Something as thrilling and exciting as whitetail deer hunting should never become ‘old hat’ or routine to someone who really loves the sport. I call it a sport because that’s really what it is. While most people involved in deer hunting are certainly after the meat for eating, let’s face it, the underlining reason and driving force of why we go after deer each fall is because of the sport of hunting them. I don’t think we ever have to apologize to anyone for that. I don’t think we even have to explain that to anyone. If a person doesn’t want to hunt that’s their business isn’t it? I don’t down grade or talk down to anyone who doesn’t hunt. I actually don’t care.
I don’t go to speed racing events anymore. I know it’s a popular sport in America. But the noise gives me a headache. I just don’t care about watching people drive around in circles at high speeds. I don’t want to fight the crowds, sit in the heat and listen to all the racket involved in speed racing. That’s just me. I certainly don’t care if other people do it. I don’t care how popular it is. It’s just not my cup of tea. Deer hunting is. I’m involved. I’m a participant. I think it’s thrilling and exciting and I’m hooked for life.
Because deer hunting is a true passion for me I’m committed to making the most out of each and every season I’m allowed to be involved in. Of course you could make the argument that I do that because it’s how I make my living. But that’s not the real reason. I was passionate and ’eat up with it’ long before I became a professional in the hunting business. There was a time though when my passion ran thin because of my lack of success. Yes it’s true. I had gotten into a rut in my hunting experience for whitetail’s and it was not a good time in my life. I quickly turned that around over the course of a few seasons and here’s what I did to do that.
I took a deep breath and decided to be more successful. I decided to become a better deer hunter. I decided to not let my lack of success curb my desire to get out there each fall and get after the deer with enthusiasm. I forced myself out of the rut I’d gotten into. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, ‘the only difference between a rut and a grave is, a grave has two ends.’ To dig yourself out of the grave your in or rut you may have fallen into, you first have to do one thing - YOU HAVE TO MAKE SOME DEFINITE GOALS.
Set some goals each fall and then work towards achieving those goals. If you don’t have any goals you’ll be tempted to just go on like you have been doing. You’ll just stay in that rut and things won’t change for you. This works in your everyday life as well. Sometimes you have to get fed up with the way things are before you’re willing to make a change and do some different things to turn everything around. It begins by making yourself some definite goals. I’m telling you this will help you.
Even after I finally started shooting a deer every now and then, by the seasons end I still wasn’t satisfied with the end results. So I decided to do something about it. During the spring one year while I was dreaming about the upcoming deer season I simply set own and took a piece of paper out and wrote down a specific goal for the upcoming season. Here’s what I wrote down: ‘This year I’m going to kill 10 whitetail deer; 5 bucks, 5 does.’ That was it.
In my life I had never taken more than 3 deer during any given season. Of course at that time here in Oklahoma the most deer you could shoot including does was 5. I had never done that. Why in the world would I expect to somehow shoot 10 deer.? It seemed impossible at the time. But that was the number I had in my mind and that was the number that rolled around in my brain all spring and summer. I even told my wife. I wrote it down. I spread the word. I got committed to my goal.
Once you set a goal and make a commitment, then you’ve got to take some action towards fulfilling that goal. It will make you get up off your tail and get busy. It will do that if it’s a true goal about a true passion. When you set a goal, be true to yourself, true to your goal and work towards making it happen.
When you set a goal, make sure it’s a goal that you’ll have to really stretch to reach. If you shoot for the stars you may fall short but you could land on a really nice nearby planet. Set a high goal and then set out to reach that goal. Get busy. Get after it.
My wife has a lot of relatives that live in and around Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
Not 20 miles away from her grand parents house was White Rock National Forest. You guessed it. I would drop Darlene off at her grand parents house and off I would go for the day to deer hunt that large piece of public ground. One hundred and fifteen dollars got me an out of state deer tag in Arkansas and that was good for 3 bucks and 3 does. Darlene got to spend much needed time with her relatives and I got spend much needed time chasing my goal of 10 deer.
We had good friends who lived near Branson, Missouri. Nothing like dropping by to say hello and then dropping off into the Mark Twain National Forest for a weekend of deer hunting. There’s more deer tags to fill.
I had a good buddy from college who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just a spit, hop and jump from the Holly Springs National Forest in northern Mississippi. He also lived in a mansion. I had my own bedroom on visits. I made that 6 hour drive often.
I spent a lot of time on the road that fall and I spent a lot of time in the woods. I shot a lot of deer too. On every trip, on every hunt that number was always right in the fore front of my mind - 10 deer. That was the goal. Nothing short of that would do.
I hunted harder. I spent more time looking for and finding new places to hunt than I ever had in my life. I worked my tail off trying to achieve my goal of 10 deer. It was working too. By the end of the year I had taken 4 bucks and 5 does. I had actually shot 9 whitetail deer.
I was working for myself as a paint contractor there in Tulsa. When I would go into the paint store on Monday morning to pick up paint and supplies for the week, the guys at the store wouldn’t ask me what I had seen. They would ask me what I had shot that weekend. They expected to hear another success story. I usually had one to tell them. Those results were a lot different from the years before. I know it’s because I had set a goal and was sticking to it.
On New Year’s day I pulled up in front of my Mom and Dad’s house in Wagoner, Oklahoma. I was driving my Datsun 280ZX. I walked up and knocked on their door. What I had to say to my Dad was pretty interesting.
“Get dressed and throw some things together we’re making a trip,” I told him.
“A trip. I’m not going anywhere,” he insisted.
“Oh yes you are,” I said, “I’m running down to Mississippi to deer hunt for a couple of days.
I want you to go with me. You can help me drive and we can spend some quality time together.” Rolling his eyes at me, as only he could do, he barked back, “You’ve lost your mind. There’s a
snow storm getting ready to hit and you’re wanting to go deer hunting. My Lord that’s all you’ve done this fall. Haven’t you gotten enough of that yet?”
My spending some quality time together routine wasn’t cutting it with him so I just told him the flat truth, “Dad. I’ve taken 9 deer this fall. I’m one short of the goal I set. I need one more deer to get it done. I wished you go with me to help keep me company. It’s about a 9 hour drive down there. How about it?”
In less than 20 minutes he was dressed and we were off and rolling towards southern Mississippi. I killed a small buck on the first morning’s hunt and we headed home that afternoon. We drove the entire way back on a solid sheet of ice with the snow blowing so hard you could barely see the road. I didn’t care. I had accomplished my goal.
Now was it really that important for me to drive 500 miles to Mississippi to shoot one more small buck. Indeed it was. Because I was willing to give it everything I had to meet my goal, that helped me push on with my next goal and then the next goal after that.
One of the things that I’m really proud of is the fact that I have a master’s degree from Duke University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I began my academic’s at a very small Christian college in Oklahoma City, OC Southwestern. There were several other school’s I had to attend and obtain degrees from before a school like Duke would even consider my application. But I had made the goal of attending and graduating from an elite academic facility; Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Duke. It was a lofty goal that most people considered a waste of time and nearly impossible for a guy like me. I even had the Dean of Academics at Southwestern literally laugh out loud when I told him of my plans.
“Roger. No offense. But you forget I know what your grades are. You’re just not getting in any grad school with your grades,” were his remarks.
He was certainly right at that particular moment. But he was wrong to underestimate me or anyone else who sets a goal, who has a dream and who is willing to put in the work necessary to get it done. Set goals for yourself. Make them lofty and hard to reach. Then be willing to put in the work to see them through.
Another goal that I set for myself as a deer hunter was to shoot a whitetail deer in 20 different states. Now that one really seemed far fetched. But after making that particular goal I simply started working on it and every year would knock out one or two more states along the way. I had to pinch my pennies, do a lot of research and get on the road to make that one happen. I never regretted a single trip or dollar spent along the way to making that one happen as well. It took me a few years but that goal was reached as well.
I remember during the time that I was trying to reach the 20 states goal I actually went on my first bear hunt in Canada. My wife had bought me the bear hunt at an SCI auction really cheap. I was still a house painter and working on a really limited budget. In that bear camp I was talking with one of the other hunters and the subject of deer hunting came up. I remember telling him I was trying to shoot a whitetail deer in 20 different states. I also remember him looking at me like I was crazy saying, “Well why in the world would you want to do something like that?”
I just smiled and replied, “Because I want to. It keeps me from getting into a rut.”
Good deer hunting to you my friend!
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