Setting Expectations for Your Hunting Season

Setting Expectations for Your Hunting Season

What makes a deer season a success?

The answer to that question is going to vary greatly from hunter to hunter, which is fine. Unless you start measuring what you consider a successful season against the standards of others, and let that influence your enjoyment of the hunt. Knowing yourself, and why you hunt, is the key to unlocking your own standards of success and expectations for your season. Going into your hunting season with a clear objective and understand of your goals and expectations can help ensure your time afield is both successful and fulfilling.

Why do you hunt?

Not everyone hunts for the same reasons, and to make it even more complicated, most people don’t hunt for just one reason. Filling the freezer, time with family, and putting a monster buck on the wall are all valid reasons to hunt, and it’s likely that all of those reasons play some part in why you go to the woods every autumn. But what is your real focus?

Hunting to fill the freezer isn’t the same as chasing a trophy buck. If what draws you to hunt is different from how you actually approach the hunt, you’re likely to end up unsuccessful and frustrated. Knowing for yourself, why you are spending time hunting, and making sure that the plans and decisions you are making support your main objective will keep you focused on what will create a successful season.

Managing Expectations

Unrealistic expectations more than often lead to disappointment. I don’t know a hunter that would honestly say, given the shot at both deer, they would shoot the 80-pound doe over the 160-inch buck. The enchantment hunters have with trophy quality bucks and bulls are part of what takes us to the woods, even if we are there for meat.

That said, we often see hunters who hold out for trophy-quality animals that just aren’t there. Sometimes it may be stubbornness, but all too often a mix of trying to live to up expectations of other hunters keeps a hunter from putting their tag on an animal that would make them happy, to avoid the deafening chants of “could’ve used one more year.”

At the end of the day, nobody should know your hunting property better than you, and you should be the one that determines what kind of animal that property may offer, and what kind of animal you are willing to put your tag on. If you’re running trail cameras all year, and the biggest deer you see is 120-inch ten point, holding out for a 160-inch or better is probably admitting upfront that you are going to eat that tag this fall.

Maybe you have long-term plans that makes passing on a buck tag something you want to do. That’s great, and admirable. But a buck in the skinning shed is worth two in the swamp, and that decision is yours and yours alone. Moreover, you shouldn’t impose your standards on other hunters either.

We are all entitled to use our tags as we see fit. Never forget that.

Expectations don’t only apply to bucks though. Monitoring your deer herd through the course of the year should also give you insight to what your plan for doe management should be. “Filling the freezer” sounds good, but if the local doe population isn’t where you want it to be, maybe giving them a pass for a year is the better way to go.

Knowing this before seasons open, and setting a realistic and attainable goal and objective for your seasons can keep you from getting burnt out and frustrated by a season that can’t work out quite like you would like.

You can’t hunt and kill deer that aren’t there. Set your expectations off of what you know, not what you wish.

Avoid Burning Yourself Out

Many hunters wait from the moment deer season ends, for that first sunrise on opening morning. We are only able to enjoy a few months a year of hunting season. When we’ve waited so long for it to arrive, sometimes there is an impulse to overdo it right out of the gate.

While it is easier said than done, try to avoid that early-season flurry that can burn you out. The early season is often still warm, crops are still up, and deer aren’t enjoying the woods being in the 70s than you are. Pick your spots, be smart about it, and don’t tip your hand before things really get going.

If you’re too quick and too eager to get after it you may burn yourself, or your hunting property, out before it really gets good.

Before your season opens, take a few days to go through what you know about your hunting property and the deer there. Establish some goals and benchmarks that match what you and your property are able to achieve. Write them down somewhere so you can refer to them and remind yourself why you’re setting that alarm so early and freezing your tail off in the stand.

Keeping that in the front of your mind can not only help you stay focused, but will help ensure you’re hunting for yourself this season, not for other hunters.


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