Discomfort Zones

Looking at the story lineup in this issue, I can't help but think about comfort zones -- or, more precisely, discomfort zones. To a large extent, that's where we bowhunters live, which seems ironic because most of us gravitate to familiar settings and activities that make us comfortable. We seek our comfort zones. Yet we live and die for bowhunting, which more often than not propels us into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable -- discomfort zones.

In "The System" (page 50), I write about my latest do-it-yourself adventure, an elk hunt in Colorado. Never having been to this part of Colorado before, I was overwhelmed by the thousands of square miles of forest and mountains that lay before me. Where should I camp? Where are the elk? Where is the access? It was a giant mystery that threw me deep into a discomfort zone.

Cameron Hanes confesses his own unique discomfort in "The Edge" (page 54). Growing up in the West, Cameron knows the mountains and how to hunt them. So when he travels to the Midwest for whitetail deer, he has doubts. Sit all day in a treestand? Waiting for deer to come to me? Talk about a discomfort zone!

In "The Last 100 Yards" (page 57), Dylan Forsyth describes the anxiety common to close-range stalking. When he's helping other hunters, he remains calm, but when he starts his own hunt, negative thoughts and emotions run rampant, almost to the intolerable level.

What bowhunter hasn't experienced the discomfort of extreme weather? For C.J. Winand and Brian Fortenbaugh in "Four for Two" (page 60), it was the unbearable heat inside ground blinds. In other cases, it's brutal cold. Whatever the extreme, it creates a discomfort zone.

If discomfort zones are so prevalent, why do bowhunters embrace them so eagerly?

Number one, the zones are manageable. In athletics, you commonly hear the phrase, "trust your training," meaning your training before the competition will ensure your good performance during the competition. In Colorado, the vast, unknown territory initially made me very uncomfortable. But I'd done my homework -- the training. So I put my faith in it, and before long things started coming together, and I was victorious.

Cameron Hanes' Iowa whitetail hunt threw him into a discomfort zone, but as a guy who always welcomes a challenge, Cam drew on his experience in a different hunting venue -- the mountains of the West -- to lift his whitetail game high enough for him to take one of his finest trophies ever. Discomfort zones are always breeding grounds for growth.

Regarding the anxiety of stalking, Dylan Forsyth writes: "I suffer from skepticism, from indecision'¦ I also know that those last 100 yards can wash me of the negativity that floats through my mind, and make me think of the real and positive reasons I crave to close that distance'¦" In short, the tension of bowhunting can yield very positive feelings.

To deal with climatic extremes, you simply plan fully, pack wisely, and trust your decisions. Whether waiting out pronghorns in a blazing blind, or sitting out a blizzard, you have little excuse for extreme discomfort. With today's gear, harsh weather poses little more than a speed bump to hunting pleasure.

Number two, discomfort zones are desirable. Day-to-day life monotonously insulates us from trauma and raw emotion. In contrast, bowhunting challenges us with the unknown, the uncomfortable, and the emotional -- all qualities that bring us to life in the field.

When you get right down to it, most of us don't bowhunt despite discomfort zones. We bowhunt because of them.

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