The Bitter Taste of Disappointment

Hunting is obviously called hunting because wild animals cannot be guaranteed. There are too many variables that determine if a hunter will be successful, and man cannot control most of them. In the average hunter’s career, they will taste the bitter seeds of disappointment several times, but when failure is experienced on a special or unique hunt, a hunter can really find out what he or she is made of. I have felt my share of disappointments in almost 30 years of hunting, and I have never taken it very well.

When I was in my twenties, I saved up some money to go on a dream hunt for whitetail deer in the state of South Dakota. I picked a guide that had been featured in many VHS hunting videos at the time, and I could not sleep for a week before the hunt. This was going to be the closest thing to a guaranteed hunt that I would ever experience, and I knew I was going to kill a monster.  I had always felt lucky in hunting situations and I seemed charmed for many years prior, but this hunt was the first time I ever felt disappointed about a hunt.

During seven long days of deer hunting, I did not even see a shooter buck. Instead of writing it off as just an unlucky affair, I took it personally. How could I pay this money to hunt where it was supposed to be a gimme, and not get one? Well, I should have asked myself how can I expect to go on any hunt and kill anything in a certain amount of time?! I did not fail, but I felt like I did. I was arrogant and selfish, but did not realize it until later on in my life. After all, I was used to suffering through the micro failures of each unsuccessful evening and morning hunt in my tree stand, but for some reason I felt picked on by the hunting gods. 

I later came to realize that it was all part of the plan called ‘paying my dues.’  Nearly twenty years later, I met a man who was furious that he had spent almost twenty thousand dollars on an Alaska hunt for moose and Grizzly bear, but he did not harvest either one. He blamed the outfitter, and called him a crook. “How could a professional outfitter in Alaska not put him on a legal moose or bear in ten days?” We all know the answer to that question, and so did he, but his pride and selfishness would not let him face the truth. Successful hunting is all chance, luck and good timing. Several factors have to line up, and we all know that, and everything we choose to do is a gamble, so don’t take it personally when the gamble does not pay off.

Finally, when you hear some unsuccessful hunter say that an unsuccessful hunt was worth it just to have spent time in the outdoors, have some sympathy for him. Not only is he not at the disappointment stage yet, but he is taking his time getting there by lying to himself.