Elk Hunting in Colorado: Pursuing Majesty
December 7, 2023 •iSportsman Staff
We all know them. Those people who seem to collect trophy deer almost every season. They say only 10 percent of bow hunters take 75 percent of all big game animals. I am not sure if this is true but what I do know is there are people who seem to take trophy animals on a consistent basis.
Most successful archers agree that hunting with traditional equipment is hard. A bow hunter has to be skillful enough to trick the eyes, ears and nose of any big game animal, enough to get within a bow’s short effective range, is difficult in itself. But even more difficult is executing a clean shot under adrenaline induced excitement.
Are these consistently successful archers graced with an inordinate amount of luck, or is there something else? Through the years I have been fortunate in meeting many great bow hunters who I admire and respect and have noticed common threads in what they do and how they think, which helps give them an edge.
The most common trait shared by these “ten-percenters” is preparedness. Especially in bow hunting, praparation screams success and it starts way before opening day. Consistently successful hunters are confident in their ability, their equipment and their accuracy. They practice – a lot.
Ray Howell is one of the most successful archers I have ever had the opportunity to meet. He practices long distance shooting, out to 100 yards. Although this is completely out of the realm of ethical shots with archery equipment, he does it for one reason. “My confident shots are 40 yards or less,” he explained. “But after shooting long range, anything 40 yards or less seems like a chip shot.”
Bill Winke, fellow outdoor journalist and host of Midwest Whitetail TV series says the best hunters are extremely thorough. “If there is an aspect of the hunt they can control, no matter how minor, they not only control it, they master it.”
Persistence was another thread that links the most successful bow hunters together in a common camouflaged cloth. It is those hunters who keep going, keep trying and never quit who fill their tag every season.
Mistakenly there are a few who think it’s better to wait until cold weather or the peak of the rut (deer mating season) before taking to the woods. That’s baloney. Hunters take many trophy bucks during the early and late stretches of archery season. The most important is being in the woods as much as you can when you can regardless of what month it may be.
Everyone who takes to the woods with stick-and-string sees failure. That’s part of it and is a reasonable expectation, which brings me to resilience. It is those people who keep going, keep trying and never quit who take game on a regular basis.
Let’s face it; bow hunting is an activity where failure rules a majority of the time. If you can live with and expect those odds and still enjoy it, you will become more successful. You really only fail when you fall and don’t get back up.
One of the most interesting common grounds I found among some of the best hunters I know was hearing them say they had to sometimes fight to stay motivated. It surprised me to hear even these guys had to struggle to stay sharp.
I know from personal experience, after months of taking every minute of available time to spend in the woods, after juggling work, family and other priorities, I get physically and mentally exhausted. It almost seems a relief when deer season comes to an end. Staying focused towards the end becomes increasingly difficult.
Another common trait among top archers is adaptability. Your reaction to the animal and various situations are critical. I know many hunters who sit in the same stand season after season only because they took a nice buck five years back from that same location.
Consistent success means being flexible. Observing what’s going on around you and making necessary adjustments in your hunting strategies a hunter can be more aggressive rather than just being a creature of habit leaning more on luck.
This came into play for me several years back. After sitting in a choice stand location for several days, deer movement was minimal. “Well if they are not coming to me then I’ll just go to them,” I thought. Several hours later I arrowed a beautiful nine pointer from the ground. If it wasn’t for changing hunting strategies, I would have more than likely ended up eating tag-soup instead of venison.
Visualization is something top athletes have done for years and it’s no different among bow hunters. They constantly visualize drawing in a pass or shooting that three-point play over and over in their head. They see it in their mind so clear they can feel it.
The best hunters play the scene over and over in their heads as well. They can see the animal standing there, picture coming to full-draw and visualize their sight-pin on that exact spot even after dumping the string.
By visualizing that exciting moment, when most of us allow our nerves to get the best of us, top-shelf archers react calmly as if they have already been there, if only in their minds.
I have found that visualization can play an important role in keeping me focused while in the field. If I am in a tree stand, I visualize a good buck walking into my ambush and smoothly go through the steps it will take to harvest that animal. My every motion is already thought out and planned in my mind.
But be forewarned. There is a big difference between constructive visualization and daydreaming. The former keeps you sharp and alert, the latter just makes you sleepy!