If you interviewed 100 of the best whitetail hunters, you’d probably get 100 different answers. “What do you contribute your success to?” Although the answers may vary, from my experience, and observing some of these hunters over the years, I’ve noticed one thing that takes hunters to the next level, that sharpens the success curve quickest: journaling. Whether it be an actual paper journal where they document the ups and downs and lessons learned, a blog where they share these things (many of these top hunters actually write for magazines), or a youtube channel where they do the same, those that learn best and quickest are the ones that gain success the fastest. Developing a habit that forces you to think through the why’s, what’s, and how’s of hunting, and some form of in-depth, reflective journaling does this better than anything I know.
Where to start: Like I said, this could be any of the above I mentioned or a combination of them (journal, blog, youtube, etc.). For me, it started with a YouTube channel. This, however, was just too time-consuming, so I moved to a blog, and years later here I am. For me this has definitely been the biggest accelerator of growth, and as a side benefit has led to dozens of articles published in regional and national magazines. It doesn’t really matter what method you choose, but a few basics must be present to actually get what you want from it. Here they are.
- Intention: If your intention is to be cool and get popular (like by making a popular YouTube channel), then you will most likely fail, or get much less from it. Your goal has to be for reflecting, learning, and growing. Maybe you share this with others, or maybe you don’t. Either way doesn’t matter as long as your focus is on the right things. However, if you do decide to go public, this will help with #2.
- Dedication: For anything to be of worth you’ve got to stick with it for a long time. Habits take 30-60 days to develop (depending on the expert talking), so you’ve got to keep with it at least that long. However, that really isn’t long enough. You get out what you put in as they say, and that applies here as well. The best thing is to journal once for every day that you hunt. This will develop the habit quickly (one season possibly), and make you identify things you learned before they vanish into thin air (which is what will happen if you do not think about a hunt, what happened, why it happened, and do this shortly afterward). This will explode your learning and growth curve, but to not will cause you to make the same mistakes again. If you decide to go public with a blog or YouTube channel, as you grow subscribers, these people will keep you accountable to keep at it (a great benefit of going public). Yes, you’ll have the haters, but you will have to be consistent to produce content and well thought out to make it high-quality. This is a win/win for your hunting goals.
- The Right Question: To get the right answer(s), you have to ask the right question(s). Actually, asking the right question is half the battle that most people never even get. Ask the right question, get the right answer. Ask the wrong one, and well, you get nowhere but frustrated. When journaling, the #1 question I ask is WHY? Why did the deer do this or that? Why were they here and not there? Why didn’t I have success? Why did I…? Oh, and one non – “why” question: what should I have done differently? If you can fully answer these questions (being 100% honest with yourself and your fragile ego), and are dedicated to finding the answers, then your eyes will start to be opened to things you never saw before, and your expertise will skyrocket. You’ll learn what you never did before, this will translate into what you do in the field, and this will cause more success. And, don’t just ask yourself. If you can’t figure it out, reach out to others you respect as top hunters and get help with your answers there.
- Detail: When you answer these questions, make sure you put effort and thought into them. Don’t treat it like a high school English assignment you care nothing about. Put your heart and soul into it and you’ll be rewarded. If you’re going to do it, do it right. And to do it right means putting detail into your answers. Any observation thought, or further question is valid and will help lead to answers. There should be no throw away hunts that you don’t learn something from. Sometimes the answers do not come right away, but after an accumulation of journaling for weeks or years. I guarantee you one thing – even if some pieces take years to fit together into an “aha” moment, it will be much quicker than if you never journaled at all.
Hard work, yes, but if you will commit to journal about your whitetail hunting experiences, the results in the field will be very worth it.
About the Author: Adam Lewis has been hunting whitetail deer for 29 years, and is a freelance writer who has written for North American Whitetail, Bowhunter Magazine, MidWest Outdoors, and many others. He also operates Sound Barrier which specializes in helping hunters increase their stealth advantage on whitetails. Website:https://www.soundbarrierhunting.com/