By Cody Altizer

When I am in the treestand bowhunting, I am at the mercy of Mother Nature.  I sit in a tree, hoping the wind stays constant of out of the West, assuming the deer will visit my food plot this afternoon, and wishing for that big buck I caught on trail camera to visit the mock scrape 20 yards in front of my stand.  A more proud hunter wouldn’t admit, but we have little control over the outcome of our hunts.  Sure, we can puff out our chest and proclaim, “If I get a North wind I know I can shoot that buck!”  Or, “If I get adequate rainfall my food plots will turn into a deer magnet!” I do it.  We all do it.  But those are not variables we can control, nor should we want to be able to control them.  Fortunately, there are factors that determine whether our hunt was a “successful” one or not, and we have plenty of control of these.

Everyone hunts for different reasons.  Many love the taste of venison. Some, unfortunately, need that tasty venison to feed their families.  Others are trophy hunters, whose pursuit of whitetails is driven by large antlers and record book entries.  Some enjoy the interaction and competition between themselves and Mother Nature, matching wits with one of Her most adaptive and instinctive critters.  Then there are the hunters who genuinely climb a tree every fall to fully engage themselves in nature, and simply enjoy the tranquility and peacefulness that only time spent in the woods can provide.  However, while everyone hunts for different reasons, we can all choose how we hunt and what we deem a successful outing.

You can enjoy your hunt, take it for all it’s worth; squeeze out every drop that nature and the whitetail woods has to offer, or you can let the distractions of the outside world pollute your mind.  You can immerse yourself in the crisp, innocent fall air while watching the sun burn off frost on the grass in the morning, or wonder if your time is better spent at work earning the extra dollar.  You have a choice.  When that shooter buck makes his way towards your stand and locks up quartering to you when he catches your scent, do you try to squeeze in the shot in before he bolts, or do you chalk that round up to the whitetail?  You have a choice.  You’ve had your eyes on a specific buck and have been hunting him hard all season long, just waiting for him to make a mistake, when your buddy waltzes into the woods and drops him his first afternoon out; are you going to sulk and pout, or congratulate him and celebrate his success?  You have a choice.  Is the thrill of the kill, the notoriety and “fame” that comes with harvesting a mature buck more important to you than the pursuit, the quick, humane kill and the bittersweet realization that you just accomplished a feat that Mother Nature and her fiercest winters, and most efficient predators couldn’t?  The choice is up to you.

The reasons why and how we hunt vary with the individual, as they should.  But the choice as to whether or not we enjoy ourselves and the precious time we spend in the woods every fall is the same – that decision belongs to the individual.  When you are in the woods this fall, hunting hard, investing countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy trying to harvest a worthy buck (just like I will), do yourself a favor, stop for just a brief minute, take a deep breath and let it all sink in.  Choosing to do so will create a simple emotion that every hunter can share and relate to.  Plus, don’t we owe it to ourselves, the sport and the animals that we hunt to be responsible and make good decisions?  You have a choice.

– Cody Altizer