Mental Toughness for Bowhunting

Daily workouts condition your body, yes, but perhaps more importantly, they condition your mind.

Mental Toughness for Bowhunting

Guides who take clients on tough hunts for animals like bighorn sheep and mountain goats tell me that mental toughness most often separates successful clients from unsuccessful. As a fitness professional and avid bowhunter, I know every bowhunter can do things to increase the capacity to deal with uncertainties in the field. Without question, physical fitness contributes to mental toughness. That's right, fitness training leads to personal discipline and enhances your ability to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable -- the building blocks for mental toughness in the field.

Discipline

The art of discipline really boils down to priorities and execution -- figuring out what really matters to you and paying the price to achieve it.

For me, the priority is that big herd bull bugling at his harem in late September. But how do I achieve that priority? That bull lives above 5,000 feet for most of the year. He survives harsh winters, predators, and many other obstacles, and he daily climbs up and down ridges just to get food and water. In contrast, I live at 2,000 feet, buy my groceries at a store, drive to and from work, and don't have to look over my shoulder for predators.

The differences in our lifestyles make execution of my priority a tough challenge, and I get an edge over the elk only through a disciplined lifestyle. I sacrifice sleep to get to the gym early, prepare my meals in advance versus pulling up to the drive-thru, schedule workouts in my daily planner, train with a workout partner for accountability, and say no to overindulgence. Making small sacrifices each day, minimizing shortcuts, and taking the high road fosters an edge for the woods.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

I'm sorry, but cookie cutter elliptical training won't test your limits.

When training, intensity should be the number one goal, and it's not measured just by heart rate or the amount of sweat you generate, but how much work you accomplish in the least amount of time. Workouts need to be monitored with a stopwatch so you're competing against the clock. This approach might leave you lying on the ground in a puddle of sweat with your muscles screaming and lactic acid flowing, but that's okay.


These come as the result of a maximum effort and pressing on when your body begs for mercy.


Workouts like this not only sear away calories and fat, they also adapt your mind to uncomfortable situations. After all, uncomfortable happens all the time in bowhunting: You hike straight uphill for two hours before daylight, sit in a rigid treestand from dawn to dusk, fight fatigue after 10 straight days of hunting… You get the picture. And when you're there, you'll be thankful you've trained for it.

You also can enhance mental potency through daily lifestyle. Do you look for the high road? Do you challenge your mental capacity every day by doing things you don't want to do? I call this mental conditioning. It leaves no room for selfishness, compromise, or distraction. It builds a mindset that forms the bedrock for success in tough times. So test yourself constantly with adversity to build mental toughness. It will carry over into everything you do, including bowhunting.

Mental Conditioning

Mental skills, like physical skills, need constant practice. Go get a 3x5 note card and a pencil. On one side of your card list your personal keys to success; on the other, list performance keys to success. Keep this card handy and study it often. It will serve as a friendly reminder of the mental cues needed for success. I'll use my personal note card for example:

Personal Keys to Success

  • Discipline
  • Work Ethic
  • Perfect Practice

Performance Keys to Success

  • Belief In Myself
  • Top Tier Focus
  • Determination

I write these things as a student, not a teacher. I still have enormous room for growth in this department, but I am constantly seeking more truth and honing my mental game with success as the common denominator. Elevate your bowhunting game by continued mental conditioning.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Kentucky Bowfishing Competition

Kentucky Bowfishing Competition

Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells has a friendly bowfishing competition with members of the Muzzy Bowfishing team on Kentucky Lake.

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 13: The Call of Cross Mountain

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 13: The Call of Cross Mountain

Team Bowhunter makes its annual pilgrimage to the elk-rich high country of Colorado's Cross Mountain Ranch.

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek has a chance to fill his buck tag on a mixed bag hunt in Texas.

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Bowhunter team member Rudy Bachraty gets his chance to take an elk with Cross Mountain Outfitters of Colorado.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Archer Chris Cammack has arrowed the new world record for brown bears with his Alaskan giant. Other Game

Massive Alaskan Brown Bear is the New World Record

Lynn Burkhead - October 18, 2018

Archer Chris Cammack has arrowed the new world record for brown bears with his Alaskan giant.

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves. Other Game

Tips for Bowhunting Predators

Joe Bell

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.

Curt Wells and Randy Ulmer [video] explain the importance of momentum and penetration when choosing heavy vs. light arrows for bowhunting. How-To

How to Choose the Best Hunting Arrow - Heavy vs. Light

Curt Wells

Curt Wells and Randy Ulmer [video] explain the importance of momentum and penetration when...

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely. Scouting Tools

Advancements in Rangefinder Technology Through the Years

Chuck Adams

Advances in rangefinding devices have helped bowhunters immensely.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

It's often said archers do it Stories

The Journey For A Longbow Super Slam

Nathan L. Andersohn - July 31, 2018

It's often said archers do it "the hard way," but hunting with a longbow is, by far, the...

Bowhunter Magazine is turning 45 years old! My, how time flies! I began bowhunting not long after Stories

Bowhunting: Passion, Obsession or Addiction?

Randy Ulmer - October 21, 2016

Bowhunter Magazine is turning 45 years old! My, how time flies! I began bowhunting not long...

Stories

Favorite Hunt? There's Plenty to Choose From.

Dwight Schuh - January 03, 2017

"You guys are crazy," bush pilot Van Hartley growled as Roger Iveson and I unloaded the last...

A year has already passed since the loss of one the greatest bowhunters in history. Stories

Remembering Dwight Schuh One Year Later

Dwight Schuh - February 05, 2020

A year has already passed since the loss of one the greatest bowhunters in history.

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now