetail woods. I’ve given up a lot of things because what truly I want the most is to someday reach my maximum potential as a whitetail hunter.
You can keep yourself in the best physical condition and you can practice shooting all you want, but without the right mindset, those things will never lead you to your highest potential as a whitetail hunter
Author: Exodus Black Hat team member Steve Sherk of Sherk's Guide Service