I was taught to hunt by an old guy who had a saying for almost every hunting scenario. He’d say things like “If you want to hunt a bear, you have to think like a bear,” or “You can’t kill ’em from the couch,” and on and on. But one that always seems to come to me, especially as I start out on the first day of archery season is this: “When you think you’re going slow enough, go half that fast.”

And that’s the best advise I’ve ever been given. The famous tracker Tom Brown Jr. was known to be able to actually stalk up and touch deer… true story. The bottom line is that if you’re going to spend all the time, money and work it takes to get to your favorite hunting spot, there are a few tips to make it all worth it before someone says, “Well, it’s the last day of the hunt.”

Hunting for me is purely spiritual and as “kumbaya” as that may sound, let me explain. I have spent enough time in the woods to know that there are two types of hunters. The first is the guy who is so amped up on coffee and testosterone that he can actually scare the leaves off the trees as soon as he picks up his weapon. This guy is hell bent on killing something and everything in the forest knows it. Remember, wildlife is more sensitive and aware than we can possibly fathom.

That kind of energy scares me. I fall into the next category. I love archery hunting because I have to be at the very top of my game. I have shot more deer on the way to my blind than while in it because I do a couple of key things that many hunters don’t think about. First, I get up way earlier than I need to. This gives me time to get the coffee in, do a little meditation/visualization of what I plan to do, have a small breakfast and wake up. I’m not in a rush and that makes my energy less intense when I walk into the woods.

As I move along, I am always at the ready. I think of the walk to my spot as an opportunity to connect to nature, to become fully aware of my surroundings and as sort of a grounding before I reach my intended hunt spot. I note the wind, paying attention to how it shifts. I have plenty of time and I utilize it to my advantage. I also find the time to be grateful for the opportunity and even ask nature to guide me. You’d be amazed at how your mindset gets translated to nature (this stuff is scientifically proven).

Moving along further, I pay close attention to my course. I don’t walk down roads or trails where I am exposed because I know that I am seen by everything. I have done some good scouting so I have a route planned ahead of time. I weave through the trees at a snails-pace. I stop often and listen. I may stop for 10 minutes sometimes and just focus on what I see, hear and smell.

All along the way, I use my intuition, which I have refined over the years. If I have a feeling that there’s an animal in a certain spot, there usually is. It’s a mind game with the deer and yes, I do have to think like a deer. It’s still dark and when I find a shooter, I sit and watch. I visualize my stalk and know exactly what I need to do before I actually stalk up close enough to get a shot.

Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I spook it. But remember that I am still on the way to my spot. If it bolts, I try to picture where it might have gone so I can come back. I am still, quiet and continue. When I finally get to my spot, I have done so without disturbing the woods. Now I can wait (maybe an hour or more) until I get an opportunity. I now am completely in the zone and it’s all because of my mindset and that I worked my way along very, very slowly and quietly. I came to the party calm, awake, aware and grateful that I get to do what I love more than anything. The best part is that when I return to camp, successful or not, I remember why I am a hunter.   

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