By Tony J. Peterson
My goal each season is to bowhunt at least five or six states and spend nearly all of that time on public land. That’s what I’ve done so far this year, with probably 85 percent of my treestand time spent on land open to anyone. While I have no complaints about my season, by the time I was down to my final tag I was ready to be done.
This was due to a couple of reasons. Public land hunting, with the constant setting up and taking stands down, and in my case, a lot of camping, wears a person out. By late-October, I don’t know how many stands I’d hung, or miles I’d driven, but it was a lot. And I was tired. It got worse after I arrowed a good buck on public land there, because I caught some type of kill-me-now flu.
This happens to me most seasons, and I have to believe it’s more than coincidence. I think the general lack of sleep, crappy food, and lifestyle make me a little more susceptible to sickness. And sick is what I got. So sick, that I thought my planned rut hunt to some public in North Dakota wasn’t going to happen.
By sheer stupidity, it did. I drove up there to a place I’d never been and set out to fill my last tag of the season. The days were long, requiring a super early alarm and a serious hike to where I wanted to set my stand. After dark to dark sits, I’d head back to the motel, try to conk out and repeat the whole thing the next day.
When I did get my chance, the buck was a stud and where he died was a nightmare for a solo hunter who wasn’t feeling too well. I managed to get that buck out, but it took the better part of a day. By the time I was driving home, it felt like I was on day 17 of a bivy hunt for elk. And I wanted no part of deer hunting for a long, long time.
Deer hunting is supposed to be fun, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it sucks so much that it makes golf seem like a reasonable alternative. Oftentimes this is from extended, deer-less sits or a long streak where no deer that approach our standards ever approach our stands. Sometimes it’s because we do get our chance, and we blow it. Sometimes it’s the weather or family or work stress won’t let us enjoy hunting. Sometimes it’s social media where you can see 7,000 people a day posing with Booners.
Figuring out what the reason is for burnout is important, even if the discovery phase sucks. Knowing what part of the process, or part of life, is robbing you of enjoying the one thing that should be immensely satisfying is crucial. It’ll at least put you on the path to getting back into the right mindset.
Trophies, Facebook, Time
To be happier with hunting and want to sit again, you might not have to do anything more than forget what it takes to be a trophy deer for someone else. This might be the number one reason for the disintegration of hunting enjoyment. Shoot what makes you happy, not what’s going to draw the most fake approval on Facebook.
If you can’t bring yourself to shoot a delicious spike in his lungs, maybe you just need to hit the reset button and take some time off. Or hunt with a doe tag in your pocket and the idea that it’s time to just focus on deer. Any deer. This, aside from the lack of hunting pressure, is the reason that December is a beautiful time to be in the deer woods.
It’s the hardest time to kill any deer if you don’t have a bangin’ spot to hunt. Even if you do, it’s sometimes not that easy. Either way, the survivors left out there are not going to die easy, and targeting a doe during December can be a great way to enjoy hunting without the pressure that comes with bucks and their scorable headgear.
You can also view this time of year as a chance to shake things up and give still-hunting or ground-hunting a shot, just for something different. Arrowing a ground-level deer in December isn’t for everyone, but it sure is a fun challenge.
Of course, you should also consider how much time you’ve put in. If you’re sitting the same stand every night for weeks on end, it’s time to give your spots - and you - a rest. A lot of times when we feel the pressure to fill a tag, we’ll hunt no matter what - especially when the clock is winding down on the season. Instead, hunt when the conditions are perfect and make the most of your limited time. Don’t force yourself to be out there if you just don’t want to be there, or you’re going to do more damage than good.
Bow-season burnout is a real thing, and going through it stinks. But, it can also be a catalyst for change in your attitude or hunting style, which can breathe new life into a stale program you’d rather ditch. Consider this when you’re feeling too much pressure to kill, or hunt, or just finding excuses to not go because you dread it. There are ways to deal with burnout, and December is the perfect month to give them a shot.