Hunting Season Burnout is Real - And It's OK

Hunting Season Burnout is Real - And It's OK

Hunting seasons are over. Mother Nature still is throwing haymakers. Turkey seasons haven’t arrived yet. Gloom, despair and agony isn’t just the lead-in to an old Hee Haw skit.

If you’re a little depressed and mopey, and maybe relieved but wondering if being relieved means something’s wrong with you, guess what? You’re not alone. It’s normal. Being mopey and depressed and maybe relieved — in a good way — means you’re like the majority of hunters in the country.

I’ll guarantee you that when a team finishes an NFL or WNBA or Premier League season, the players are relieved. They’re likely a bit depressed, too, that all they worked for has ended. The season could’ve sucked or ended with a championship. They clean out lockers, do exit interviews and leave the training facility for a recharge and next season.

That’s absolutely what you should do, too. Doesn’t matter if your season was spent chasing whitetails or elk, waterfowl or pheasants. Maybe you’re a hog hunter and winter’s cold blasts put you inside in a foul mood, instead of in the swamps or ag fields with a sow and shoats in your riflescope crosshairs. (Note: kill them ALL!)

At some point your season will end. The bow, crossbow or firearm will be put away safely. Camouflage will be cleaned (maybe?) and stored. Your backpack will get a cleanout and anything used up, broken or useless should be discarded. All the other gear — decoys, calls, electronic callers, boots, whatever — will be put away.

Rest. That’s what it’s time for now. Rest, physically and mentally. That’s OK, too.

Rest helps recharge your body and brain. Sure, you may get out and do a little shed hunting after the season. That’s fun. You may even move some stands and cameras, or put out mineral sites and refill a feeder. That’s fun. But just take a break, man, and chill out. Let your mind wander. Take some time to enjoy other things.

That doesn’t mean waiting until a month before the season opens to get going again. If you have property that needs work, put it on the calendar and get to it at the right time. If you’re into turkey hunting or hog hunting, or fishing or foraging for nature’s goodies, do those. Enjoy it. Take things in stride and with a dose of context.

What context? That unless your career is in the outdoors industry, even being “eat up with it!” is not a reason to ruin the passion and enjoyment of hunting. You can do both — be passionate about it, but also have some life balance. That’s where the rest and chillin’ out comes into play.

Occasionally, I’ll see a post on social media or hunting sites from someone who “just doesn’t care much about going hunting” and will cite a few reasons including work or family demands. When commenters tug the string, though, eventually the real reason emerges: they’re bored, tired of the routine, don’t want to shoot a deer even though they see one, and don’t have the passion or fire.

This is fine. Nothing is wrong. It’s just life, with its myriad twists and turns. Some hunters, and even anglers, experience that but get going again after a few months. For the genuine burnout, it’s a deeper situation that may not rekindle for years, if ever.

About 15 years ago I was sitting in a box blind overlooking a planted green field in south Alabama. I was reading a book to pass the time, glancing up now and then to see if anything was in the field. I already had scanned everything multiple times with my binocular, shot distances with my rangefinder, checked my rifle and scope, and even mouse squeaked a couple of interested coyotes. They hid in the edge of the field, huffing and barking, before leaving. Thus, the book. I was bored.

I glanced up and saw a buck. A quick check with the bino confirmed it was a nice 7-point. Nothing huge, and not small. It was right in the wheelhouse of what my hosts said was cool to shoot. I went back to my book, glancing up after finishing a page. The buck was relaxed, feeding, not caring about anything, and I wanted to see if anything else came in with it.

Long story short, I finally shot the buck with my rifle. It dropped on the spot, which was nice for dragging. And I went back to reading my book as if I had flicked off a mosquito. No rush, no adrenaline. When my host picked me up he was fired up, and I still felt nothing other than the desire to get it loaded so we could get back for supper.

I knew then it was time for a break. When seeing a fine buck doesn’t get my blood pumping, that’s not good. I went back to my roots, contacted some friends and began hunting squirrels, rabbits, racoons and doves more regularly that next season. I fished more. I didn’t fret or get upset about seeing a favorable weather report and not being in the woods that day.

I enjoyed being out at night hunting raccoons and hearing the hounds, too. Ducks that smacked the water brought a laugh. I went on a few dove shoots in September, with the heat and bugs and football games on a small radio and laughter with friends about good and missed shots. When deer season arrived, I went just a couple of times, but I enjoyed it more.

Since then, I’ve tried to balance my hunting. I love hunting small game. I love trying to figure out a buck and its patterns. But it’s not consuming. If I sleep late on a fine November weekend morning, so be it. There will be another morning, another chance to hunt.

Too many of us let something — hunting, fishing, golf, running, whatever — define us, or attempt to define us. To me, there’s a fine line between having a lifelong passion and not letting it take control, and allowing that passion to become an overwhelming thing that eventually puts you on your knees.

We’ve seen that with professional athletes to strive to be No. 1 or champions and then crash a year or two later. Maintaining that ultimate level, drive and commitment is incredibly difficult. For many, hunting drives them in similar ways. There’s the geeked-out anticipation and adrenaline rush of preparation to opening day. Hours of scouting, planning, work in the woods or duck blinds, weeks pursuing elk or bear, or 50-60 days of chasing turkeys. The physical and mental aspects are draining. Success may come, or you go home eating a tag.

And at some point, for some, it just becomes too much. You back away, store your gear, find other things that spark interest and are fun. To reiterate, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just life being life.

Burnout is real. If it happens, don’t dismay. It’s just part of life changing and evolving. You may be going through one of the five stages of hunting, perhaps into a caretaker role. You just may need a little break. Talk with some friends. They may be feeling the same way. Whatever is going on, you’ll figure it out and find the right path.

Hunting season will be here in a few months. The first ones in the U.S. for deer are in north California and south Florida, both in July. Think of that. In about four months, you could be hunting deer in two states. After that, it all kicks off with a bang in South Carolina and Kentucky and then the gate is flung off the hinges. Tag applications for deer, elk, moose and other game will be required soon in some states. If you’re going to hunt out of state, start looking around at dates and requirements and costs. Those things, you definitely can’t wait on until later.

Otherwise, enjoy this time off to relax, refocus and recharge. There’s nothing wrong with that. And then when the season rolls around again, get that fire going so when opening day arrives you’ll be good to go.

Article by Alan Clemons 

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