View Full Version : Mental Toughness?

05-12-2012, 02:25 PM
I can't help but correlate sports to hunting, particularly mental toughness.

Spring turkey got the best of me this season, I gave up before the hunt was over and of course I went home empty handed.

I remember reading an article once that you have to expect good things, ie that 6x6 elk is going to be around the next hill, etc... and I usually do think positively and expect good things to happen, even though they often don't.

So I'm curious if any of you out there have thought about this, and if so how you fight off defeat on the 10th day of a bad hunt, etc... bottom of the 9th how you manage to stay tough?

of course I realize some hunts I'm more focused than others, as well different years/times, whatever is going on in my life can affect my hunt, as for sports, with time and training I feel you can increase your mental toughness as well.

I guess I would like to get to a place where I can give 100% for an entire hunt every time, but I'm not there yet, are any of you?

Also I'm somewhat sure when life is going well being mentally sharp during a hunt becomes a bit easier.

If you have any tips or personal experience you'd like to share, I'd be curious to hear your perspective.

05-12-2012, 03:55 PM
I just think about how hard I work in the preseason and if I quit I'm cheating myself. You need to have a good mental toughness before you get out of the truck. It's hard but being in good mental and physical condition is a must.

Old Hunter
05-12-2012, 05:01 PM
I never think about it. I'm having so much fun I can't imagine cutting the hunt short.

Maybe if you try to enjoy the hunt itself more, and don't get discouraged if you aren't getting a kill. Pace yourself, and have fun.

Colorado Cowboy
05-12-2012, 05:07 PM
As you get older, your prospective on hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports goes thru some changes. I have been what everyone now calls a "hardcore" hunter (and fisherman too). But I am now 70 and I can't do a lot of the physical things I used to do. I have to push myself (and do) and do more mental preparation. I have been a competative shooter for over 50 years and have learned a lot on how to prepare mentally for what is my goal. When I played college football, I depended on my physical strength to perform at a high level. The mental aspect of it came when I got hurt. Last fall I did a wilderness elk hunt in Wyoming to celebrate my 70th birthday. 33 mile, 9 1/2 horseback ride to get to camp. Up everyday at 4:40 and not back to camp until 8:30 at night. I had to prove to myself that I could still do it! Thats where the mental part came in, especially at 4:30 AM when they woke us up each morning.

I try to visualize what I am going to do, before I start. I guess everyone has their own way to prepare. I especially use this technique when I' m at the gym working out. I learned this when I started shooting many years ago, it has served me well.

Joe Hulburt
05-12-2012, 07:00 PM
Eat well, keep hydrated and don't get too carried away early on and blow yourself out.

Do everything you can ahead of time to prepare for success so that you have the confidence you need to stick with it.

Have fun! If your having fun and getting to hunt your not going to want to head back to work.:)

05-12-2012, 07:32 PM
I agree with the advice; dont push so hard your wasted. There is a limit with fatigue where your mind and body will only want rest, at this moment a person starts to question the idea of pushing on. Know this limit in yourself and stay on the sunny side of it. When I personally push myself over the edge, i then fall back on reminding myself how much I will regret giving up early.

I have killed alot of animals on the last day of a hunt. I have known alot of hunters that have made kills on the last day, last hour, of the season. This makes sense too, because near the end you are more likely to be hot on the track of the animal. You have become more in tune with they ways of the prey, and lay of the land. The odds are highest for success at the end of a hunt, IMO.

05-12-2012, 08:25 PM
I agree with Old Hunter and Colorado Cowboy. Its mostly about your perspective, and having some fun. I don't have any expectations when I hunt other than enjoying myself. The weather, your physical shape, what you are eating and how much sleep you aren't getting can sometimes pull you down, especially on long hunts, but you can do things to prepare for that before and during the hunt.
I also feel that what personally defines a successful hunt to a individual plays a role in there attitude, and subsequently whether or not they may or may not stick it out. I had an experience in the past where the hunting was tough and 2 other guys were ready to give up after a couple of days because they felt the area was no good, so they left....quit....their heart wasn't in it, the fact is they had unreasonable expectations, they expected to see elk right away and expected to kill one right away, A buddy of mine and I stuck it out, our attitude and expectations were different....we were just glad to be gone hunting, enjoying ourselves whether we got an Elk or not. Our results were different also, we took 2 bulls on that trip.

05-12-2012, 09:51 PM
Now that I am on the back side of 50, to be mentally tough, I have to get good rest and eat good meals! If it is just a 3 or 4 day hunt, you can stay focused for that many days pretty easily. When you start hunting past 5 days then I start to get worn out mentally. I combat that by taking a morning or evening off to catch up on what I need. Maybe just hunt close to camp so you are still hunting but you get to sleep longer and eat a relaxed meal instead of the rushed meal. Sit in the sun, boil some water and take a shower, hang all your clothes out to dry and get them descented. Just relax and be ready for the next encounter

05-13-2012, 12:01 AM
Good rest,meals. Have fun and enjoy being in the outdoors and take alot of photos and it's not just about the kill{get over it the sooner the best}you will have more fun.I have found alot of neat stuff while hunting i.e. old wagons,minning stuff{pioneer days} trappers cabins.traps and so on.

05-13-2012, 06:21 AM
Excellent post.. And much more difficult to give a blanket answer. I think a lot of this has to do with how much you hunt too. I used to hunt 4 days a week from September 1 to November 28th, and then another 2-3 days until Jan 15th. Mental toughness was awful late in the season, neglecting your family, work and even questioning how your prioritize life if you hunt this much and again it's a worthy note that I have a young family. My previously employer didn't care about how many hours I worked as long as I produced but then I got a new job and now had vacation and was limited to only 5 weeks a year (awful by the way :)) so now I know how valuable the time is, so staying focused is easy.

I guess what I'm rambling about is evaluate your hunting style, maybe consider fewer hunts and have a more concentrated focus on quality ground. And last, keep your wits, stay to your hunting style.

05-13-2012, 06:47 AM
My example is for hunting MN whitetails, but since this thread is about mental toughness, I think it still applies. Here in central MN, our archery season is about 105 days long, and mature bucks are almost non-existant. The average age for deer killed in MN is 1 1/2 yrs, and the area I live and hunt in is the most heavily pressured area in the state. Most years I'll hunt on average 100 days. What keeps me going is that I tell myself this each day 'If I don't go hunting today, I could miss that one opportunity of the season, and that would make all the previous days hunting a waste of time'. Granted, I do enjoy just being out there, but some days are harder than others to get out of bed.

05-13-2012, 07:17 AM
For me it is enjoying every aspect of the hunt regardless of a kill or not. Taking in everything you can from the the quietness of the woods to every animal you might come across, to every sunset, to every sunrise and to God for making it all possible. I find it a great time to reflect on life in general and what I can do different to better myself and my family for the years ahead. Don't get me wrong I usually come home with meat to put in the freezer but it is really just a bonus because I enjoy all the other aspects of it. I wouldn't even have to hunt and could be helping someone else and it still be just as rewarding for me.

05-13-2012, 10:02 AM
I have had trouble with this topic in the past. I have found that I would push myself beyond the breaking point and giving up. Questioning myself why do I take vacation time to work harder then I do at my job and just fail to go home empty handed and needing a vacation from my vacation. Also having other guys hunting with you that are also in the wrong frame of mind will make this issue worse then it is with your own self.

I've found over the last 4-5 years that has helped me to get proper frame of mind starts well before the hunt. For me it starts with getting into shape. Hiking, biking, treadmill, stair stepper and eating rite. When I started to prepare myself for a hunt in this way I found that it was the lack of stamina that was causing the mental drain. I read in David Longs book about how guys can go out and hike their buts off for a couple days and have a good attitude. But when the third morning of getting up at 4am, not locating animals, lack of sleep, low quality food and the physical strain of hiking that they start to break down and by the fourth day they don't want to get up and hunt anymore.

This was me! I was the first guy to get frustrated and ready to go home and bring down the moral of my hunting partners.

After seeing a few articles about getting prepared for hunting and I saw a Red Head show on TV with a older guy that drew a Dall Sheep tag. He was chubby and did mostly White tail hunting. When he drew the tag he set his mind to getting himself into the best shape of his life so he can give a 110% to this hunt. He worked out, lost a ton of weight got physically fit and mentally fit. In the end he killed a great ram. Even now when I do see him ocasionally he is still in great shape. I decided I needed to do the same

I now start about 2 months before opening day and get myself into the best shape I can. Doing this has made all the difference in the world for me. When my stamina is there, I'm able to hike to we're I want to go, recoupe quickly when I stop to take a breath while hiking, finding myself miles down a canyon looking up to the top of the mountain were I came from knowing I have to go back up my mental attitude is positive, I know I can do it and that I won't be exhausted the next morning and that I can do it again. Eating properly and drinking alot of fluids while hiking also makes a huge difference to me.

I have also came to the conclusion that it's a hunt not a kill. I know take time to look around and enjoy we're I am in life and in the field. Instead of stressing out over getting to the next ridge as soon as possible and finding the game. Taking pictures, sitting down with a good vantage point with good friends and taking my time in glassing and BS'n about nothing and SLOWING down makes my know why I take a vacation to go hunting. I have enjoyed the last few years of hunting and for me it's all about being physically and mentally prepared, they are one in the same for me.

Old Hunter
05-13-2012, 10:38 AM
I learned in the past about getting up early, and what it does to your energy. When the energy goes, so does the attitude.

So, in July I start to get up at 4am. I'm dragging at first, and i'm glad I don't have to go hunting. As I adjust the the time I change my mountain hikes from late morning to closer to 4am. By the time hunting season comes i'm adjusted to getting up at hunting time, and i'm full of energy from the first day of hunting. I'm also adjusted to eat breakfast at 4am too.

Altitude can drain your energy too. I live at 8000ft, but I go on hikes at 11,000-12,000ft throughout the year, but especially the last two weeks before the hunt.

Even at my age with good preparation I can hunt everyday of a hunt and not feel tired. As long as I pace myself. Good food, good exercise, good fresh air, and a good attitude will keep you going for the whole hunt. Don't forget to have good fun too. :)

05-13-2012, 10:10 PM
For me, i think mental toughness is a direct result of physical toughness. If i'm in good shape before and during my hunts my body has the physical ability to take me where i want to go which makes the mental game a whole lot easier. Having the ability to stay focused is huge, if you can "stay in the game" mentally and physicaly throughout your hunt usually good things happen. When your body starts to break down so does your mind. Keep the machine "your body" fed and watered and the rest will become easier.

Also outside distractions play a huge role in your ability to stay focused during a hunt.

05-14-2012, 11:16 AM
wow thanks guys!

much better responses than I was expecting, wasn't even sure anyone would respond, or with anything longer than 1 sentence, keep them coming.

05-15-2012, 08:31 PM
I feel that mental toughness comes from facing challenges and/or adversity that you have overcome at some point that makes you stronger, mentally, physically, and spiritually. What may seem a challenge or adversity to the initiate or beginner, may not even raise the eyebrow of someone that has more experience. I also feel that the reasons that you self impose the challenges and adversity in front of you regarding hunting can either make you a better hunter or may lead you to a different sport altogether. I personally don't feel that hunting correlates to any other sport. Most sports by and large are competitive, we are playing against someone else for a variety of reasons, whether for fun or for profit. To my own mind, hunting is very personal sport or avocation, a pursuit, something that we don't play against another human being, that not only challenges us quite differently from most other sports from a physical aspect but, also an emotional and spiritual one, It has it's own unique challenges and adversities, which each of us have our own reasons for pursuing, or not.
I have asked other hunter's in the past, and more recently my son-in law after a few days of tough hunting, when their gloom starts to set in due to a multitude of reasons from weather, to a lack of sleep.... "why do you hunt?...."if you are that miserable or tired, why are you still here?... The common response is "I don't know!" I think that the toughness part comes from definitively knowing why you are willing and ready to accept those challenges and adversities and being prepared for them before you go afield not during.
I also feel that the rewards that you have, whether it be a fine animal at the end of the trail or having figured out how the wildlife is using the habitat you prefer to hunt or having just enjoyed a day afield without a rifle should be considered successful.
I hope that your future hunts are very successful,

Just my humble opinion,