From the time we are born, we are learning. Our first breath is our first triumph as a human. The start of it all. A long journey ahead. All we know in the beginning is to breath, eat, and sleep. As babies, we can’t do basic things that adults can do, like walk or talk. Have you ever thought about the fact that there was a time you couldn’t walk or talk? These skills seem so easy and obvious now, but it wasn’t always that way. We didn’t always have the confidence to stay upright on our own two feet.
Confidence is something that is developed over time, by experience. Attempting new things often feels difficult and awkward. But with some experience, these new pursuits become comfortable, and we become confident. You don’t have to think about walking any more, you just do it. Having a conversation with someone is commonplace, and you rarely need to think about finding the right word to convey your thoughts and then strategically try to pronounce that word correctly. Talking just happens. It wasn’t always that way though.
It takes time to develop competence and confidence in all skills, including hunting.
Confidence Is Built
Although some of us were born with some level of natural abilities and confidence, most of us start on the ground level. It can be stressful and downright overwhelming to know the what and how of hunting. I remember when I knew nothing about nothing and felt like I was roaming around, unsure of anything. I had no experience, and thus, no confidence.
Time is the most important thing that you can invest in if you want to have more confidence in the backcountry.
When you lack confidence, you need time. Well, I should say time, as well as having an open mind and the courage to try new things. The only way to learn how to do something fully, is to go and do it. Watching videos is great and all, but the ultimate teacher is the act itself. Spend as much time out there as you can, and that investment of time will result in the confidence you desire.
Several years ago, I was 8 days into a bear hunt and hadn’t spotted a single bear in all of that time. As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty down and couldn’t help but want to give in to the pull of home. “What am I doing out here,” I thought. “I could be at home right now, spending time with my wife.” My wife, though, was actually the one that told me to stay out there and see things through. Had I left, I would have missed out on the amazing experience that was tagging my first Mountain Lion. Witnessing that lion charge down the hill in pursuit of a Coues deer was something I will be telling my future kids, and their future kids about.
If you don’t have the confidence to stay out there and see things through, your chances of filling that tag are going to drop dramatically. When hunting isn’t going your way, always remember that it only takes one encounter, one minute, for everything to change. Be confident in what can happen and stay in the hunt — even when it feels like you’re down and out. If nothing else, have the confidence to keep going, even when things aren’t going your way.
Confidence and Motivation
As I’ve gained confidence in myself over the years, I have also become more successful, which in turn has motivated me to keep pushing. Just knowing that I had “been there done that,” gave me the confidence to go into a hunt feeling like a million bucks. Did I think I had it all sewn up? Not at all. However, I did know that what laid in front of me was something that I knew well.
Because of increasing confidence, I have also been motivated to branch out and find more spots to hunt. Every time I go out, it is a learning experience, and I continue to learn as I go down this path. The farther I go though, the more comfortable I feel in any given situation out there — whether that is bad weather or not seeing any animals.
Confidence increases motivation, but the opposite is also true. The absence of confidence can lead to the absence of motivation. This is especially common for new hunters. How can you be motivated by something you have never seen or witnessed? Is the grass greener on the other side of the hill? Our imaginations can only go so far, and sometimes they go as far as the long drive home.
A friend of mine is just starting down the path of becoming a backcountry bowhunter, so I am witnessing this in him all over again. I sense the doubt, the second thoughts, and the “I don’t know what to do” look on his face. I can see this stuff creeping in, especially when it comes to “where to hunt.” All of us want to be successful early on, but as you will learn, that is not the point of all of this. Focus your motivation towards the experience, not the results.
Have Confidence In The Process
You were a child and grew into the person you are today, and you still have opportunities to grow in many new ways each year. Thinking back on when I knew nothing about nothing makes me realize how little I really did know. Here’s the thing though. That’s OK.
It’s OK to not know what you are doing. What’s important is that you are willing to learn, and then apply what you’ve learned.
Even if you don’t have confidence in what you are doing, have confidence in your ability to learn and persist. All of us started somewhere.
Confidence is important in all aspects of hunting. Confidence to hunt alone, confidence in your shooting, and confidence to live off of your back for a week are just some examples. So, whatever it is, grab a hold of it. If you aren’t confident in your shooting, spend as much time as you can at the range, or maybe consult a coach. If you want to have more confidence in finding animals, then you need to be reading as much as you can, followed up by getting those boots of yours dirty.
Fall hunting seasons are just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Before you know it, we will be setting out in the dark, with the echoes of bugling bulls in the distance, accompanied by eagerness and… confidence.
Josh Kirchner is the voice behind Dialed in Hunter, a blog that not only documents his own journey, but provides gear reviews, tips/tactics for western hunting, and encourages other hunters to chase and achieve their goals. Josh is a passionate bowhunter that has been hunting with his family since he was a small boy, but for the last three years has been eating, sleeping, and breathing the hunting lifestyle. When he is not chasing elk, deer, bear, and javelina through the diverse Arizona terrain, he is spending time with his wife, two herding dogs, and mischievous cat. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.