I guess it all depends on how the hunting is. If I am seeing lots of stuff, then 6-10 days and I am fine but 4 days of hard hunting and not seeing anything and my motivation to stay drops off pretty fast.
I am about the same usually about 4 nights and I start dreaming about a huge cheese burger. Like already stated it depends on how much game your seeing also. In 2011 I kept losing motivation and struggled especially the last week of season, but this year I stayed totally focused and motivated even hunting 27 out of the 30 day season.
For me its just the first night, the first step is always the hardest for me. On my last few 6 day trips it was "almost" disappointing to have to come back home. Staying out for much longer than those 6 days really becomes much more work though. Keeping up on your calarie intake, keeping clothes/bag dry, keeping all the cookware clean, ect.
My girlfriend has a little plaque thing hanging in our gear room that states "The journey of one thousand miles must start with a single step". I think of that pretty much every time I depart on a longer trip.
You gravitate towards whatever is on your mind. If your head is clear of home, family, work... and you stay focused on the task at hand, you'll gravitate towards that. If you're thinking about home or work.... that's where you'll want to be. I always try to finish all my business, make sure my family is taken care of... before I leave home. That way I can focus on a big buck or bull and nothing else. It's a lot easier for me if I handle it that way. It sounds selfish but I avoid thinking of my wife and kids all the time... otherwise I'll want to be there and not have my mind in the game. The longest I've spent away was 18 days... I got stuck on Kodiak... man, at the end of the trip all I could think of was my family... couldn't get home soon enough. Ed F
Like others have said, being in game helps. But when I start to get a wandering mind and I have to tell myself there are only so many days to hunt and only so any trips so I have to stick with it. If you leave early, generally within a day you are wishing to be back out there. I think it would be ok to go to the truck, get a good meal, recharge and head back in.
For me its the first night also, after that it gets easier each night til about night 4 or 5. Then the fast food addiction kicks in and all I think about is burgers, pizza, or mexican food. Even when not seeing much game, I still want to see whats over the next hill or saddle.
There is another side of the coin for me. After 25-30 nights of NOT backpacking, I have to give myself pep talks....
I agree that the first night is the hardest. I enjoy reading, and take a good book, but it only lasts about 3 or 4 days, then I am pretty bored after the sun goes down. Earlier this year, in September, on a scouting trip, I had to camp in the only flat spot I could find, about 40 yards from a wallow. I had bulls bugling and fighting right outside my tent for most of the first night, so that was exciting, but that's not normal.
Wow im not alone on the first night deal. Still havent got passed it. I just really like to share my experiences with other people and I get down right bored/freaked out at times and have to constantly give myself pep talks. If had a buddy who was into back pack hunting it wouldnt even be an issue.
I'm with you Jon boy. When you are with a hunting partner it is much more enjoyable unfortunately my hunting buddy likes to hunt out of a base camp and do daily hunts so when I backpack hunt it is always solo. I usually start missing family after about four or five days but I am never able to do more than seven days at a time because of work so the last couple of days I look forward to a good meal, shower, and family.
I had a mountain goat tag after applying for 33 years in a row for moose, sheep, goat, and finally drawing one of the darn things! I was pretty excited and started scouting in July. My son got to go with me a couple of times, and these for the most part were just day trips in up to about 6 miles, twelve mile total on the day. It was nice to share it with him, but being a 15 year old kid there is always school, sports, girls, and other distractions.
When season came around one of my usual hunting buddies was battling a bout of cancer so he just could not make it. Another was booked solid with his own hunting trips, and yet another one of my regulars for some reason just didn't want to so much. I went three days with a good friend and his brother. We got completely rained and snowed out to the point we could not leave the tent for 3 days! Had an absolute blast having those guys with me and being able to go back with horses instead of shanks mare which it had been and would return to being after this adventure with my buddies. One more day a few week later with one of the brothers is the only other time I had someone with me. The rest of the time was spent alone!
More than missing someone and needing someone to help me with my motivation, what I missed most is being able to share this special tag and opportunity I had with someone else. I knew how much it meant to me to draw the tag, to have the ability to hunt such a wonderful animal, and I desperately wanted to share it with someone so they could at least have a major portion of the experience. The nights sometimes got long because I dealt with an awful lot of rain and low lying clouds and fog last year. I think webbing was beginning to become noticeable on my toes!! Once it got dark, there was not much to do by yourself except lay in the tent. A campfire to sit by wasn't even that appealing on the few nights it was possible without the rain being a constant.
There were moments I had where my motivation would ebb and flow, but considering the circumstances I think I worked through it pretty well. My longest single day with a pack with just essentials to get me by in case I got stuck out there late and had to sleep where I was, and a rifle attached, it weight 36 pounds every day of this journey. My longest single day was 17 miles total. 8 1/2 in searching cliffs and mountain sides as I went, and then another 8 1/2 miles on the way out doing the same thing. I also went in one day on a scouting trip to the Kootenai Lakes before season. From the trailhead it was 13 miles by GPS track log to the campsite. I happened to catch some sort of stomach bug and started throwing up the next day. I planned on staying one more full day, but after my battle with the bug, I decided to come out. My pack weighed 60 pounds and I did 26 miles in two days. To put this into perspective of how brutal the hike out was, I left with my house on my back at 12:00 noon straight up. I stopped for water several times because I was drinking it a lot and it was being used by my body, if I wasn't throwing up anyway. I did stop and drink and rest for almost an hour at one point. It took me from noon until 9:30 PM that night to make it to the trailhead and my pickup. I was one whooped puppy.
I had a great time and enjoyed being by myself. Not counting scouting trips every weekend until the season started, I hunted every weekend, and most times 4 days out of every 3 day week, I was hunting. It was great. I got walking pneumonia and missed two weeks of work, and the next week I was scheduled to go in on horses with my buddies who were also able to get the time off. I told the doctor I had to go. I was not going to have an opportunity to do this again. I went, but it had taken all of my strength and energy. This is when we were stuck in the tent for three days with the wind, snow, and rain.
I saw one goat for sure during the season. I jumped him climbing up a ridge and only saw a flash of white running through the timber. I saw one probable goat early in September on a scouting trip but I did not want to stop to take the time to take the scope out of the pack as I had a mission that day and wanted to get back to the lakes. I still had 10 more miles to go and figured I would see more goats. I am pretty sure this was a goat, but I can't be 100% on this one. So I hunted every waking moment I could, was wet and cold most of the time, the clouds never relented it seemed, and often my days were a bust as I could not see farther than 50-100 yards at the most. Pretty tough conditions to glass in.
So I did 129 mile total. 111 were on foot and 18 were on horseback. I never got a mountain goat and only saw ONE for sure for all of that time in scouting and hunting. What did I learn? I think I let myself down a couple of times when my motivation was waining at times. I enjoyed the heck out of the experience, the time I got to be by myself, and being in the mountains where I was and just enjoying them. I live and grew up very close to the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness but had only just touched on its fringes. It was a whole completely different world that was 20 minutes from my doorstep!!
Enjoy yourself on any adventure. Don't beat yourself up if you find you need a day to hang out in camp. Make that a good day in it's own right though. Do something fun and build a shelter or try and catch some small trout in the creek to cook up on a stick for something different. Make it the best day it can be for you. Share such a wonderful experience with someone if you can as you both will be richer for it. If you don't get an animal after a serious effort, that's just what it is. Do not make it into something more. I never harvested a goat and waited 33 years to draw my first one. I feel as strongly now as I did before I drew the tag that moose, sheep, and goat should be ONCE IN A LIFETIME TAGS. They are in most states, but NOT MONTANA. We need to change that as I had my chance and I had my experience. As hard as it is to be drawn, I want my son, my friend, or someone I don't even know have the same chance. It's a hoot and just enjoy it and make it the best that it can be.