Confidence Under Pressure

In Focus

with Mike Carney, VP, Group Publishing Director

Here I'm flanked by Jeff Millar, left, and Larry D. Jones.

Participation in a video hunt for TV can create unbelievable pressure. First, your hunting game plan has to be rock solid -- close to perfect. Playing the wind, picking the right stand location for hunter and cameraman, choosing proper entry and exit points to the stand, completing the last excruciating yards of a stalk, setting up for a calling sequence and ambush -- all of bowhunting's unique challenges are complicated by the presence of a video hunting companion.

Of course, it helps if the cameraman is also a hunter. Hunters who shoot video tend to anticipate the action, follow the requisite steps of staying scent free, understand the need to vacate a hot area and improvise locations because of a wind switch, move at only appropriate times, help spot game, and understand and capture all nuances and subtleties of the hunt drama.

With a good plan, a good hunting area, and a good cameraman in place, the heavy yoke of pressure rests squarely on the shoulders of the hunter. Of course, a good cameraman will be at his side to capture the moments of truth and glory -- along with every goof and glitch, which usually are reviewed for the entertainment of campmates that same evening.

Some hunters deplore the presence of a cameraman, the added pressure to perform flawlessly on camera, and the opportunities that unavoidably get blown on occasion as a result of the cameraman's presence. It's all part of the game. I certainly don't fault any hunter who winces at the thought of traipsing around the field with a cameraman in tow -- especially when the hunter has drawn a coveted limited-entry tag.

Some hunters, however, enjoy the presence of the cameraman and brim with confidence at the opportunity and privilege to share, educate, and entertain fellow bowhunters via TV. While I haven't had the chance to hunt with all of Bowhunter's expert staff, Larry D. Jones comes to mind as a guy who loves the camera, and he is comfortable on both sides of the lens. I think if Jones pulled a rare sheep tag, he would request -- maybe demand -- that a camera be present to document the action. He doesn't shy from the additional challenge of the camera. He embraces it.

AS WE WERE SITTING IN A TREE in Buffalo County, Wisconsin, last fall, Larry captured my harvest of an antlerless whitetail on the first morning of our hunt. (In Buffalo County, you must tag an antlerless deer before you can legally tag a buck.) We were hunting with Dave Fredrickson's Outfitting. Also along on that hunt were Advertising Sales Manager Jeff Millar and his cameraman, Bob Theim. To take that antlerless deer at a mere 12 yards, I used my sweet-shooting Hoyt GameMaster recurve.

Later that evening, after reviewing field footage, Larry noticed I was getting my Hoyt XTEC compound ready, while Jeff Millar was prepping his Martin Cougar. "Where's your recurve?" Larry asked. When I told him I had more confidence in taking a shot on camera at one of Buffalo County's famed bruiser bucks with a compound, he encouraged me to bring the recurve out one more day, and I agreed.

Continued -- click on page link below.

The next morning, as groups of does and immature bucks pressed their luck by walking close to my stand, Larry kept quizzing me on how far I would shoot with the recurve.

"Would you have shot that one?" Larry asked, after a doe passed by at 20 yards.

"Yes."

"How about that one?" Larry said as a small buck ambled by at 25 yards.

"Maybe." Larry then pointed to a leaf about the same distance away and asked if I could hit it. "I think so," I said.

Jones then cocked his head at me and said, "Mike, you can make that shot. I know you can make that shot." I felt like I was back in college again before a big football game, and Larry D. was the head coach.

The rest of the morning I thought about what Larry had said. At the beginning of the hunt, we had shot some arrows together with our recurves, and I now sensed that Larry had more confidence in me than I had in myself. Larry is a humble fellow and a very enjoyable hunting partner. He described himself as a good shot to me when we were warming up at close range, where everyone, away from the pressure of a camera, is a good shot. Larry wasn't attempting to goad me into shooting beyond my self-imposed limits; he was trying to bolster my confidence within reasonable shooting distances.

THAT AFTERNOON, BACK at the lodge after lunch, Larry called me to the porch next to a cut cornfield. Some 40 yards away in the cornfield lay a grapefruit. Jones was just restringing his bow when he asked, "Can you hit that?" Never one to back down from a challenge, I got my recurve and Judo-tipped arrows, and we began shooting. With his first arrow, Larry centered the grapefruit. Not grazed, rolled, or nicked it -- he centered it. Perfectly. His subsequent shots rolled, bounced, and further maligned the hapless fruit.

My first shot went about two inches right, the next shot two inches over, and the third just beneath, spattering the yellow globe with mud. Larry looked at me. "See, you can make that shot! You have to feel that, and believe it, when you're hunting. If you practice that way, feel good about the shot, and trust yourself, you can make it happen, camera or not."

I didn't get the chance to draw down on one of Buffalo County's giants on that trip. But Larry's lesson in confidence stuck with me through the rest of the season.

At Bowhunter Magazine TV, we are privileged in working with the finest bow companies on the market -- Hoyt, Martin, Mathews, Reflex, and Black Widow -- all of whom offer outstanding traditional bows. Last fall I had my best-ever season with stickbows, taking three deer, all with different recurves. In December, I executed a perfect shot on my biggest traditional buck to date. Confidence was key. I had practiced every conceivable shot diligently, knew I could make those shots, and took that confidence to the field with me.

Camera present or not, the confidence to perform under pressure comes from the same place as the pressure itself -- from within. Confidence is like many of the most rewarding things in life -- you cannot buy it. You have to earn it. Earn it through a solid hunting game plan, proper preparation, diligent practice, thorough knowledge of your equipment, and self-imposed limitations. Add a positive attitude, and confidence will flow through your season as well.

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