By Cody Altizer

Every year millions of hunters pursue millions of whitetail deer across millions upon millions of acres all across North America.  And, while this may be hyperbole, we as hunters each have seemingly millions of different understandings of what defines a successful hunt.  Some hunters deem success by harvesting only fully mature, 150” bucks with archery equipment.  Others do their part in conservation by improving habitat and balancing the herd and hang their hat on those two commendable duties.  Meanwhile, in today’s fast-paced world, many can consider just getting outdoors and enjoying some time in the field a success.  Finally, there are some, like me, who consider each one of the above scenarios success.  However, in my 18 years of hunting, I’ve learned that one sure fire to enjoy deer hunting success more often is to realize what you can, and what you can’t control.

Hunters invest a lot to be successful in the field.  Money, time, sweat, energy, days away from family.  It’s a long list, so it’s only natural that when you invest so much, you expect something in return.  Unfortunately, though, that’s what leads hunters down a road of frustration, because so much of what we experience in the deer woods is out of our control. And understanding of this though can help.

I don’t want to sound like a “Debbie-Downer”, but I’ve actually found this approach to bring me an inexplicable peace of mind when hunting and managing for deer.  Take the weather, for example.  You can take all the necessary steps needed to plant a lush, green, attractive and nutritious food plot but, the fact of the matter is, if it doesn’t rain, it’s not going to grow. What about the rut?  Everyone wants it be to be nice and cold and clear.  Maybe some light drizzle here and there, and a fluctuating barometer is always encouraging.  Well, what are you going to do when the temperature spikes in the middle 60s on November 5th?  Whine?  Pout?  I guess you could do both, and trust me, I have, but what good does it do?  Absolutely nothing.

For my next example, allow me to reference my post from this past fall, where I wrote about passing a beautiful 3.5-year-old buck named Maverick.  Maverick was a buck I had some history with, and the stand I was sitting in was hung specifically for him.  However, when he came chasing a doe by my set at 23 yards, I wasn’t exactly sure if it was Maverick or not, so I passed.  I had a golden opportunity to harvest my number 1 target buck, but I didn’t.  I captured a couple of trail camera images of him the following week at a scrape, but haven’t seen or heard of him since.  As of now, I have no idea if he is still alive, or if he has been killed.  I have to hold myself accountable for the decision I made, and own that decision.  I can’t go back in time, but if I could I probably would have shot Maverick. That said,  unless I make significant progress with my time machine, that’s just not going to happen.  At this point, all I can do is hope he made it through the season and I will get another crack at him next year.  If not, and he was killed, I hope he was ethically harvested by a deserving hunter who shares the same respect and reverence for whitetails I do. Other than that, there’s no use in stressing about situation any further.

Finally, (and I hear of this situation all the time, although it’s never happened to me personally, so maybe I am out of line) what about the time when the farmer ruined your hunt by picking crops, bailing hay, or moving cattle during the last hour of light in late October?  That has to be extremely frustrating, and it would make all the sense in the world to curse the deer gods, shake your head and convince yourself that nothing will ever go your way for the rest of your life and you are doomed to a lifetime of eternal bad luck and misery.  But again, what does that accomplish?  Not a whole lot, if you ask me.  Put yourself in the farmer’s shoes.  Farming is his livelihood, it’s how he puts food on the table, supports his family, and puts his kids through college.  A little perspective makes not shooting a monster buck look pretty insignificant now doesn’t it?

Every time we enter the woods we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature , and many other factors regardless of the situation.  That’s a fact that is easily understood, but rarely thoroughly comprehended.  So, what’s the solution, you ask?  Simple.  There is no solution.  Can you control the weather?  No, nor should you ever want to.  Can you control who kills your target buck, or if you miss that buck of a lifetime? Of course not.  In the pursuit of whitetails there are many variables out of our control, and during a hunting season there are going to be ups and downs.  If you want to enjoy your time in the woods more, the first thing you must do is come to terms with this reality. From there,  all you can do is put in your time, hunt hard, be smart, and let the chips fall where they may.

– Cody Altizer,