Bowhunters dream of hunting season year-round. It’s on our minds as we train, scout and prepare in the offseason. But once the season opens and we’re hunting hard, it’s easy to get tired and feel burned out. In fact, that happens to most bowhunters at some point every year.
Feeling burned out doesn’t mean you don’t love hunting. Often, it’s a matter of physical or mental exhaustion. Bowhunting usually means early mornings and late nights for days on end. This lack of sleep makes you tired. Hiking for miles in pursuit of game is physically exhausting, especially in bad weather.
Mental exhaustion is also at play. Hunting day after day without any luck is a true test of endurance. Juggling hunting with normal life responsibilities like work, school and family can become overwhelming, especially when you’re spending more time than usual apart from loved ones at home.
Here are some ways to battle burnout and push through to success.
If bowhunting stops being enjoyable, take a break. This can be hard to accept for some hunters, particularly when the season is short or if they feel like they need to prove something. However, sometimes taking an evening or weekend away from the treestand to spend with family is exactly what you need to recharge. Time away from the field will have you itching to get back out there.
Boredom can trigger burnout. Switching things up can yield inspiration. If you’ve spent the season sitting in a treestand,try hunting out of a ground blind. Or take your shot at spot-and-stalk hunting. It provides an opportunity to stretch your legs and see new areas.
Small-game hunting is a great way to spend time in the woods during hunting season and practice your bowhunting skills. Popular small-game animals include grouse, squirrels and rabbits. Small-game animals are fun to hunt and provide some tasty meals. Check the regulations in your area for bag limits and season dates. Some bowhunters always carry a flu-flu arrow in their quiver, or an arrow tipped with a blunt, judo or other small-game point, for those chance encounters.
Success isn’t always about punching a tag. Every outing is an opportunity to grow as a bowhunter, so try to learn something new. Improve your abilities by identifying signs like scat, rubs, beds, scrapes and tracks. Practice identifying mast trees, forbs and other food sources. Learn to identify birds both visually and by their songs. All of this will not only help pass the time, but it will make you a better outdoorsman and therefore a more skilled bowhunter.
Hunting partners can share a special relationship. They can pass on knowledge, take each other to special spots and provide support when the going is tough. If you’ve spent the season alone, call a friend and get out together. Even if you can’t hunt together, swapping stories and kicking around ideas can help inspire you for the days ahead.
Bowhunting provides many life lessons. It requires practice to master the skills necessary to make an ethical shot, and patience to wait for a shot in the field. Often hunters talk about the mental toughness it takes to be successful — pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Mental toughness means sticking out the season, even when you want to give up. It means being out there, even when the weather is cold, wet and miserable, or hiking the extra mile to put yourself into the best position for success.
When you’re staring down burnout and want to call it quits, the ability to persevere is what creates the dedication needed to be successful. This is also a skill that when learned and put into practice will help in many other areas of your life.
Burnout can happen when you’re shivering in the treestand or the wind is whipping you in the face in the high country. But you’ll miss the discomfort when the season is over. The ability to be present and enjoy even the uncomfortable is a gift.
Hunting season never seems to last long enough. It sounds cliché, but enjoy every moment you get to spend afield. One of the best aspects of bowhunting is that the tide can turn any minute. Isn’t it always when you let your guard down that the big buck walks by? Or that you spook something during a moment of making careless noise? Whether it’s by taking a break from the field to recharge or by pushing yourself to keep going, overcoming burnout is a critical skill for every bowhunter to learn.