Does deer hunting work on a cycle for you? Let me explain. Sometime in the late summer, you uncase your bow. Dusting off the cobwebs, you begin your first practice session. After a few rounds, your mind begins to drift to dreams of the woods. Then the weather changes, and you start getting excited about the hunt.
The season starts, and you drive your family crazy with whitetail banter. Even your friends at work know where you are on your vacation days. After a few dead hunts, frustration sets in, and your excitement dips. Then the saving grace of the rut kicks in, and you're a nut job again.
Gun seasons come and go, and the late season closes. You might start thinking about sheds or turkey hunting with the season closing. But maybe your mind is roaming because of burnout. It's easy to do when you let your mind drift to low places.
Of course, we all need mental breaks. But even in dull moments, a small amount of upkeep can go a long way to remove frustration from your season. Keep your season fresh by reading one 5-minute article per week. Use 10 minutes of your time once or twice a week to e-scout. Maybe listening to a podcast weekly; all these things help give you an edge.
Did you ever try to do all the house chores in one day? Slam your breakfast, throw in a load of laundry, tidy up, dust, vacuum, do the dishes, wash the windows, take out the trash, mow the lawn, and trim the hedges. You probably tried to squeeze it all in to spend the rest of the week doing fun stuff with your family. But do you want to have family time after a long day like that? Most humans would vote no!
It's better to spread those things over a week to allow time for other things. Of course, sometimes you need to get things done. But in general, balanced time is the most healthy.
Hunting is the same way. If you make it an all-day, every day affair, you might get bored and are more likely to burn out. Here are some ways to spread your time and balance your hunt.
I love my family. My family loves me. I love big bucks. Sound familiar? It's not that your family doesn't love seeing you happy; it doesn't mean they don't want you to kill a big buck. But they sure do want to hang out and learn more about you. They crave the investment of your time.
Prioritizing family time during hunting season is tough when you mix in balancing the hustle and bustle of daily life. But your family will love you anyway right? Probably, but they don't have to!
Here are three quick tips to make your family happy to have a hunter in their home. Trust me; it's not because you bring home the most expensive "free" organic meat known to man.
If you're married, have parents, or even have a close friend, you know that honesty is the best policy. Be honest with your spouse and children. Tell them why they are important to you and then follow it with your action. But also tell them why hunting means something to you. Make sure they know how hunting has helped build your character.
Decisions you make for your family aren't like the mental battle you have when choosing a tree for your hunt. Be wise when making your decisions! Of course, you deserve to hunt, but your family deserves to have your attention too. Talk to your kids about the things that are important to them and coordinate with them as well as your spouse. They are probably interested in the things you like to do as well.
Set expectations if you're planning a big-time out-of-state trip, and ensure they know the details. When your kids know you have a vested interest in the things they love, they will be excited for the times you're out of town. Build a plan with your family that will be good for all of you during hunting season.
This one is hard to swallow for me because it used to be one of my worst habits. So often, I would tell my wife, "I'll be home around noon." I'd arrive home around 1 or 2 o'clock only to find her pretty upset. Rightfully so! To me, it made sense. The fish were biting, or the deer were moving; you know what I mean because I'm sure you've been there.
Here's the best policy: under-promise, over-deliver! Don't try to impress your family by making them think you'll get home early. 99% of the time, you'll be late. Telling them, you're going to be home by 1 or 2 o'clock is a better idea. Then when you show up on time or, even better, at noon when you had planned, it will have a good impact on your relationships!
Are you taking vacation time during hunting season? Look through a wider lens than just a day off to hunt. You might need the next day off to process the meat if you kill an animal. You could keep it on ice until you get home from work the next day. But one thing that will wear you out quickly is squeezing your schedule to do large jobs in a short amount of time.
What about crazy times like the holidays? Your family could use you in the hustle and bustle of visiting relatives and all the traditions. If you took two weeks for hunting, I'm sure a day or two for your family during a time like this is time well spent.
Stay On Top of Your Skill Set
Cramming for a test might be an old college habit. But cramming isn't the best approach for bow hunters. Bow hunting has many intertwining skills that take time to develop. Learning about the animals you choose to hunt, getting close enough to make a shot, how to climb a tree, how to layer clothing, setting cameras in the right spot, and being a proficient archer, you get the idea.
If you start making a list of things to learn towards the end of summer, you're already too late. Does that mean you can't go out and have fun? Of course not! But it would help if you considered safety and ethics.
For example, I ran out of time this year to practice my one-sticking climbing method. Could I do it in the field? I sure could, but right now, it wouldn't be without compromising my safety. Not to mention I'd make a huge racket and probably not see a deer anyway.
Think about some things from the introduction. Five minutes of your time to look at maps every day. Three shots from your bow on your back porch. One hunting strategy article a week to improve your knowledge. These things give your season a better balance when the time comes.
Are you short on finding time? Did you know you can add one week to a year by waking up 30 minutes earlier? That's like a whole vacation for some.
Work stinks, but you have to have a way to support your family, pay the bills, and buy hunting gear. The only thing I can say about work is to do the job to the best of your ability. If you do that, even when it's not easy, it can be beneficial. Maybe your boss will want to reciprocate your actions.
Other indirect good can come from working hard as well. The more people that get to know you and take an interest in hunting, could gain an appreciation for the sport. We want to represent bowhunting with the type of respect it deserves.
As a result of this article, I hope you don't think I'm trying to be your therapist. I've lived through some of these things and learned much from my experience. Most of my hunting buddies will tell you that I have it pretty good.
You have to do what works for you. But if you want a balanced hunting career and a balanced home life, make a conscious effort. Every time a conflict comes around, don't brush it under the rug. Think of ways to improve, communicate, and adapt. You may become a better hunter, partner, or friend.
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member