By Dan Staton, MC, CSCS

Fear is a thing that we make up, it is a thing we can destroy.  If you fear failing as a hunter, you are not doing enough preparation leading up to the season.  A quote I like to live by is from Abraham Lincoln who said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  If you have one week to hunt, you should spend months preparing.  Use the idea of failure as a catalyst for off-season preparation, this is paramount for hunting big game out west.  Physical strength and endurance are key predecessors to your journey, but more of your overall success boils down to your motivation in the off-season.

Hunting has always tested me physically and mentally.  What other passion can have you feeling the lowest of lows one minute and in an instant have you tasting the highest of highs.  Each day is an opportunity to grow stronger, to accomplish more than you thought possible and to push harder.  Start by searching for the high road, making small victories everyday.  Make your weapon your closest friend, know it inside and out and practice beyond what you used to think was necessary.  Next is to sacrifice something daily in the name of better hunting.  Eat less junk food, avoid fast food and cook more at home.  Watch less TV, sweat daily from exercise and refuse to be lazy.  Lastly, believe in your unwavering desire to be successful and believe in your ability.  Our actions follow our thoughts and images.  This means to only look where you want to go, block out the negative thoughts.

abe_lincoln_quoteYour attitude can determine your outcome.  I fear a “bad attitude,” a negative persona or even an envious nature.  Be allergic to negative people, negative thoughts and attract positive people that want success as bad as you do.  Choose an attitude of confidence, have a can-do attitude, a belief that you can handle whatever comes your way.  Never succumb to self-defeating thoughts.  This takes control.  The hallmark of a mentally tough hunter is the ability to maintain poise, concentration and emotional control under the greatest pressure and the most challenging situations.  Positive people stay committed, so stay connected with a cohort of folks that are self-directed, highly motivated and that want it more.  Avoid jealousy and all the wasted energy that comes with it.  If you’re in a circle that hates on others, find a new circle.  Jealousy is always a symptom of fearful insecurity.  The more work, preparation and diligence we produce the less energy we have available to put into jealousy or insecurity.

B.C. Forbes says it best, “Jealousy – is a mental cancer.”  Watch your attitude, take responsibility for it and develop a positive one.  Know that every step forward is a step toward achieving your goal of success.

The off-season is full of work that needs to be done.  You have to research and apply for the best tag opportunities.  Once you’ve locked down your hunts and destinations you have to study anything you can get your hands on.  This means research from home, studying Google Earth, topography maps, harvest statistics and calling biologists.  Finding information from Internet forums, personal messages, social media and digging deeper than you have before.  Boots on the ground is highly critical, putting out as many trail cameras as you can afford.  Learning the country, finding the animals and discovering new ground and establishing back up plans are critical.  There’s so much to be done, that if you catch yourself being idol, trust me when I say someone else out there is frantically working harder to put them in a better position for success.

Fear of failure is something we all face.  Choosing to use it to aid in your preparation, approach and attitude will make you better.  I firmly believe each of us has a choice to get better or worse, none of us stay the same.  Hunting big game out west is not easy.  Use fear of failure to propel your thoughts and actions in a positive light.  What comes easy, won’t last. What lasts, won’t come easy.  Use fear to make you hustle and stay disciplined through the long off-season.  Separation is in the preparation.