Like the good judge said, “Boy, ya gotta git your mind right.” And that judgment will, as well, determine our hunting success more than all the equipment and technology in the world. A proper predator mindset is essential for an effective transition back to the wild and the elevated level of awareness necessary to connect with wildlife. Take that connection to the sensual extreme of up close and personal bowhunting range, and we have one hell of a challenge on our hands. And I love that part. A predator MINDSET is job one for the responsible hunter.
I’ll never forget the horn to horn standoff with my first 6000 pound white rhinoceros, and the mental gymnastics I experienced before the shot. Make no mistake about it, the same thing happens everytime even with a whitetail deer, unless specific psychological preparations are made in advance. We are, afterall, deer hunting, in the deerwoods, during the deer season, with a deer license in our pocket, looking for a shot at a deer. This is no time to be surprised by a deer encounter. THINK DEER! Be ready.
Step number two is pivotal as well; LOCATION, location, location. A major joy in hunting has always been scouting that wild, getting to know the huntzone. We can’t get venison where no deer live. Research and get to know your habitat. Go deep into the nastiest, thickest areas you can find. Be careful to use the wind so as not to be detected in your detective work.
Which brings us to move three. Part of the predator mindset is penetrating the game’s balliwack without disturbing the area and contaminating it with human presence. The STEALTH we use in stalking actual game must be employed in sneaking into their cover too. If the wind is wrong, stay out. If the forest floor is real noisy, walk like a deer, stopping regularly. When we Say “harmonizing with nature”, we mean fitting in. Go extra alert, slow and careful, and fit in.
Now that we got our mind right and we have determined where we will hunt, PROFICIENCY with our weapons is critical. Safety is job one, but marksmanship is the true joy of the shooting sports, both with firearms and archery gear. The only way to get really good is to shoot equipment that FEELS right. A lightweight, easy to shoot bow, and a comfortable, handy, properly fit firearm is imperative for accurate shot placement. Most bowhunters have too much poundage causing them to struggle under actual field conditions. Fifty pounds is plenty. Same with guns and caliber. A light recoiling .243 or shock absorbing semi-auto shotgun are easier to shoot and control for the average shooter. Arrow or bullet, shot placement is everything. Practice conscientiously and make every shot count. Killing game is a one shot proposition.
Step five, PATIENCE, plays an important role throughout. It is usually the hunter who gets into the field early and stays the latest who has the best stories to tell and the most steakage to share. The temptation to sleep a little longer and head back to camp a little earlier is powerful, especially as the weather turns sour. But perseverance is the mother of filled tags, and a commitment to dedication is the clincher. Set that alarm extra early, and make it a point to commit to a few all day vigils. You will not be disappointed.
All quality of life comes from an ELEVATED LEVEL OF AWARENESS, but none so critical as the hunt. Our fellow predators have an uncanny omniscience and seem to read the wind. We can do this too, if we concentrate and put our minds to an ultra focus out there. Binoculars and the electronic hearing aids on the market give us a little edge on the below average human handicaps we live with each day. Use them wisely and pick up on the subtleties that permeate the wild. Cleanse the mind of the concrete hellzone baggage, and feel Ma Nature’s pulse. Sense the game before they sense you.
Being comfortable beyond the pavement is our ultimate goal. Being PREPARED will bring comfort and readiness. There should be no surprizes out there, because anything can happen, and we should know this. I monitor the weather and dress accordingly, plus I never head out without a fanny pack of simple survival gear. Basic 1st aid, compass, knife with sawblade, water, snacks, matches and firestarter, raingear, flashlight, ziplock plastic bags, some rope and lots of toilet paper. There you have it. Ma Nature, let’s get it on.
PREPARATION is the key to a quality hunt, but follow up is equally important. Standing over a dead deer is no time to consider a butchering lesson. Before the hunt begins, think positive and study meat cutting charts and gutting instructions for proper field care of our prize. Gamy tasting meat is, in fact, simply poorly, irresponsibly mishandled flesh. Even a big old rutting swampbuck is delicious if gutted, cleaned, transported and cut properly. Literature on the subject abounds. Know it intimately. It’s our responsibility.
Step number nine has evolved over time, as the modern world has created an environment unfriendly to wildlife. As members of the honorable hunt community, we have always had a deep and abiding respect, if not outright love, for allthings wild. As we absorb all the glory of our time afield, it is critical that we share these valuable environmental experiences with others in our lives. Literally become PROMOTERS of the wild by telling our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and even strangers of the beauty and stimuli of our outings. Initiate the dialog of wildlife and its precious habitat. Equate the positive role of hunting to the balance and health of wildground as the source of our air, soil and water quality. Bring the vibrancy of our honorable hunting culture and heritage up in conversation and discussions. Initiate the dialog and project your passion, love and genuine concern for the health of allthings wild. Stand up for what you believe in, and go that extra step in actually sharing it in a more assertive manner.
The final step in ultimate hunting fulfillment can best be described as YUM! The succulent, delicious, healthy flesh that we occasionally bring home represents a tangible commodity to celebrate. We call it celebrating the flesh, because it is this protein that ultimately drives our predator instinct to survive. And ya can’t live without food. So it may as well be the best food the planet has to offer. Learn how simple it is to properly prepare game for the table. It really is simple. Fieldcare is of utmost importance, keeping the meat clean and cold is essential. Cutting and butchering is easier than many may think, and this old guitarboy figured it out a longtime ago. Consult with a butcher friend and review the easy to follow diagrams in their literature.
You will find, as I always have, that the step by step procedures that are each and every properly pursued hunt, will provide untold joy, happiness, lessons, challenges, adventure, stimuli and ultimately food for the belly and the soul. A conscientious plan will maximize the feeling of fulfillment, and the Spirit of the Wild will glow inside and out. Afterall, quality of life comes from within the Good Mother Earth, within all of us, and within the hearts and souls of those who make that extra effort to be an asset to themselves, family, nature and America. Good hunting all. To witness The Nuge putting his experience into action, call TNUSA at 800-343-4868 and order the TED NUGENT SPIRIT OF THE WILD video series. Learn more and feel the spirit.