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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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,