How to Fail Upward as a Hunter

by Braxton Taylor

Fail upward? What kind of corporate jargon is that? How could this possibly help me become a better hunter? Hear me out.

Every hunter that I know with at least a dozen seasons under their belt goes through a natural evolution. That evolutionary path is different for everyone because everyone has a slightly different situation and different personal goals. For example, you might come to a fork in the road after having some success here and there, but never consistently filling your tag. You might shoot a nice buck every single year, but there’s a burning desire deep in your gut telling you to challenge yourself to find a bigger one next year.

A more extreme example is a hunter who wants to move on to different experiences, perhaps heading west to become proficient at elk hunting, backpack mule deer hunting, or maybe you’ve taken great interest in furbearers. The journey is different for everyone, the one constant is embracing change and pointing yourself in a new direction to see what new adventures might await.

Set New Goals

If you’re looking to change the trajectory of your fall, it all starts with defining what you want out of your time afield. That means establishing goals, benchmarks, and strategies to help you get to where you want to be. Without parameters, you’re likely to seek the path of familiarity, which will put you right where you left off last season. Take a minute to define your goals clearly, put dates to those goals, and establish steps one, two, and three.

If your goal is to take your personal best whitetail, you might just have to give up on your old stomping grounds in search of a property that holds more and bigger deer. Maybe your barrier to reaching that goal is purely mental, and you need to make peace with the reality that you may not punch your tag if the right buck doesn’t come through. Perhaps your goal is to travel and take a whitetail somewhere completely foreign, having never stepped foot there before. Whatever goal you’re looking to achieve, identify what is preventing you from success and develop a roadmap to get you there.

Develop New Routines

Whatever your personal goal may be, know you’re not going to get there overnight. Developing new skill sets and polishing old ones is likely going to be required. For the whitetail guy, looking to find consistent success with a bow, learning how to scout new areas might be the secret ingredient. Learning to be more mobile could also be your missing link. If you’re looking to try your hand at DIY elk hunting, where the mountains are equally as likely to defeat you as the elk, developing a fitness routine may pay more dividends than all other aspects combined.

Sam Davis is an absolute killer and knows a thing or two about crushing goals. When asked what the secret is, Davis claimed: “If I had a secret leading to my success, it would be my never-quit attitude. Not willing to give up until I absolutely have to, has led me to more than one successful hunt. I am always willing to push on.” Davis lives by the motto, “Predators never quit,” and the results speak for themselves.

We all know success doesn’t come overnight and is a cumulation of our preparation and on-the-fly decision-making in the field. “When I think of habits or routines that contribute to my success, I think of consistency. I always say, consistency creates dedication, dedication creates consistency. I shoot regularly, I know my equipment, I work out every day, and I have seven or eight hunt plans, just in case my scouting wasn’t spot on,” Davis said.

Embrace the Struggle & Growth

I asked Sam what kind of advice he had for hunters looking to find consistent success. Davis replied with something I wasn’t expecting, but he’s totally right: “Be the best husband, boyfriend, father, etc. you can be in the offseason. Be a good family man when you are home so you can enjoy your time in the field. Then, you can focus on animal behavior, stalking, thermals, and how to survive out in the hills. Then get out there and buy as many tags as you can and hunt. That’s how you get better at hunting.”

If you’re committed to changing things up this fall, there will undoubtedly be growing pains. You may eat a tag for a season or two. You may see a fraction of the critters that you’d normally see at your old reliable hunting spots. Frustration and doubt are likely to surface. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to gamble and take that risk, to set new goals and overcome new obstacles, there’s no telling what might be waiting for you on the other side. Undeniably, you will grow as a hunter and develop new skillsets to carry with you throughout your journey, both on and off the field.

Feature image via Captured Creative.

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