By John Martino
For the Kokomo Tribune
We all know them. Those people who seem to collect trophy deer almost every season. They say roughly 75 percent of all big-game animals are taken by only 10 percent of the bowhunters. I am not sure if this is true, but what I do know is there are people who seem to take trophy animals on a consistent basis.
Most successful archers agree that hunting with traditional equipment is hard. The fact that one has to be skillful enough to trick the eyes, ears and nose of any animal, enough to get within a bow’s short effective range, is difficult in itself. But even more difficult is executing a clean shot under adrenaline-induced excitement.
Are consistently successful archers graced with an inordinate amount of luck, or is there something else? Through the years I have been fortunate in meeting many great bowhunters who I admire and respect and have found common threads in what they do and how they think, which gives them an edge.
The most common trait shared by these “10-percenters” is preparedness. Being prepared screams success and it starts way before opening day. Consistently successful hunters are confident in their ability, their equipment and their accuracy. They practice — a lot.
Ray Howell is one of the best archers I have ever had the opportunity to meet. He practices long-distance shooting, out to 100 yards. Although this is completely out of the realm of ethical shots with archery equipment, he does it for one reason. “My confident shots are 40 yards or less,” he explained. “But after shooting long range, anything 40 yards or less seems like a chip shot.”
Bill Winke, a fellow outdoor writer and the host of Midwest Whitetail TV series, says the best hunters are extremely thorough.
“If there is an aspect of the hunt they can control, no matter how minor, they not only control it — they master it.”
Everyone who takes to the woods with stick-and-string sees failure. That’s part of it and has to be expected. Persistence also links the most successful bowhunters together in a common camouflaged cloth. Those who keep going, keep trying and never quit are the ones who take game on a regular basis.
Let’s face it, bowhunting is an activity where failure rules a majority of the time. If you can live with and expect those odds and still enjoy it, you will become more successful. You really only fail when you fall and don’t get back up.
One of the most interesting common grounds I found among some of the best hunters was hearing them say they had to sometimes fight to stay motivated. I know from personal experience, after months of taking every minute of available time to spend in the woods, after juggling work, family and other priorities, I get physically and mentally exhausted. It almost seems a relief when deer season comes to an end. Staying motivated towards the end becomes increasingly difficult.
Another familiar trait among top archers is adaptability. Your reaction to the animal and various situations are critical. I know many hunters who sit in the same stand season after season only because they took a nice buck five years back from that same tree.
Consistent success means being flexible. Observing what’s going on around you and making necessary adjustments in your hunting strategies means a hunter can be more pro-active rather than just being a creature of habit and relying more on luck.
This came into play for me several years back as early archery season wound to a close. After sitting in a choice stand location for several days, deer movement was minimal. “Well, if they are not coming to me then I’ll just go to them,” I thought. It was several hours later I ended up arrowing a beautiful nine-pointer from the ground. If it wasn’t for changing hunting strategies, I would have more than likely ended up eating tag-soup instead of venison.
Visualization is something top athletes have done for years and it’s no different among bowhunters. The best athletes constantly visualize drawing in a pass or shooting that 3-pointer and play it over and over in their head. They see it in their mind so clear they can feel it.
The best hunters play the scene over and over in their heads as well. They can see the animal standing there, picture coming to full-draw, and visualize their sight-pin on that exact spot, even after dumping the string. Every motion is already thought out, calculated and planned.
By visualizing that exciting moment, when most of us allow our nerves to get the best of us, top-shelf archers react calmly as if they have already been there, if only in their minds.
But be forewarned. There is a big difference between constructive visualization and daydreaming. The former keeps you sharp and alert, the latter just makes you sleepy!
Here is this week’s list of bowhunters who found it necessary to visit one of our area’s state approved deer check-in stations. This information, which includes filed-dressed weights, is provided by Bryant’s Outdoor Store, Simpsons Deer Processing and U.S 31 Bait and Tackle.
Carl Dishner — 125-pound doe; Bart Alexander — 70-pound doe; Dan Harvey — 65-pound button buck; Greg Hampton — 190-pound, 15-point buck; Nick Wunderlick — 155-pound, eight-point buck; Craig Seager — 115-pound doe; Dan Begon — 160-pound, eight-point buck; Brad Dowden — 65-pound button buck; Ralph Harvey — 145-pound, five-point buck; Noel Evens — 70-pound button buck; Tony Kelly — 120-pound doe; Jerry Gillis — 70-pound button buck; Rodney Kyle — 130-pound doe; Jerry Gillis — 135-pound, three-point buck; Tennyson Copeland — 120-pound doe; Kent Glassburn — 130-pound doe; Chuck Nunnally — 105-pound doe; Steve Nunnally — 110-pound doe; Richard Ferren — 170-pound six-point buck.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.