Today was my 3rd day out chasing spring turkey. I had been locating birds the past couple days—and I choose to blame the cold weather—but they just wouldn’t commit to coming into my setup. Today, though, the woods were eerily quiet save the sounds of squirrels and crows. I spent 5 hours out hitting locator calls and ripping my slate call every 30 minutes or so as I crept around a 100-acre piece of private land in southern Michigan.
It was just one of those days. Perhaps the birds had flown over to the neighbor’s property this morning or perhaps they just were feeling quiet. Hard to know for sure. At the end of the day I found myself thinking about what a successful hunt means for me.
It certainly doesn’t mean coming home with game every time I hit the woods. During 3 months of deer season, I feel great if I can kill 1 buck and 1-2 does. I would guess I average 70 days in the field during deer season. That leaves me with about a 2.8% success rate. Every fifty days I spend hunting I can count on getting a deer.
So, how do we reconcile the other 97% of days that we don’t come home with the animal we’re chasing? Today, I got put on my camo, grab my shotgun, and walk around the woods on a beautiful 65 degree Sunday afternoon. I saw geese landing on the lake, several perturbed does circling around the field I was hunting, and quite a few squirrels chasing each other around trees. I didn’t hear any cars driving, or smell any exhaust, and was alone with my thoughts on a beautiful piece of land. The day was definitely a success.
Now I’m not saying we should not be trying to get the game we’re hunting. I put in the effort, lugged out the decoys, and set up my blind. I know that to get to the days when I get to come home with a turkey I have to work through the tougher days when finding the game I’m after seems fleeting.
If every time we hit the woods we killed an animal It would no longer be hunting. It would just be called shooting. The victory of eventual success in the field is made that much sweeter by the effort we put in to get there. That’s what makes bagging that tom or arrowing that buck so exciting. It is not an everyday occurrence. All the other days out there are training. If you put in the time, success will eventually come.
What does hunting success mean to you? Is it getting the animal you’re chasing? Is it enjoying a day off work out in the woods? Maybe it means getting to ignore the emails, the cellphone, and our obligations for a time while we reconnect with the natural world in a way that humans have been doing for thousands of years.
I’m probably rambling, but I feel like I had a successful day. Now I gotta go work on my clucks, purrs, and yelps. I’m feeling good about tomorrow.