Small chunks of mud fly up into the air as the antelope cuts left and right, slashing his way across the Wyoming prairie in pursuit of a hot doe. Like the fastest quarter horse you’ve ever seen, this buck will stop at nothing to get his way, even if it means fighting to the death or by running down his prize into submission. The antelope rut is a jaw dropping sight to see for the first time, and its one example of the experiences way too many hunters miss out on because of something we can control. Attitude.
Attitude Is Like A Piece Of Gear
We spend years reading stacks of magazines, clicking through websites, and watching endless videos of people hunting all over the world. While these stories are super cool, unconsciously, some of us tell ourselves these adventures are for other people. There’s no way I could ever do that. What stands between you and becoming one of those proud hunters you’ve read about isn’t more time off, a mountain of money, or something unattainable. It might be your attitude. Like Sitka did years ago by convincing us that clothing is a piece of gear, I want to show you attitude is like a piece of gear.
Rebuilding From Tragedy
Never in a million years could anyone have guessed it would take the tragedy of breaking my neck and becoming a quadriplegic to finally push me to pursue hunting opportunities that always seemed out of reach. These past 11 years, I’ve strategically adopted a can-do attitude to rebuild my life from the lowest of lows. Click here if you want to read more about my story. From this struggle, I’ve developed a special way of looking at challenges. It’s a mindset transformation, consisting of a Three-Step Action Plan:
- Set a goal
- Make a plan
- Do it
I’ll teach you how to develop the type of can-do attitude that will push you to explore new places, add different types of mounts to your wall, and help you create new memories of cherished hunting experiences.
After getting injured in 2008, I convinced myself this new body meant hunting would never be possible again. My arms were weak. I could barely lift them to touch my head, and these paralyzed fingers made holding a fork as strenuous as climbing a mountain. After returning home from the hospital, I remember pulling my wheelchair up to a table at our shooting range. No matter how I tried to figure out a way to shoot my old 30/06 again, the bullets went all over the place and missed the target by feet. Frustrated and trying to hold back from screaming, I stormed away for some solitude in the pine trees. It was the first time I cried since the accident.
In times like this you can go one of two ways. After running into the first roadblock or two, you can give into the temptation of quitting. Another option is to force yourself to keep asking the question, “What’s another way I could make this work?” I recalled a phrase my Dad often used to inspire my brother and me to give something a try. In his raspy voice he would say,
“You won’t catch fish if you aren’t fishin’!”
As a hunter relearning how to handle a rifle and become a marksman again, having this phrase in the back of my mind has become an invaluable piece of gear. I’ve decided to use this hurdle as a specific goal. My detailed plan has small steps so I can get some progress rolling right away. Last and most importantly, I picked a date to start implementing this plan. After experimenting and failing with half a dozen methods to hold up my rifle and pull the trigger, today I’ve got a great system worked out. It allows me to shoot from a blind, my wheelchair, and even a vehicle. Just a friendly warning- don’t bet against me, because I’m pretty good!
“You won’t catch fish if you aren’t fishin’.” I challenge you to use this mantra and create your own Three-Step Action Plan to surpass the boundaries you unconsciously set for yourself. Whether you’re attempting something basic like learning to shoot again, or more difficult like finding bigger bucks this fall, breaking down what you want to accomplish into small steps makes it infinitely more realistic. Let’s get started with your first goal!
Action Step #1 Set a goal
Jot down as many hunting goals as you can think of. I listed a few ideas to get you thinking…
- Pursue a new species
- Hunt out of my home state
- Get in better shape so I can try that tough hunt
- Upgrade a piece of gear
- Your own idea
- Your own idea
Six years ago, some friends and I were driving up the bumpy gravel road leading to our steelhead fishing spot on the Deschutes River. Halfway up the rocky canyon walls we caught a glimpse of a dozen bighorn sheep nervously staring down at us.
“I want to go sheep hunting so bad!” Brian sighed. When I asked what unit he applied for, Brian gave me a blank stare and slowly replied, “Oh I’ve never put in. Those tags are hard to draw.”
It took all my restraint not to smack him.
I wonder how many of us do the same thing? We all flip through magazines and say something like, “Ah, that is so awesome. I’d love to go bear hunting in Idaho!” With this new can-do attitude, the follow-up question I want you to start asking is, “So what am I going to do about it?” Remember, you won’t catch fish if you aren’t fishin’.
Action Step #2 Make a plan
Inspiration without action achieves nothing. Pick two of the goals you wrote above. Create a detailed plan on how to tackle them this year. When we break our goals down into steps, it becomes much more doable. Here is a glimpse into two goals I am working on this summer. Use it as an example of what your goals and actions steps could look like.
Jake’s Goal 1: Extend my effective rifle range to 400 yards
- Figure out what my limiting factors have been in the past. I lacked range time and good support for my rifle.
- Shoot at least one box of ammo per session. Make sure to practice from field positions, which for me is the passenger seat of a car and a support system from my wheelchair.
- Get a more secure rest. My arms and hands still don’t work well. I rest the forend on something solid, use my left hand to hold the buttstock against my shoulder, and the back of my right-hand knuckle to pull the trigger.
Jake’s Goal 2: Secure a new property to hunt
- Find a map of the landowners within my unit.
- Pick four new landowners to contact.
Your Goal: _________________________
Detailed Action Steps:
Action Step #3 Do it
Goal 1: Once a month, I wrote down a practice session on my calendar. This year, I’m using a Sentinel tripod to shoot from my wheelchair. I can adjust the tension on the swivel head so it holds my rifle rock solid. When I’m in a vehicle, I found the Spartan Sucker Mount virtually eliminated the problem I had with my Cooper 6.5 Creedmoor sliding around on the window.
Goal 2: I invested in a subscription to Basemap. It’s only $30. I think its greatest value is the ability to scan through your unit and find property owners to approach. Through Basemap, I even found additional ground belonging to a farmer who had already given me permission to hunt other sections he owned. Huge score! I then scheduled 30 minutes in my Google calendar each Friday afternoon to call additional landowners.
Your Goal Completion Date: _________________________
New experiences. Unique shoulder mounts. Lifelong memories. All of these aspirations are within your reach if you start to view attitude as a powerful hunting tool in your gear bag. It’s your time to be part of the 14% who dare to venture outside their home state to go hunting.
Success And My Next Goal
Using this can-do attitude and a Three-Step Action Plan has saved a part of me I thought was lost forever. Before this injury, I had never hunted outside Oregon. Today, I’ve chased red stags in Missouri, antelope in Wyoming and Montana, Corsican sheep in Utah, and mule deer in Idaho. My next goal is to be one of the first quadriplegics to hunt Cape buffalo in Africa.
Next time you see something cool in the hunting world, instead of just looking and wishing, ask yourself what it would take to make that happen for you. Then run the idea through the Three-Step Action Plan.
You won’t catch fish if you aren’t fishin’!
You can comment on this article or ask Jake questions here.