About The Author

Kim Hiss, an associate editor at Field & Stream, has hunted ducks, antelope, turkeys, and deer throughout the country, enjoying a number of women's hunts along the way. She lives in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Click here to email Kim.

Powered By:

January 2009

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Syndicate this site

 Subscribe in a reader

Add to Google

Add to My AOL

Add to Technorati Favorites!


« Q&A, Cheryl Trewella, Pa Information & Education Supervisor | Main | And The Gear Goes To ... »

October 09, 2008

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/fshuntress

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The FSHuntress at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/fshuntress.

It's All Mental

    Now we know how impressive we are about getting ready for the season (as if there was ever any doubt). But, of course, logistics like target practice, scouting, stand hanging, and gear getting are only part of the equation. Once the season starts, there's an element that's harder to measure, and it's all mental.
    For me, hunting has a lot to do with mind games and mental discipline. And it starts with getting my head off the pillow. Are you a Christmas-morning sleeper, who can't get to bed the night before then can't wait for the alarm the next morning? My congrats if you are -- I, on the other hand, need to start making deals with myself the second the alarm goes off (Like, if I only hit the snooze once, I'll let myself grab an extra fun-size Three Musketeers).
    And the mental rigor continues in the field -- from staying awake, to staying put when nothing's moving and you've been out there for hours. Especially if it's cold. I know I'm not above resorting to chocolate bribes to keep myself there just a little longer (clearly, food is one of my great motivators).
    And when you -- God willing -- finally see something, do you have mental nerves of steel, or does your brain do a momentary freak-out until you can get yourself under control? I'm lucky to be very even under pressure -- a trait I'm endlessly grateful for.
    From getting out of bed to getting your deer on the ground, what's the mental component like for you? Does your brain sometimes work against you, or have you been hunting long enough that you know what mind games you need to play to make the most of your season? -K.H.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference It's All Mental:


NorCal Cazadora

I am an incurable fidget. I can't sleep. I bolt out of bed. My heart leaps up into my throat when I see game. My rifle wobbles.

None of this is good for shooting. But these traits have been generally very helpful in the world of work. Can't have everything, I guess.


I am usually in a panic to make sure things are organized the night before, which means getting to bed late. Then, I usually hit the snooze at least once, mainly because I have to drive 90 minutes just to get to my hunting spot and that means getting up extra early. Then once I've walked a ways to my stand, I can never seem to sit still. Then my heart pounds so hard when I finally hear something I can't seem to remember what I'm doing. It's usually only a sqirrel, so then the wiggling to get comfy and stay awake starts all over again. It all is worth it though, that's for sure!


I find a glass of wine before a hunt usually knocks me on my butt so I can get to sleep otherwise visions of that trophy buck will keep me awake, and I am usually up before the alarm. I do get everything ready the night before, so I don't need a lot of time in the a.m.

Since I have never used a tree stand, I put up one of those pop-up blinds and decided since I had the extra coverage I could fidgit a little more. I then had the brainstorm that I could crochet to kill time. MISTAKE - I had 2 doe come within 13 yards and they were keeping their eyes on the blind even though it had been out there for a month. When I tried to put down the sock I was crocheting, the plastic bag(mistake #2) rattle and scared the deer off.
Good news is that while I was in this blind, I saw a nice buck about 300 yards out. I plan on hunting him from a tree stand tomorrow. I thought I might bring a book and would welcome everyones comments on that. Is it a good idea? or no way?

My biggst problem has been my excitement and trying to get my shaking hands under control. I was going to write you Kim and ask you to get feedback from everyone on ways I might control this. I have been on the look out for a huge coyote that has been seen in the area. While practicing with my bow I saw him within 200 yards. I ran and got my rifle and blew the shot because I was shaking so bad that I couldn't see out of my scope :{ This a shot that I have made over and over in target shooting, we call it the 200 yard beer can target. I wss so upset with myself that I cried, (another emotion I need to control while hunting) This is the 2nd time this has happened to me, the first was with a big buck, he never got within shot distance but if he did, I don't know if I would have made a good shot because I was shaking so bad. Any suggestions?

Laura Benjamin

It helps to make a pact with your buddies that you'll pound on their door to make sure they're up and at 'em. What helps me shake the "just one more minute under the covers" feeling is remembering how much better it is to be in place before light, rather than huffing and puffing to make it there in time. I so much enjoy watching the world come alive that it seems to be motivation enough.


On a typical workday, like today, I hit the snooze button at least 3 times.
Ever hear the old wives tale, "the older you get, the less sleep you need"? That's only true for me during hunting season, especially opening day! Can't get to sleep the night before, and 4 hrs. later, I'm bouncing out of bed like a jack-in-the-box. (I'm wondering when it was that I joined the ranks of "the elderly"!?)
Morning hunts have always been my favorite! No place I'd rather be at sunrise than in the woods. Then it all goes to pot.....I play different senarios in my head, with respect to when and where the deer will walk out, and shot placement, then I second guess myself, and start all over....By the end of the first hour, I'm a nervous wreck! I'm having to force myself to think about ANYTHING else just to calm me down. And at this point, I haven't even seen a deer! All of that occurs 90% of the time. But when it comes to the actual shot, whether it be bow or gun, adrenalin goes up, but my mind calms and habit, (thanks to practice time) usually takes over.
As to the shaking hand syndrome Paula talked about....the only real cure I know for it is a mind-over-matter one....Take a few deep breaths before you even look through the scope, forget about everything except the spot where you put the crosshairs, then when you squeeze the trigger, watch the bullet hit.
I know folks, men and women, who take a book with them to a blind or a box stand, but I advise against it! Been there, done that, and had a similar experience to your sock knitting episode. (Mine was a clear case of "too many optics"!) Binoculars, Scope, Range-finder, and Camera w/a zoom lense. Not in that order, tho. By the time I got a picture of the 2 big bucks fighting, and picked up my rifle to sight in on one, the fight had moved into the thicket,....and I missed an opportunity of a lifetime. Then came the tears. I sure didn't want to show that picture to my husband or our hunting club pals, because it reeked of stupidity!!!


Thanks Jan!

Laura Bell

I am very guilty of hitting the snooze button in the morning. Mainly only when it comes to Turkey season though, a month of getting up at 4 a.m. can really get to me. Then it's worse when you don't get in from coon hunting until the wee hours.
Once I'm out in the woods though I keep my eyes wide open. My main problem is, I don't have a lot of patience. I've been trying to work on that, but the progress is very slow.
When something finally gets me to pick up my bow or gun, I try and keep my cool. I would do extremely well if it wasn't for the shakes! If my target stays in view for a long length of time I just begin to shake all over. Then if I do take a shot, look out! The shakes are ten times worse then, but I admit I don't mind them after the shot! ;)


I'd be shaking for sure if I was coon hunting, Laura! That's something I've never done, and since I have trouble staying in my blind or my deer stand until "dark-thirty" like my hunting buddies do, I may not ever get to experience coon hunting. (I don't like walking around the woods in the dark!) Fortunately for me, I really don't see too well when it gets shadowdy and dusky dark, and my hubby knows that, so he doesn't tease me about getting down out of my stand too soon. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

Dr. Ralph

My mind game is when I see a deer I get mad. Thinking of many misses at large deer usually does the trick for me and that's how it all started, but everyone can use this approach. Envision that deer as your worst enemy, someone who has done you terribly wrong or maybe just think about whatever your personal demon is. Getting mad keeps you from getting the shakes and helps concentration.

As for getting out of bed that's my weakness but fortunately I have very rude friends and a next door neighbor that love honking their horns at 3:30 AM and banging loudly on windows and doors... plus the constant ringing of the phone waking everyone in the house until they drag you out of bed and kick you out the door.

Laura Bell

I have a spare coon hunting light that you can borrow if you ever want to go! :) It's a lot of fun to hear the hounds out in the woods and if you have a buddy or two along, you won't even notice the dark so much.
We went out last night and while the dogs didn't look too impressive.... we did manage to see a few kitten coon and their mothers.


Thanks, Laura! I may give it a try one day ('er, night, that is!) Everyone I know who's been has told me it's a lot of fun, and excitement. My sister-in-law raises coon hounds, and she's a regular with a local club. But, she doesn't carry a gun...just uses the club hunts to train her dogs. (She doesn't hunt at all.)


I am up at 4:00 in the morning everyday anyway because of my job but I usually do the "math thing" calculating how many more minutes I can lay in bed.But hunt mornings are different, Im up and at em making sure for the "umpteenth" time all my gear is in order. On the drive to the farm I wonder if the air freshener in the truck is going to jeopardize my clothing scent. when I get there I usually go through all the comaraderie with the guys(since Im usually the only woman)where they are making sure I have everything like I don't know what I'm doing. I get to my stand,settle in, and the fidgeting starts. I finally find a comfort zone in the tree stand and promptly doze in and out till daylight. It took me a few yrs to learn not to react to every sound I heard. But when I finally see a deer my body goes bizerk(especially if it is a buck) I shake from the inside out and it takes alot of learned self control to set up for your shot. I've taken shots too quickly and plenty of them too late. Or sometimes I dont get a shot at all. Either way the nerves were always there and Ive learned that every missed deer made me a better and smarter hunter and the nerves became less and less of a factor. Ive come out of the woods empty handed alot of times when everyone else had harvested but the times I have come out with my own harvest its usually been something that I can attribute to patience and alot of mistakes learned

Judy Black

Being the "huntaholic" that I am, there is not hitting the snooze button for me. I hunt close to home so if I get up at 6:30, I can be in my treestand by first light.
Opening morning of bow season was just like the last two. 4 NICE 8 point bucks and they stand just out of bow range. 8 deer in my field..ALL of them bucks!!
I patiently waited for them to move into range and waited for the nicest of them to stop. He stood at 40 yards and I decided to take the shot.
Over his back went my arrow, I was disappointed but relieved that I had definately missed. The thought of wounding an animal leads to sleepless nights for me so I was glad to see the arrow go high and into the grass. He lives another day, I may get another chance.
Even with a sure miss, the shakes set in. They seem to go together..release arrow, shake. It wouldn't be hunting if it didn't happen.
Get out there and hunt ladies...I have said it before, it is the best therapy in the world and it is FREE.

Lou Alexander

I'm usually up right away on opening morning, but after that, I do the "just 5 more minutes" thing too. I'm lucky that my husband comes back to check to see if I am up.

Paula, I take books to the hut stands we have, but I'm not right on top of the deer, and I only read the first hour or so after I arrive at the stand in the evening. I've never had any problems, that slow time just kills me.

I also get the heart pounding every time I see deer. There is just something about that thrill of seeing game. I have an easy time calming down when I take a doe, but the shakes are harder to control when I see a buck. I just concentrate on the spot and a follow through visually which helps me not to pull the shot. Now bow hunting is crazy different. My whole body shakes and I've had a couple of times I couldn't manage to get drawn due to it.

Laura Bell

It seems those darn shakes are very contagious!
I'm really thinking about bringing a handheld Yahtzee game with me to the stand. Just turn the sound off and roll until quitting time. My sits have been very dull lately so I need some kind of attention grabber. Heck, maybe it'll help bring in the deer! Seems like any time your attention is diverted that happens. Lol
Good Luck out there all!

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who gets a bad case of the shakes. Although for me, it's not just while hunting. I've always joked that I'm like a Chihuahua. I shake when I'm nervous, I shake when I'm excited, I shake when I'm cold. You get the picture. Perhaps, I should stop drinking coffee... No, that's just asking too much!

And Jan, you're not the only one who's had tears after a miss. I missed my first chance at a nice tom last spring, and couldn't help the tears from flowing. I think you get such a build up of adrenaline, that after the shot it has to go somewhere. Whether it's whooping and hollering after a successful harvest or tears after a miss. But man, I hate tearing up in front of the guys.

As for hitting the snooze in the morning, it can really depend for me. On opening days, I'm usually jumping out of bed as soon as I hear the alarm. Which meant for opening day of duck season last Saturday I was up at 3:30am. However, as the season progresses and the early mornings start to catch up with me, it gets a bit harder each time. Thankfully, I'm "blessed" with a great husband, who is very helpful in getting me up if I hit the snooze too many times. Usually it's by shoving me out of the bed, onto the bedroom floor. ;)


D'oh. That was me again. :p